Manali in Chennai shows the way for other cities in India

Zero waste reaching landfills has been recognised as the most significant goal for municipal corporations. Representative purpose only. Photo: iStock

At a time, when cities across India is grappling with solid waste management issues, an entire zone in the teeming metropolis of Chennai in India is showing the way by becoming zero waste zone.

Manali, a suburb in Chennai can put any other locality in Chennai and other major cities to shame. Also known as Zone 2, the garbage from the households in the area doesn’t reach the Kodungaiyur dump yard or the landfill. An industrial and residential area, the zone has a population of over a lakh and about three years ago, the area was grappling with mounting garbage problem. However, walk through the seven wards now and you would be amazed that there is no sign of garbage in the locality.

How it changed?

Hemraj V, a resident of Mathur religiously segregates household garbage, everyday. There are two rounds of garbage collection—in the morning and evening. He explains, “We segregate in two separate bins for wet and dry waste. It has become easier now, but at first, when the idea was mooted, we would end up mixing the waste in the process. But through constant advocacy by the Corporation officials, we have understood the process and the garbage doesn’t reach the dustbins.”

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And for the matter, there are no dustbins. As many as 247 bins have been removed from all the wards.

How the garbage is disposed?

Talking to The Federal, S Devandiran, zonal officer of Zone 3, who initiated the process in Zone 2 says that as much as 30 tonnes of the garbage collection is sent to the Resource Recovery Centre where the waste is converted into manure. He adds, “The garbage that is not saleable will be burnt in an incinerator with a chimney that is 30 metres high. It will handle just about 30 kilos of the garbage left.”

Initially, about 1,500 households were targeted and then the approach was replicated across the other divisions in the area.

Why north Chennai is now ahead?

Interestingly, North Chennai has all through carried the tag of being underdeveloped, when compared to the elite South Chennai. Yet, solid waste management experts are not surprised that the change has happened here quickly and effectively.

Mangalam Balasubramanian of Exnora Green Pammal who is trying out similar exercises in a couple of wards in Zone 1- Thiruvottiyur in the same area says that they are on the verge of declaring ward four and five as zero waste. “The success can be attributed to the fact that in these places, a large number of households fall in the lower income category and the members here themselves handle their waste, not maids. It is easier to change their behaviour.”

Balasubramanian contrasts the attitude in the posh localities where the cooperation is poor. “We are having a tough time trying to convince residents in Srinagar Colony in Saidapet to segregate. They do not attend meetings and put the blame on the maids when they are asked why they do not segregate,” she adds.

Not very far in the locality of Mylapore, the residents are yet to receive 100 per cent cooperation from residents when it comes to segregation. Says Ganga Sridhar, co-founder, Ecokonnectors that offers solutions for waste management, “We have composting yards here as well, but we still have overflowing bins. In North Chennai, people are still untouched by easy options like disposables and single-use plastics. So, I am not surprised that they took to such a sea change in no time

The Corporation is also in the process of declaring Zone 3- Madhavaram by end of 2019. The zone has phased out 2/3rds of the 700 –odd dustbins here. Devandiran adds, “When dustbins are removed, people think twice before disposing their waste on the roads. We are also looking at zone specific models to accomplish the task in the coming months.”

Cities across can take a cue

Lessons from Manali can be applied to many big cities by bringing about decentralisation of waste management, say experts. Zero waste reaching landfills has been recognised as the most significant goal for municipal corporations. The Centre for Science and Environment in its previous report rated cities on the basis of their waste management practises.

Corporations in Delhi—South and East—fared way below smaller cities like Alappuzha, Gangtok and Thiruvananthapuram, Mysuru, etc. Cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru too fared averagely in the assessment that took into consideration aspects of segregation and recycling adopted by the various municipalities and corporations.

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