Why the corporation fails to clear the mess that Chennai makes

Why corporation fails to clear the mess that Chennai makes

On October 2 last year, source segregation of municipal solid waste started in earnest among city residents. But eight months on, it not only remains an alien concept but is also scoffed at by residents who find it convenient to dump domestic waste in plastic bags at the nearest bin.

“Nobody collects trash from our doorstep. The corporation never insisted that we need to segregate waste,” said J George of Chetpet.

But this was not the first attempt by Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) to implement source segregation that has fallen flat. Senior corporation officials though pin the blame on residents for the civic body’s rather dismal service record. “Segregation should start at home. But people throw waste into bins wrapped in plastic bags,” said P Madhusudhan Reddy, Deputy Commissioner (health), GCC.

Reddy said the corporation created awareness on the importance of separating waste but people in Chennai “lack incentive or interest” to take it up. To address this lacuna, the corporation is mulling to penalise residents who do not segregate waste. “A notification will be issued soon,” said Reddy. Ironically, at present, the corporation does not have a foolproof measure to ensure that the segregated waste is not mixed and taken to landfills in compactor trucks.

The corporation’s idea to pull up residents points to its scattergun approach to solve what essentially is simple, say activists. For instance, the Nochikuppam fishermen settlements at Santhome have been source-segregating waste for nearly two years now.

“Almost five blocks in the colony segregate waste. We have appointed an employee and a part-time worker to collect segregated waste and compost it within the settlement. For around 450 homes, we spend Rs 15,000,” said Ashok Rajendran of Chennai Trekking Club which has taken up the initiative.

Activists say had the corporation brought on board NGOs and tasked them with the responsibility of taking the message of segregation to the masses, things would have been better. “The civic body’s awareness component is not interesting and informative, and hence it is ineffective,” said Arun Krishnamurthy of Environmentalist Foundation of India.

Reddy said inviting NGOs was considered but was dropped since it required a “financial component”. But Krishnamurthy contested it and said that there was never a hint from the corporation that it needed assistance from entities that worked for source segregation of waste. “We would have taken up the work on a volunteer basis if they had asked us,” Krishnamurthy said.

But the corporation has its plans, said Reddy. “We cannot discuss proposals to invite NGOs now. We have engaged representatives. One person per ward and another person per zone will take the message of segregation to people’s homes,” he said.

Pradeep Kumar, The Times of India, Chennai