Tamil Nadu is the most urbanised state in India, with 48.5% of its population living in urban areas. The Commissionerate of Municipal Administration (CMA) has under its purview all municipal corporations (11 in number) other than Chennai and all 125 municipalities. The CMA has worked hard to ensure state-wide progress in compliance with the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016 and how.
Two significant features of the policy are (i) decentralised processing of waste, and (ii) bio-mining to address the challenges of legacy waste, i.e., the garbage hills which have become an unfortunate hallmark of Indian cities. We cover decentralised processing in this column. Building awareness in the community has been a critical feature of the strategy of decentralised processing.
In implementation, first and foremost, they have insisted on door-to-door collection of unmixed waste, and also ensuring that wastes remain unmixed all along the route of collection, transportation and processing because of detailed micro-planning at every stage.
User charges (starting from Rs.20 per month for households) are added every six months to the property tax, for which ULBs are achieving 80-100% collection success. Bulk waste generators (8,000 in number and generating 10-15% total waste) across the state also pay user charges for collection of their dry waste, while they are required to manage their own wet waste.
Compared with a goal of 100% door-to-door collection by December 31, 2018, the actual performance was 92% for corporations and 85% for municipalities. Similarly, compared with a goal for collecting waste segregated at source of 100% by March 31, 2019, the actual achievement was 52% for corporations and 62% for municipalities.
By collecting dry waste only on Wednesdays, households are encouraged to set aside this waste and put out only wet waste for daily collection. Most importantly, if waste is handed over without segregation, it is laid bare on a plastic sheet at the doorstep of the household, while the waste collectors sort the waste in front of one and all. A good way of naming and shaming! This is followed by a counselling session and a penalty if the offence is repeated.
Close to 3,000 communicators have been employed to work under 230 supervisors to make face- to-face contact with individual defaulters to explain to them the importance of segregation and ensure that segregation happens at source. Young girls who have completed their schooling are recruited at a monthly wage of Rs.12,000. They have to visit 200 households each at least once a week and keep a register of visits. The registers are randomly cross-checked with the residents by their supervisors.
In order to achieve better efficiency and also lend dignity and safety to waste collectors, push carts and tricycles which were used to transport the waste have been replaced with battery-operated vehicles (e-vehicles) and light commercial vehicles. Since there is no secondary transport, there are no street bins, no transfer points, no black spots, and fuel-saving is a bonus. Most of the door-to-door collection is done by municipal workers. The collected and well-segregated waste is taken to the micro-composting centres (MCCs) where municipal workers, or, in some cases, private contractors separately handle both wet and dry waste.
The state has installed 700-plus MCCs of up to 4.8 tonne capacity each, using funds from the Swachh Bharat Mission. There are also many more OCCs (on-site composting centres) in parks, compounds of ULB offices, each composting the wet waste from up to 250 surrounding houses.