CHENNAI: Disproportionate allocation of funds for solid waste management operations in the suburbs has left the streets of Tambaram, Pallavaram and Sembakkam filled with overflowing dustbins that are spilling onto walkways.
Solid waste management operations in these neighbourhooods came to a standstill on September 13 after Essel Group, which operates the Vengadamangalam waste management plant, stopped taking trash from the two transfer stations demanding increased ‘tipping fees’. The Municipal Administration Department has refused to budge.
This gridlock has filled both the Pallavaram and Tambaram transfer stations, preventing conservancy operation in most areas because of lack of space in the transfer facilities. “Since there is no place in the transfer facilities, door-to-door conservancy operations in most areas has stopped or reduced,” said a Tambaram Municipality Officer.
Essel Group handles over 6,900 tonnes of mixed waste from Tambaram, Pallavaram and Sembakkam Municipality every month and is paid around `330/tonne as a ‘tipping fee’ for transfer and processing. However, it is learned that the operator is eligible up to `580/tonne as per the agreement.
“Currently we are paid around `17 lakh by the Municipal Administration Department for handling the 6,900 tonnes of waste from these three municipalities,” said an official from Essel Group, explaining that rising diesel prices and operational costs have made operations unviable and forced the halting of operations.
The Municipal Administration Department has been citing lack of funds but it spends `36 lakh in disposing just 60 tonnes of plastic waste each month from these three municipalities by taking it to a cement factory in Ariyalur.
It is learned that transporting 10 tonnes of waste over 273 km from Tambaram to Ariyalur costs over `30,000 and that each municipality generates at least 40 tonnes of high-calorific plastic waste each month.
This waste is used to produce Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF) which is used in the factory. While the latest solid waste management rules encourage production of RDF, it mandates that waste should be given to the factories for free.
In this case, the Municipal Administration Department is paying twice as much on transportation of less than one-tenth of the waste being sent to Vengadamangalam facility operated by the Essel Group on a 25-year contract.
“The end user, which is the cement company should pay for the transportation of the plastic waste to the factory,” said a civic member coordinating source segregation awareness for Pallavaram Municipality.
This cement company which has a tie-up with over 50 civic bodies in the state said that production of RDF is unviable from municipal waste and was taking a hit.
“Using RDF to fuel furnaces by itself is making it hard for us to break even. Asking us to pay for the plastic waste we process is unreasonable,” said a senior official at the Cement company.
In addition to refusing to increase tipping fees to the operator who is sent the major chunk of municipal waste, the civic bodies are also cherry picking the high-calorific plastic for the cement factories, which pay nothing in return.
The temporary coordinator of solid waste management operations for the three municipalities, Karuppiah Raju, said he would look into the disproportionate allocation of funds, which has resulted in garbage accumulation over the last two weeks.
“We will look into the issues and find a solution,” said Raju, downplaying the effects of two weeks of garbage spillover on the streets of Tambaram, Pallavaram and Sembakkam.
The Commissioner of Municipal Administration G Prakash was not available for comment despite multiple attempts to reach him.