CHENNAI: After intensifying awareness drives on source segregation, the St Thomas Mount Cantonment Board recently inaugurated a vermicompost yard with 27 mulch pits, claimed to be the second largest in the Kanchipuram district after Sriperumbudur. The facility was constructed at a cost of Rs 40 lakh.
“Previously, the wet waste was low (about a tonne) because there was not much awareness about segregation. So, we were processing vermicompost in 24 ring wells.
But, after spreading awareness among the public and the conservancy workers for about a year now, we are getting nearly five tonnes of wet waste per day from the four wards — St. Thomas Mount cum Pallavaram wards number 1,2,3,4. So, this facility was essential,” said Peter Durairaj, health superintendent, Cantonment Board.
Vermicomposting is a type of composting where certain species of earthworms are used to enhance organic waste conversion to natural fertiliser and soil conditioner.
Through the 24 ring wells, the department earned `1.44 lakh from April 2018 to March 2019 by selling the vermicompost. Now, the department aims to earn at least triple of that through the new facility that produces about 500 kilograms of vermicompost per day.
“Apart from the 27 mulch pits, we also have four other pits in Kalaignar Nagar, Ambedkar Nagar, Asarkana and Cantonment School wherein a total of about one tonne of wet waste gets processed per day. As these places are far from the vermicompost yard, we went for a decentralised approach for better management of waste,” said S Jayaseelan, health inspector, Cantonment Board.
Rewards and recognition
The officials say the interest among the conservancy workers and ward councillors increased after the Cantonment Board rewarded some of them for waste management last year. “Recognition always enhances interest. Also, once the workers started segregating waste, they began selling water bottles and papers that fetch them about Rs 250 per day apart from their daily wages. We encourage this,” said Jayaseelan.
Need for public initiative
Though the Cantonment Board has been pioneering in waste management compared to other areas in the vicinity, they say there is still a long way to go because secondary segregation still takes over the primary. “After spreading awareness, about 40 per cent of the residents are segregating and the rest is done by the conservancy workers at the yard. It will be efficient and effective if the public also takes the initiative,” said Peter.