THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: At a time when the local-self government department (LSGD) has been coming down heavily on bulk waste generators in the state by imposing huge fines and punishments, a large majority of the public offices belonging to the state and Union government, including the Secretariat, are yet to come up with solutions to ensure source-level waste management.
According to official sources, the biogas plant installed over 10 years ago on the Secretariat premises hardly serves its purpose. The irony is that several months after launching the ‘Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam’ campaign – the much-touted initiative which aims at transforming Kerala into a garbage-free state by March 2024– efforts are yet to gain steam at the Secretariat, the office of the political and administrative heads of the state, and set an example for other government offices.
As per the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, any establishment or building whose average waste generation is above 100kg a day or has a built-up area of over 5,000 sq/m should have on-site waste management facilities or hand over the segregated waste to local bodies or accredited service providers.
The Secretariat, with an employee footfall of 5,000, generates around 300kg of biodegradable waste daily. Currently, with thousands of women employees, it lacks sanitary pad vending machines and also facilities for managing tonnes of sanitary waste generated on the premises.
A general administration department (GAD) official at the Secretariat told TNIE that the biogas plant was age-old and not functioning properly. “It shuts down from time to time and the plant capacity is just 50kg while the total waste generation is around 300kg daily. We are not getting timely assistance from the company that installed the facility,” said the official.
The condition at many other major government offices, including guest houses, rest houses, public office and Vikas Bhavan, is also the same. The Thiruvananthapuram Corporation, that has been spearheading the garbage-free state campaign in the capital, also does not have a proper source-level waste management mechanism on its premises.
A city corporation official said that the government offices were showing hesitancy to take ownership of the waste management facilities. “Lack of funds and land for setting up waste infrastructure are major challenges being raised by the public offices.
The civic body can only set up the plants at government offices, but they should own up the responsibility to operate and maintain the facility,” said the official. The official added that since the campaign was launched, tonnes of accumulated waste, mainly broken furniture and other rejects lying around for many years, were carted away from the Secretariat premises.
Local Self-Government Minister M B Rajesh also admitted that there was no adequate infrastructure for waste management at the Secretariat. “Efforts are already on to improve the situation at the Secretariat. The enforcement squads have been asked to take strict action against all bulk waste generators and the drive will continue till December 31 until we achieve 100% compliance by all bulk waste generators. Nobody can evade this responsibility including Secretariat,” said Minister.
The minister said that the waste that is dumped around in public places was not from households. “Some agencies are illegally collecting waste claiming that it is being transported to pig farms are dumping the collected waste in public places. Attaining garbage-free status for Kerala is impossible without putting an end to this,” he added.
A GAD official said that the administration was planning to set up a new waste management facilities on the premises. “The Medical College Hospital has implemented multiple waste management facilities and we have assigned Suchitwa Mission to study those facilities and come up with a proposal. We are also planning to install sanitary napkin disposal machines at seven points on the premises. Each unit is estimated to cost around `80,000,” said the official.
“We planned to install an incinerator but we cannot go ahead with the project without the PCB clearance. They are not approving it,” the official added.
Meanwhile, the local government institutions are coming down heavily on other bulk waste generators, including hotel and restaurant associations. President of Kerala Hotel and Restaurants Association G Jayapalan said that the local bodies and enforcement team were unreasonably imposing fines and punishment on hoteliers without giving practical solutions. “There are lakhs of food business operators and many are medium or small operators. But the officials are imposing hefty fines for not managing liquid waste. They should be giving us solutions instead. Running a campaign will not solve the waste crisis,” he added.