Thiruvananthapuram's waste management project in limbo amid contract disputes

TNIE does a status check of the pending plan of the corporation to set up a modern waste-to-coal plant in the city
Representative image
Representative image

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The capital’s trash has long been in the news for many reasons as a subject of what the capital discards, burns or fills its wastelands with. It has now become a marker of efficiency for those in administration.

It is hence no wonder that waste management will form a key agenda of the next local body polls, due in a year. The sentiment was recently voiced by LSGD Minister M B Rajesh. This puts the civic authorities under tremendous pressure to execute solutions for sustainable waste management.

The state capital generates around 423 tonnes of waste daily of which around 127 tonnes is non-biodegradable waste.

It is in this scenario that new reports revealed the stalling of the city corporation’s ambitious plan to establish a modern waste treatment plant to process tonnes of unsegregated waste generated in the capital city.

The development is said to have been due to disputes over the terms and conditions of the contract with the company.

The plan for the tie-up emerged after the corporation began exploring ways to do away with the unsegregated leftovers in as harmless and earth-friendly ways as possible. Waste, after all, has grown to define changed ways of living and consumption, and speaks a lot of the world where it comes from.

The tie-up came about after a UP-based firm, Cogo Eco-Tech Solutions Ltd, approached the Local Self Government Department (LSGD) and the Thiruvananthapuram corporation for setting up the plant. The waste could be handled without burning or using landfills, the firm claimed, planning the project on a pilot basis in the capital. The plant with a capacity to treat 10-tonne waste was estimated to cost approximately Rs 2.5 crore.

The entire investment was to be done by the company that claims to work towards a world with no landfills. Its technology proposes the conversion of unsegregated waste into Refuse Derived Fuel (RDF). The waste collected will be converted into briquettes, which will then be used as a replacement for coal in cement factories.

The project was warmly welcomed, and all efforts were to be implemented jointly with the Suchitwa Mission and the corporation. The initial plan of the civic body was to grant permission for the company to set up their technology and operate for a period of three months on a pilot basis.

But the elation seems to have given way to confusion and despair with the project remaining frozen. Even after six months of negotiations, the civic body and the Suchitwa Mission have failed to launch the project. According to sources in the local body, a team had visited the plant run by the company in Uttar Pradesh.

However, all such efforts are now hitting a roadblock with the authorities claiming discord over terms and conditions, which is spoiling the show for both parties.

“The technology is good but the company is not accepting our terms and conditions. Our idea was to let the company operate the plant for 90 days and if we find the technology feasible, we will invite tenders. But the company is not happy with these conditions. They want us to buy the technology and we cannot do it without following procedures. A tender has to be floated for going ahead with such projects,” says an official.

The plan of the corporation was to spare 10 cents of its land to the company for setting up the plant.

“The plant would have a capacity to process 10 tonnes of waste. The civic body would have to ensure the supply of the quantity of waste and they will be charging Rs 2 per kg of treated waste. There are expenses involved for the civic body. Without a tendering process we will not be able to compare the rates,” says an official source.

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The New Indian Express