In a garbage mess, Kochi deserves better 

Filth is Kochi’s baggage. A city endowed with incredible natural beauty is undone by stinking canals and wayside trash pileups—a disgraceful legacy of apathetic civic management over the years.
Firefighters during the last stage of operations at Brahmapuram. (File Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)
Firefighters during the last stage of operations at Brahmapuram. (File Photo | A Sanesh, EPS)

Filth is Kochi’s baggage. A city endowed with incredible natural beauty is undone by stinking canals and wayside trash pileups—a disgraceful legacy of apathetic civic management over the years. Though the situation had improved considerably from the time when it was identified with a foul odour, the city is returning to its dirty ways post the Brahmapuram dump yard fire. Today, its waste management system is in a mess and roadsides are dotted with growing garbage dumps, thanks to missteps by the state government and Kochi corporation in response to the fire that raged for 12 days at a stretch in March, covering the city in a cloud of toxic smoke.

The government’s immediate response was to prevent waste from entering the dump yard, forcing nine local bodies — Kochi corporation, five municipalities, and three panchayats — to go for alternative ways to dispose of waste without preparation. The Kochi corporation stopped collecting waste for some time and wanted all to manage their waste. Later, when the government allowed bio-waste from Kochi to be disposed of at Brahmapuram, the civic body resumed collecting waste from households but the system was never fully restored. Even now, hotels and other bulk generators are on their own, and for eight other local bodies, the yard is still off-limits. Deprived of a functioning system, many conveniently went back to the old habit of dumping waste wherever they can. While waste management at source is a healthy practice, expecting people to switch over one fine morning is foolish. People need to be equipped with the know-how and tools, and ensuring that is a civic body’s responsibility.

If people are confused about waste management, it’s because of the confusion among the decision-makers. The corporation has now implemented the decentralised system, which includes management at source, but this is a system it abandoned in 2011 when the vast Brahmapuram yard became available. And, the government recently announced the setting up of a 200-tonne biogas plant at Brahmapuram. If that happens, the people will have to switch over again. The fire disaster resulted from years of mishandling of waste, which led to the accumulation of 7.5 lakh cubic metres of legacy waste. The fact that between 2008 and 2023, the government and the corporation introduced five waste-management projects but none has been commissioned shows how the waste issue was handled. Kochi deserves to be clean and the authorities cannot wash their hands of what’s essentially their responsibility.

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