Image used for representation
Image used for representation

Litter-free Kerala Campaign 2.0 to address gaps in waste management

Key issues include inadequate segregation of waste at source, insufficient storage, transportation bottlenecks

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: As Kerala advances into the next phase of its ambitious Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam campaign, aiming to achieve zero-garbage status by March 2025, the state is focusing on addressing critical gaps in the waste management system.

After one year of the campaign launch, despite making remarkable strides in collection and scientific management, plenty of challenges and issues remain in the waste management systems in the state. Key issues include inadequate segregation of waste at source, insufficient storage facilities, transportation bottlenecks, a lack of facilities for handling waste rejects, and insufficient infrastructure for managing special types of waste. Though the campaign has shown promising results, overcoming these challenges is going to be a Herculean task for the local self-government institutions and local self-government department (LSGD).

With critical gaps and challenges mounting, the LSGD is gearing up to launch ‘Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam 2.0’, phase II of the campaign next month. LSGD special secretary Saradha Muraleedharan told TNIE that the campaign’s achievement has been remarkable but there is still a large section of the population that is hesitant to be part of the system. “If we take door-to-door waste collection, 20 per cent of the population is still hesitant to sign up into our system,” said Saradha Muraleedharan.

Though the campaign proposed setting up of double chamber incinerators and RDF(Refuse Derived Fuel) plants and many other waste infrastructures, none of the plans to scale up waste-related infrastructure could be realised in the phase I of the campaign.

More waste infrastructure key to streamlining waste management

The quantity of non-biodegradable waste carted away for safe disposal by the Clean Kerala Company Ltd (CKCL) during March 2022-23 was just 30,217 tonnes but after the launch of the campaign the quantity of non-biodegradable waste collected amounted to 47548.701 tonnes during 2023- 24.

“Lack of storage facilities is a major issue and we need to strengthen our forward linkage too. Since the launch of the campaign, the collection has increased exponentially and our existing storage infrastructure is filling up quickly and we need to strengthen our forward linkage and transportation plan, and scale up infrastructure to resolve this. The major focus will be on this. Efforts to digitally map all waste-related activities are underway and we are strengthening our Haritha Mithram app so that we can track all the activities online and find the gaps and take appropriate action,” said Sarada Muraleedharan.

The Model Code of Conduct and the Lok Sabha elections came as a heavy blow to the campaign putting a halt to its progress. To get the campaign back on track the LSGD will be organising a workshop next month after the elections to relaunch the campaign in full swing.

In an effort to strengthen enforcement activities, significant amendments were brought in the Panchayat Raj Act and Kerala Municipal Act hiking the fine for waste-related violations. In the next phase, the major thrust will be on enforcement activities. As part of the campaign, enforcement squads have been formed in every district to book violations. However, in a majority of the districts the activities of the squads are not up to the mark.

“In some of the northern districts, enforcement activities are better. The resource part of the squad has other responsibilities too and they are unable to give priority to waste-related enforcements,” said an official of Suchitwa Mission.

Bulk waste generators under the scanner

As per the Solid Waste Management Rules 2016, any establishment or building whose average waste generation is above 100 kg a day or has a built-up area of more than 5,000 sq m should have on-site waste management facilities or should hand over the segregated waste to local bodies or accredited service providers.

“Many of the bulk waste generators are claiming that they have waste management facilities and refusing to sign up into the formal system. We have decided to strengthen enforcement activities to validate their claims. We need to ensure that the waste generated by them is properly disposed of, or else strict action will be taken,” said Saradha Muraleedharan.

Though the LSGD has come out with an order announcing a reward for reporting waste- related violations, the response from the public has been lukewarm. To familiarise the public with the new amendment brought to the Kerala Municipal Act and Panchayat Raj Act, the LSGD has launched a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) for the public.

Two facilities planned in Kozhikode, T’Puram

According to officials, efforts are on to set up centralised waste treatment plants in Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram districts. “There are many modern waste management technologies available and we are in the process of finding suitable land in these two districts to set up the plants which is essential in all major cities,” said an official source.

Staggering amounts of waste

The Kerala State Environment Plan 2022 reveals that the state generates a staggering 11,449 tonnes of solid waste every day. Urban areas contribute 3,452 tonnes to this total, while rural areas account for the remaining 7,997 tonnes. The campaign has made remarkable strides in the collection and disposal of non-biodegradable waste. Around 36,000 Haritha Karma Sena members were deployed across the state for door-to-door collection of non-biodegradable waste.

Long way to go before becoming ‘the big project’

  • Quantity of waste lifted by CKCL: 30,217 tonnes (2022-2023), 47,548.701 tonnes (2023- 2024)

  • Quantity of waste lifted by private service providers: 5,380 tonnes (2023-24)

  • Door-to-door collection: 47% (March 2023), 87% (March 2024)

  • User fee: 34.90% (March 2023), 68% (March 2024)

  • Mini MCF (Material Collection Facility): 7,446 (March 2023), 17,393 (March 2024)

  • MCF: 1,160 (March 2023), 1,247 (March 2024)

  • RRF (Resource Recovery Facility): 87 (March 2023), 164 (March 2024)

  • Haritha Karma Sena: 33,378 (March 2023), 36,510 (March 2024)

  • CCTV surveillance: 816 locations

  • Storage facility by Clean Kerala Company Ltd (CKCL): 17 (87,300 sq ft) (March 2023), 24 (1,25,300 sq ft) (March 2024)

  • Storage facility by private agency: 79

  • Number of empanelled private agency: 74 (March 2023), 118 ( March 2024)

  • Community facility for managing sanitary waste: 1 (March 2024)

  • Number of subscribers of Haritha Mithram app: 11.24 lakh (March 2023), 40.68 lakh (March 2024)

  • Amount handed over to Haritha Karma Sena members by CKCL: Rs 4.93 crore (2022-23), Rs 8.57 crore (2023-24)

  • Total inspections done by enforcement squads: 1,138 (March 2023), 36,450 (March 2024)

  • Fine imposed by enforcement squads: Rs 2.9 lakh (March 2023), Rs 4.05 crore (March 2024)

  • Fine collected by enforcement squads: Rs 1.3 lakh (March 2023), Rs 1.16 crore (March 2024)

  • Number of Haritha Karma Sena members having salary over Rs 5,000: 18,109 (March 2023), 29,763 (March 2024)

  • Number of Haritha Karma Sena members having salary over Rs 10,000: 6758 (March 2023), 15,058 (March 2024)

The New Indian Express