Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Advice to Thiruvananthapuram might not help alleviate the city's looming solid waste crisis

This post is a response to an article published by FirstPost.com with the title "Thiruvananthapuram sinks in its own waste as rulers look for shortcuts" on October 16, 2012.

Public protests - The Hindu
This critique is not about the conceptual or factual validity of the article but it is to distinguish between the short-term and long-term priorities and solutions for the city. In the absence of such a distinction, various stakeholders with the same goal of solving the crisis and with correct models will end up debating ideals and fighting within each other, finally doing no good to the city.

While depicting the situation as: 
When the residents of Vilappilsaala said "no more garbage" to their neighbourhood, the corporation, which is used to an archaic collect-transport-dump routine, didn’t know what to do. They just stopped garbage collection and it started piling up everywhere. The city is putrid today. 
FirstPost suggests a 4-step approach (edited for brevity)
1. Ask the city residents to mandatorily separate waste at source. Once recyclables and organic matter are removed, only about 20 per cent needs to be dumped in a sanitary landfill. 
2. Once the source-segregation is made mandatory, the city corporation can collect both the recyclables door-to-door (women-run self help groups have been doing this). Engage scrap dealers to whom the materials can be sold.

3. The bio-degradable materials can be collected door-to-door and used in compost facilities at several locations in the city.

4. The remaining 20% of waste need to be disposed off in landfills.
Thiruvananthapuram - Deccan Chronicle
The 4-step advise can be followed if the City can get over the current crisis. For whatever reason, if it fails to do so, the crisis will continue like in Campania, Italy. In that case, Firstpost's advise will provide some relief but not real solutions. Therefore, it is irrelevant to the article's subject line. Let me explain how:
The subject line and the article speak about the imminent solid waste crisis in Thiruvananthapuram, but the solution suggested is not a process but a future state that should be achieved. To achieve such a state, the suggested components should evolve together with gradually increasing infrastructure, changing social habits and the city's institutional and financial abilities. Such a change cannot be brought in with sudden interventions in a short span of time.