Waste worry

Waste worry kerala, with population density of 787 people per square kilometre and 1,500 in the coastal areas (India's population density is 273), is finding the disposal of waste a major cause for worry. Villages have become towns due to urbanisation. Cities like Cochin, Thiruvanantapuram and Kozhikkode are unable to dispose off their daily waste. Untreated sewage and accumulated waste is said to be the reason behind an epidemic of cholera in Alappuzha last year. "There is a possibility that an epidemic can hit Thiruvanantapuram,' says T Majood, corporation secretary, Thiruvanantapuram.

Garbage trucks can be seen shunting around to empty it out. "This is like a fire fighting,' says Majood. "My main job is to plan arrange the emptying of trucks,' he says. Corporation officials in Thiruvanantapuram tried to put up a modern processing plant for garbage but none of the residents wanted the plant to be located near their houses. It was then decided to put up the plant at Kudappanakunnu, near the Doordarshan Kendra. But here too the residents welfare organisations protested. Later, this was also shelved.

A V Thamarakshan, chairperson of the legislative committee on environment in the state told Down to Earth : "The successive state governments and the local administration have neglected garbage disposal.' "Almost all the cities are reeling under this accumulation of solid waste. Epidemics can breakout anytime. We have seen that in Alappuzha and now we are witnessing cases of cholera, rat fever, malaria and other diseases in Thiruvanantapuram. Cochin has a coverage of three percent of its population under modern sewage treatment and Thiruvanantapuram 40 percent with the other cities far behind. Most of the solid waste and sewage treatment facilities were built during the British times. These are today over-used and is not been maintained properly, says Thamarakshan.

"The problem of plastics is another cause for concern. The back waters of the state are dumped with solid waste and plastics and are in a state of severe degeneration. But the issue of waste disposal is not on the priority of the government. Our committee has been trying to draw the attention of the government to warn them on an impending calamity' he says.

The cities in Kerala accumulate about 300 to 500 tonnes of solid wastes every day. The waste is heaped in collection points along the road sides. When there is a backlog the garbage starts decaying and emanates a foul smell. "Nothing can be done, except curse ourselves,' says P K Bhattathiri, a former director of the statistics department, who happens to stay near a "use-me' garbage container which is cleared only once in a year. Phone calls to the corporation authorities result in answers such as

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