How Coimbatore ‘parks’ its garbage

The CCMC is following an integrated approach to solid waste management with a difference. Rather than starting with door-to-door collection, building awareness for segregation at the household level, and transporting the rubbish to the dumpsites in the slow march towards solid waste management as has been the practice in many cities, the CCMC has chosen to first take care of the backlog in processing and disposal, in its slow march.

Prior to 2007, Coimbatore was no different from most other cities of India in its neglect of the garbage generated in the city. Heaps of garbage were poorly collected and carelessly transported from transfer stations in uncovered trucks to dumpsites, which could only be described as land-hills. As the city expanded over the years, the dumpsites got closer and closer to town and became a major public health hazard.

In 2007, JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) offered urban local bodies a vision to clean up their act. Solid waste management and disposal was an activity eligible for substantial funding under JNNURM. The CMCC was quick on the uptake and was the first municipal corporation to get approval for an integrated solid waste management project for Coimbatore in February, 2007. This was the first public-private partnership (PPP) project under JNNURM. K. Saravanakumar, assistant executive engineer of the CMCC who showed me around, has been "in charge of SWM" for the past 20 years. I was impressed by his enthusiasm as he observed, "with the advent of the JNNURM, the growth of the corporation in the SWM sector has been stupendous". He went on to emphasise the cross-learning from other ULBs.

The total cost of the solid waste management project was Rs 96.5 crore, with 50 per cent contribution from the Central government, 20 per cent from the Government of Tamil Nadu and the remaining 30 per cent to be put in by the CMCC. Of the total cost, Rs 26.3 crore was for collection and transportation of segregated waste up to the transfer stations in the city. This was to be implemented by the CMCC itself. The larger part of the project, that is, Rs 68.9 crore, was for setting up a compost plant (a waste processing facility), an engineered landfill (a waste disposal facility), capping off the three old and abandoned dumpsites, building four new transfer stations with mechanical handling facilities and transporting waste to the processing and disposal site. This task was implemented by entering into a PPP.

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