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Thursday, 26 January 2012

Vilappilsala plant can become a model for the country, say experts

If properly managed and operated the Vilappilsala plant can be upgraded as the best solid waste treatment plant in the country, say experts.

Speaking to The Hindu they said that once the leachate treatment plant and sanitary land fill inside the plant was commissioned the Vilappilsala plant could become a model waste treatment plant worthy of emulating in cities all across the country.

“The windrow composting technology used in Vilappilsala plant is undoubtedly the best available technology for processing biodegradable waste. It is an internationally accepted organic waste processing technology which is also mooted by the Union Ministry of Environment,’’ said Babu Ambat, executive director of Centre for Environment and Development (CED), an agency providing technical support to waste treatment plants in various states.

Mr Babu Ambat said that the processing plant at Vilappilsala, designed and constructed by Poabson Group, is one of the best in the State. CED has been operating the plant for the city Corporation for the last four years.

“There have been issues of space constraints in the processing plant as it was not enough to properly process the 250 tonne waste that was daily brought to the plant. This was also the reason for the odor problem there because of lack of aeration facility. But now the area of the processing plant is being doubled to two lakh square feet. With this the issue of space constraint will also be solved,’’ he said.

Social activist and rural technology exponent R.V.G. Menon also said that unlike high technology solutions like pyrolisis and incineration, composting, as done in Vilappilsala, was best suited for treatment of biodegradable waste in our state.

“The biodegradable waste generated in our climatic condition has about 70 percent moisture. But for technologies like pyrolisis and incineration dry waste is best suited as it has high energy content.

Experts all over the world say that the best technology for organic waste with high moisture content is composting or biogas,’’ said Mr Menon.

He, however, added that the composting facility at Vilappilsala could be upgraded by facilitated proper aeration or biofilters.

In the case of plastic waste, the Corporation could think of transporting plastic to recycling units outside the state after converting them into pellets using plastic shredders.

“However, segregating plastic and organic waste is also pertinent. Although plastic shredders can be installed at Vilappilsala, it should be ensured that it is properly segregated and does not get into the composting facility,’’ Mr Menon said.

While the experts concede that decentralized waste treatment facility in different parts of the city is definitely required to bring down the volume of waste transported to Vilappilsala, a centralized treatment plant is also inevitable for a city like Thiruvananthapuram.

Social and environmental activist B.R.P. Bhaskar said that while conventional method of taking the entire municipal waste for processing in far off villages is not feasibility in Kerala because of the sheer density of population, source level processing was also only a partial solution.

“Not all waste generated in a household can be treated there. That is why we require an integrated method of decentralized and centralized facility. The Vilappilsala plant can be reopened as a centralized plant, but only after the authorities convince the people there and assure them that the plant will henceforth be properly managed without endangering their health or environment,’’ he said.

“Vilappilsala plant can no more be treated as a dump-yard of the city. The volume of waste taking to the plant has to be significantly brought down,’’ said COSTFORD director P.B. Sajan.

Mr Sajan put forth a novel idea to ensure efficient management of the plant. “Why not involve the Vilappil panchayat in the plant operation. This way they can ensure that plant is properly managed and also make it an income generating initiative by selling the manure produced there. The Corporation should of course pay the operational expenses,’’ he said.

“And as long as the issues at the Vilappilsala plant remain unresolved, there will be public opposition for setting up plants elsewhere,’’ Mr R.V.G. Menon added.

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