Monday, May 13, 2013


Urban lives in India face the threat of overwhelming garbage accumulation near their dwelling places as most civic bodies do not have functional processing facilities for the huge waste generated day in and day out. While every citizen has a right to get the much needed civic services in return for the taxes paid by him, it is a matter of shame that these "receipts" are misused and mismanaged leading to a situation where the citizens are left to fend for himself whether it is water, power, roads, parking lots, parks or noise pollution or waste clearance. The audacity of the civic body in raising conservancy charges for those generating garbage is really breath taking as Chennai is a city where the all pervasive Coovum river stink hits any visitor who lands there! As the tax payers there are vigorously protesting this arbitrary move by the civic body, they are being asked to set up their own processing facility investing their funds! What a city! Here is a take on this latest development in Chennai and the on-going tussle between the tax payers and the civic body on the garbage issue.  

"Commercial establishments in the city are likely to set up their own bio-gas plants for processing their food waste.The Chennai Corporation, at a meeting in Ripon Buildings with representatives of hotels, marriage halls and other commercial food business operators asked the traders to commission decentralised waste processing facility based on a technology of Bhabha Atomic Research Centre (BARC). The meeting was organised to resolve a deadlock on the issue of conservancy charges in Chennai. At the meeting, Corporation officials indicated that new conservancy charges levied on these establishments, which had been fiercely opposed by them, would be reduced if the traders' association commissioned their own plants based on such proven technology. A number of food-business operators, including large hotels and marriage halls, had been asked to pay more conservancy charges by the Chennai Corporation. The city has more than 20,000 commercial entities including large food-business operators and marriage halls that generate large amount of municipal solid waste every day. As the commercial establishments did not agree to the increase in conservancy charges by the Chennai Corporation, a series of meetings were organised over the past few months to resolve the deadlock. Commercial establishments that use 1,100 litre bins for conservancy were asked to pay Rs.1.31 lakh to the Chennai Corporation, according to the new proposal. Similarly, the establishments that use 120 litre bins were asked to pay Rs.14,600. The charges for marriage halls with a seating capacity of more than 1,000 were increased from Rs.12,000 to Rs.86,400 per year. BARC had already knocked on the doors of the Chennai Corporation to sell its garbage segregation technology and the civic body has suggested that commercial establishments use the indigenously-developed technology."

Garbage processing technology is readily available but its economic viability depends on the volume of waste generated. While a city with large population will have the wherewithal to invest on large processing plants and set up the infrastructure to distribute the products like power, manure etc, hotels, restaurants, marriage halls etc cannot be expected to generate regular garbage of required volume to sustain economically viable processing units, no matter how efficient the technology is. The Chennai civic body is trying to camouflage its utter inefficiency and lack of planning by passing on the responsibility to the tax payers! It is unfortunate that in a country like India there is no national policy on garbage management in urban townships with each one following its own unimaginative and ad hoc policies putting the tax payers at great disadvantage and inconvenience. It is time that major civic bodies in the country get together and evolve a uniform policy on garbage taxing and processing that is equitable to citizens, commercial establishments and the financial health of the city.


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