Waste management is a major challenge for the urban local bodies (ULBs) in Kerala, as they have to deal with the increasing generation of waste, lack of adequate infrastructure and facilities, and environmental and health impacts of improper disposal. According to the State of Decentralised Solid Waste Management in Kerala Report 2021, Kerala generates about 8,800 tonnes of solid waste per day, of which only 22% is treated and the rest is dumped in open spaces, water bodies, or landfills.
To address this issue, the Kerala government has adopted a decentralised approach to solid waste management, which involves the participation of the local communities, the Haritha Karma Sena (HKS), and the ULBs. The HKS is a group of trained and registered waste collectors and recyclers, who collect, segregate, and transport the waste from the households and institutions to the Material Collection Facilities (MCFs), Mini-MCFs, or Resource Recovery Facilities (RRFs), where the waste is further processed and disposed1. The ULBs are responsible for providing the necessary infrastructure, equipment, and funds for the HKS and the waste management units, as well as for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the system.
The Kerala Solid Waste Management Project (KSWMP) is a flagship initiative of the state government, which aims to improve the solid waste management services and practices in 93 municipalities of the state with the support of the World Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank. The project has a total cost of Rs 2400 crore and covers various aspects such as capacity building, infrastructure development, community mobilisation, awareness generation, and policy formulation.
Some of the key achievements of the KSWMP are:
Establishment of 93 HKS units, covering 93% of the households and 80% of the institutions in the project municipalities, and generating an income of Rs 6.8 crore per month from user fees and sale of recyclables.
Installation of 93 MCFs, 93 Mini-MCFs, and 93 RRFs, with a total capacity of 2,790 tonnes per day, and equipped with facilities such as shredders, balers, compactors, biogas plants, and vermicompost units.
Promotion of community composting facilities, such as aerobic bins, vermicompost units, biogas units, and other composting methods, covering 18% of the households and 10% of the institutions in the project municipalities.
Implementation of pre-monsoon campaigns, such as cleaning of public places, removal of accumulated waste, and awareness activities, involving the participation of the HKS, the ULBs, and the public.
Development of a web-based monitoring and evaluation system, which tracks the performance indicators of the HKS and the waste management units, and provides feedback and guidance for improvement.
The KSWMP is a model of sustainable sanitation through scientific waste management, which can be replicated and scaled up in other parts of the state and the country. The project has demonstrated the benefits of decentralised waste management, such as reduced environmental pollution, improved public health, enhanced livelihood opportunities, and increased civic responsibility. The project also showcases the potential of collaboration and partnership among the various stakeholders, such as the state government, the ULBs, the HKS, the World Bank, the AIIB, and the public, in achieving the common goal of a clean and green Kerala.