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Kerala's Baby steps toward sanitation- The Vilappilasala Plant

Kerala's Baby steps toward sanitation- The Vilappilasala Plant

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The results reported here are the first study on the solid waste of Trivandrum and about the salable green manure produced at the Vilappilsala waste treatment Plant
The results reported here are the first study on the solid waste of Trivandrum and about the salable green manure produced at the Vilappilsala waste treatment Plant

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: Dr.Thrivikramji.K.P. on Feb 20, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Sanitation is a basic human right as well as an individual’s obligation to other members of the society.Among the 8 Millennium Development Goals proposed by the UN, at least 4 are concerned with sanitation,which is one of the keys to human wellness and development and in a broader sense a component of citizen’s right to life. Further, sanitation
 per se
is the combined outcome of a set of practices such as safedisposal of human excreta, liquid and solid municipal waste management, safe handling of drinking water,home sanitation and food hygiene, personal hygiene and community environmental sanitation.Contrary to the earlier philosophy and practice of recycling, with the steady growth of urban population andchanging lifestyles, the profile of solid waste has been constantly evolving and its volume on a fast-track of growth, placing newer and rising demands on the local governments, in respect of handling andmanagement. Now proper disposal of municipal solid waste (MSW) is huge problem for the localgovernments of metropolises and large and small towns around the world in that they have been upgradingand implementing newer MSW management practices by adopting or implementing new technologies andpractices developed by a large number of universities in the west. According to Hill (1998) anything that isuseless or unwanted is waste, i.e., anything that is out of place. Once discarded either it is no problem or anuisance. He also examined the causes, sources and rates of environmental pollution. In the US paper,tops the list wastes at 40.4% (71.6 million tons) while food scraps is only 7.4% (13.2 million tons) - a shadehigher than glass 7.0% (US EPA, 2007).
Indian context
India, until independence, did not have any public policy regarding sanitation in the country addressing theneeds of the entire population. Scavenging (in towns and cities) and defecation in the open (in rural sectors)has been the accepted lore. Other types of MSW (chiefly originating from homes, institutions or enterprises)or rural domestic or agricultural waste were non-issues as recycling of one form or other was part of theway of life. Industrial and hospital wastes ‘never’ mattered much due to the relatively lower volumes or lackof concern of consequences or both.In the post independent India, galloping population, rise of industrial economy, steady and growing migrationof individuals and families from villages to larger cities and towns for newer opportunities etc., placed a hugedemand on the local governments to raise the standard of public services like, sanitation, water supply,housing, transport and MSW management. However, the Indian situation transformed considerably with thedeclaration of the Millennium Development Goals by the UN. Several programs with time lines and financialassistance, ensuring improved levels of sanitation across the urban and rural sectors of the country, werelaunched by the government of India.
Kerala and Sanitation
In the days prior to independence, both the rural and urban scenario in the state of Travancore wasn’talarming, as the practice of scavenging and domestic waste collection and disposal was put in place inlarger towns. But in rural sector the ‘concern’ was about conserving domestic and agricultural waste for later use as green manure. But in the decade 60’s, Kerala became a model state in the country by implementinga ban on scavenging. But despite the steady growth of population, fast changing life styles and consequentnewer generic content and organic growth of waste, solid waste management in many cities, small townsand villages across the state, was devoid of any new policy guidelines with doses of modern managementpractices or technology inputs. As a result, accumulated and putrefying piles of garbage in the open and inpublic land and street-dead-ends remained as a daily unsightly sight.Tables 1 and 2 are pictures of current status of sanitation in the state, while Table 3 depicts an averageprofile of waste in Kerala. Interestingly majority component of MSW is of home-origin, and is dominated bybio-degradables. Though sanitation efforts have not reached the entire society, steady progress made in thepast decades is certainly commendable. Then again, the Peoples Plan Program launched in Kerala adecade ago and implemented by the LGs, proved itself as an effective fuel of transformation of rural
Table: 1 Progression of household sanitary latrines, Kerala(after Clean Kerala Mission, 2007).Category% @1991% @1995% @2001% @2005Ruralhouseholds44.073.481.394.9Urban hoseholds73.
Table:2 School sanitation status, Kerala (Clean Kerala Mission, 2007)CategoryNo. of LPschoolsNo. of UPschoolsNo. of HighschoolsTotalGovt.schools26659609864511Schools withtoilet1785 (69.59%)759(79.06%)790(80.12%)334(73.90%)Table:3 Solid waste types, percentages and compositions, Kerala(Clean Kerala Mission, 2007)Type% contentCategoryWt.%Household49.0Biodegradable71.0-83.0Hotels/institutions17.0Paper etc3.5-5.0Shops andmarkets16.0Plastic/rubber5.0-9.0Street sweepings9.0Hazardous etc4.9-11.5Construction6.0Slaughter house3.0
canvas including access to better sanitation. A new impetus for urban sanitation programs in the countrydawned with the recent launching of JNNURM (Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission) inKerala and the mandate for implementation going to LGs like five municipal corporations (MC), fifty threemunicipalities (M) and nine hundred and ninety nine village panchayats (VP). Interestingly, 226 VPs havewon Nirmal Gram Puraskar (NGP) and yet another 543 VPs and 7 DPs (District panchayats) are marchingahead to achieve the NGP. In fact, since November 2007, the Malinya Mukta Keralam program is in placeand the sanitation programs are under various stages of implementation in the state.
Social canvass
For Kerala, in the 70’s the fuel of growth, in the sectors of social life and development, was the higheliteracy and remittances by a huge chunk of expatriate wage earners working in the west Asia or Gulf states.Currently this growth is turbocharged with the new employment opportunities at home by the steadilygrowing Indian economy and newer opportunities thrown open globally. With the result, Keralites have beenslowly transforming their attitudes quietly by diffusing themselves into a western life styles – a throw awaystyle – generating and adding more bulk and variety to waste than ever, warranting huge attitudinal changesand new technology injections in the areas of sanitation, including MSW management.The Clean Kerala Mission or Malinya Muktha Keralam inaugurated last year by the President of Indiaenvisages a renaissance of sense of public cleanliness in the state. Moreover, MSW management in Keralawarrants special focus because of a), large per capita production b), lack of segregation at source (but for the MCs of Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode, Quilandy municipality and Chunakkara VP), c), decline inbackyard composting, d), rising e-waste and plastic, and e), limited potential for storage of waste
Kerala: Physical setting
While designing sanitation programs for Kerala, one need to take into account the unique physical setting of Kerala, viz., topography, climate and natural drainage system. Chief physiographic divisions of Kerala, acrude replica of Indian tri-colour flying on its short edge, are the highland (>75.0 m), midland (7.5-75.0 m)and coastal land (<7.5 m). The state lying on the SW tip of Indian peninsula is a land area characterized bya narrow plan view, a westerly declining gradient, relatively large number of small and medium (41 headingwest and 3 to east) rivers (Rao, 1967), and a tropical humid climate with nearly six months of summer andan equal number of rainy days caused by monsoon circulation. Added to these are factors of populationdensity (side of support square = 32.0 m), and level of quality of life, especially while designing process andmechanism to ensure full sanitation.
Flow of Solid waste
Until as recently as 2000, the capital region of Thiruvananthapuram corporation (Tc) with a large population(~700,000), was producing a large volume of garbage that was collected on a 24x6 basis and was carted or trucked to a dump site near Vallakkadavu.In the past, as the waste had a large chunk of degradable component with household and hotel garbage andother organic refuses but only small volumes of waste paper, glass bottles etc., naturally putrefied wastehad a captive market in a diligent fraction of the farming community, who systematically purchased the latter as “compost” – applied as soil conditioner in the coconut farms in parts the district.Generally, waste of domestic, market and commercial origins used to be discretely dumped in the streetside to be gathered later by a two-some-team (a sweeper and one cart-man) to load in a truck (or larger cart) headed to dump sites (like in the compounds of Connemera market, Palayam or Manacad market,
Manacad or in the southern edge of Chalai market, or Vallakadavu) .In 1985 government ordered closure of the dump
Table 4: Structure of MSW-T, 2001 (after Panicker, 2001)TypeChala, gm; %Manakad, gm; %Palayam; gm; %Average: gm; %Paper76.0 ; 0.70 400.0; 10.8300.0; 5.00258.6; 5.5Dry leaves116.0;1.12100.0; 56.83700.0; 61.41972.0;39.76Green leaves445.0; 4.3NilNil148.3; 1.4Rotten vegetable9700.0;92.8Nil87.0; 1.43262.3; 31.4Cotton+clothes27.0; 0.3 32.0; 0.917.0; 0.325.3; 0.5Coir stuff33.0; 0.3NilNil11.0; 0.1Husk, shell n.d560.0; 15.2 1300.0; 21.6620.0; 12.26Wood30.0; 0.3NilNil10.0; 0.1Meatstall waste Nil200.0; 5.4350.0; 5.8183.33; 3.73Total 10427.0; 99.83292.0; 89.15754.0; 95.56490.89; 94.78
site at Vallakkadavu, following a request by the AAI for in order to avoid flight delays, damages and losseswarranted by the rising bird hits on aircraft engines while flying low during landing or takeoff. However, withthe introduction and proliferation of plastic (chiefly as packaging fabric and carry bags), to a certain extentrubber (in the form of footwear) etc. the profile of the city waste transformed quickly to the dislike of thefarmers –the one time captive clientele.With the change of profile of the city waste, consequent rejection by farming community and jump in thevolumes and quantities of waste, the need for newer interventions like a centralized and scientific wasteprocessing program, became acutely inescapable and compelling. As a result, an aerobic compostingtechnology or ‘Excel Technology’ based waste processing plant was commissioned in July, 2000 in theChovallur ward of Vilappilasala Grama Panchayath.Prasad (2007) used the GIS tool kit to isolate suitable landfill sites adjacent to the VPP, using severalcriteria. Ambat (2002) examined the societal attitude towards solid waste management especially in respectof Thiruvananthapuram. Maya et al, (2000) reported on the quanta and structure of MSW in the districts of Kottayam, Alappuzha and Ernakulam. The MSW of Thiruvananthapuram corporation area was inquired intoby Sreebha et al. (2005) while Krishnakumar et al (2005) attempted a portrayal of MSW of the state. 
Vilappilsala Processing Plant (VPP)
The VPP built on a BOT basis at Chovallur ward of Vilappil VP, is one of the early initiatives in Kerala inarea of MSW management by aerobic composting process. As originally conceived, the citizen takes un-segregated household waste to a street side dump site to be trucked away to one of the transfer stations(viz., Palayam, Chala or Manacad, en route to the VPP) without a real time transport to the processing plantdue to reasons like truck repairs or breakdowns, want of a full load of waste or special holidays andSundays, resulting in a degree of putrefaction of waste. When such waste reaches the windrows of VPP for composting, it releases a leachate (especially in the wet seasons due to an over dose of rain water spray)that escapes into a tributary of Karaman Ar. and foul smelling gases, resulted in stiff objections andresistance by local residents in the neighborhood of the VPP and occasionally en route to the plant.
The VPP erected in the Chovallur ward (ref. SOI topo-sheet 58H/11),of Vilappil Grama Panchayath (VGP)and in a left-bank sub-basin of Karamana Ar. in the Trivandrum Dist., is approximatrely 15.0 km to the NE of Trivandrum city and has the distinction of being the home of first domestic solid waste treatment plant in thestate. This tract has typical midland (7.5-75.0 m amsl.) configuration of Kerala, viz., set of NW-SE trendingnarrow-valley-wide-ridge mosaic and lower relative relief. Narrow valley floor has a relatively thick fill of alluvium, drained by a lower order stream (say 4
of order or lower), while the ridges have steeper northerlyslopes than south facing ones and are of short to medium length and tend to have a thick cover of lateritewith occasional outcrops of the crystalline basement rocks on the ridge-tops or on slopes. This tract enjoys atropical to sub-tropical climate with temperatures in the range of 22 – 30 deg.C., and an average annual rainfall of 250 cm.- a combined contribution by the SW and NE monsoons. Land-use-wise coconut trees areplanted commonly along the toe of the slopes and/or floor of the valleys, while rubber plantations sprawlacross the slopes as well as the ridge tops.
The Treatment Plant 
The treatment-plant, housed in a large polygonal shed with a roof of very gentle slope (like an open-upright-umbrella) and attached factory sheds at lower elevations to the south, built on the landscaped south facingslope of a 4
order sub-basin, went on stream in August, 2000. Total floor area is ~1.25 lakh ft2, with awaste processing capacity of 300 t.p.d. The main shed shelters the machinery and waste windrows enablingaerobic composting. But the relatively large freeboard, about 8.0 m between the concrete floor and gutteredroof, allows free draft of “essential” air and rain-water-spray over the windrows causing a spurt in yield of 

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