Wednesday, June 12, 2013

It's Raining Fever in Kerala - Blame it on Open Dumps

Some time last year I blogged about the disruption of municipal solid waste management services across the length and breadth of Kerala. Municipal workers and the urban local bodies have been derelict in discharging one of the most essential public services of removing and safely disposing of the garbage from their cities and towns (the state is a urban continuum!). Apparently they can not find suitable sites for developing sanitary landfills while several of their treatment plants have not delivered and have not lived to the expectations (no generation of wealth from waste). Now after long enough gestation, the pathogens and viruses are making their presence felt. The following link in today's Indian Express (June 12, 2013) presents some scary data on  public health crisis - over last 6 months 1 million people from the 'God's Own Country' have been affected by a range of communicable diseases, among others, viral fever, malaria, dengue, cholera, etc. Daily turnout at hospitals across the tiny state is reported in the range of 10,000 to 14,000. Report says that during this period 140 persons have died of fever and 11 due to dengue. The situation has worsened after the Monsoons set in, creating favourable conditions for breeding of disease vectors on the growing mountains of open dumps and garbage clogged drains all across the state - apparently 1.5 lakh cases reported in last 10 days.

They say 'Health is Wealth'; but in the name of attempting generation of 'Wealth from Waste' and not doing safe disposal in landfills, the state is now witnessing 'Degeneration of Wealth'. Kerala is a paradox - the society has full literacy (educated?) and is rich but it is not taking due care of its natural heritage; it has low mortality but high morbidity; it aspires for high lifestyle but is also characterised by high lifestyle diseases.

If a society is rich and can afford to generate increasing quantities of garbage, then it should also be able to afford its safe treatment and disposal. Otherwise it will feel the pain of paying through increasing morbidity and even mortality. Perhaps objective appraisal and revision of MSW Rules, 2000 at a far off place in Delhi will help. But when - that is the question ?

Asit Nema


Nuggehalli Vasuki said...

You are right - something has gone awry in Kerala. In 2006 they started Clean Kerala Campaign. In meetings with Kerala MoEF officials and the Kerala Minister of MoEF, two of us (Former Director of solid wastes USEPA and President of the International Solid Waste Association) recommended that Kerala pursue Regional landfills and transfer stations as the first step of a clean up initiative. That solid foundation would allow Kerala to consider other waste conversion technologies while quickly and efficiently dispose the collected waste. We emphasized that all successful solid waste managment programs started with modern engineered landfills as the foundation. Of course they ignored the pragmatic and cost effective suggestion.The current mess is very expensive indeed.
In every progressive civil society, protection and enhancement of public health is of the highest priority. Apparently it is not in Kerala and rest of India.
If political leaders had any real commonsense, they rush to provide clean water,clean bathrooms and sewrage systems, prompt collection of all solid wastes daily to the lowest economic sector. The collected solid waste would be disposed in landfills. If that were achieved, prople would be healthier and productive. Instead of spending their money on medications and visits to doctor's offices,the poorest people would be able to improve their life.
Instead , the elected officials propose to subsidize the sale of rice as the priority - what a shame.

Incredible India is gaining high noterity in the world - for rape of women, excessively dirty cities, Dengue fever, Chicken Gunia, Hepatitis, Choelra, Typhoid, TB, Filariasis,Malaria etc.

It is high time to start cleaning up the solid waste mess!

Foundation for Greentech Environmental Systems said...

Kerala has gone a step beyond - it has amended its municipal legislation whereby households are not allowed to dispose of waste at all. They are expected to reduce, reuse, recycle; treat in-situ; or figure out other ways to be 'zero waste'!! As a result ULBs have also stopped installing containers at the community waste depots and stopped lifting waste from residential areas. This is leading to a bizarre situation since people can not attain the so called total 3R and 'zero waste' - they are openly burning waste in backyards, burying into the ground or disposing of into the sea, canals and other water bodies. The beach in Kollam was in a pathetic condition - with lots of plastic waste mixed with the sand; and tourists finding their way through heaps of trash.