Alappuzha in Kerala is one among five cities across the globe that the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) recognised last year for their sustainable waste management practices. Often referred to as the Venice of Kerala, Alappuzha produces around 58 tonnes of solid waste per day. Today, five years after launching the Nirmala Bhavanam Nirmala Nagaram (‘Clean Homes Clean City’) initiative, the city boasts of clean streets, as all the organic waste is processed either in people’s backyards or at the 70 community composting centres spread across 23 municipal wards.
“There was no choice, there was no option. The dumping yard was in my constituency in Sarvodayapuram,” says T.M. Thomas Isaac, Kerala’s finance minister, who spearheaded the movement. “The waste was being transported to the area and the town had become littered with garbage. The challenge was to remove the dumping yard and also clean up the city. It was difficult to handle centralised waste management, so the only option was to tackle the waste at the source—in the household or the neighbourhood.”
Isaac recalls that it took two years of door-to-door campaigning to impress on people that they could either undertake composting in their backyard or bring it to one of the community centres. “My simple question was: where do you process your latrine waste? If you can do that in your homes why not your kitchen waste? We offered all help for composting at home and also the option of bringing the segregated waste to the community centres,” says Isaac. “Now nothing is going to the landfill. There has been a lifestyle change among the people. We have been using the agency of children to bring about the desired change and support for the green campaign.”
Looking beyond the organic...