From Director’s desk
Government of Kerala has taken several initiatives on the issue of sanitation and waste management. It is felt that conventional urban models of centralized waste management systems are not practically feasible in our conditions where land and large networking on waste collection etc. is difficult to organize. With high population density, large treatment and dumping yards can become not only eyesores but also health hazards for neighbouring people. In such situations, decentralised, community based systems could be tried.
Traditionally domestic waste has been managed in the homesteads within the premises with composting of biodegradable waste, which constituted most of the waste generated there. With increasing proportion of non biodegradable and some times even hazardous waste, at domestic level situation has been changing now.
Nevertheless, while there is scope of recycling and networking for collection and disposal of non biodegradable waste, composting of biodegradable waste at homestead or community level can substantially reduce the need of land and large structures. There have been successful experiments at resident association levels in the country and also at housing society/ apartment levels in the new residential and commercial complexes. Need is to get organized into a community action.
In this connection, I am reproducing below the experience of one of my colleagues who recently visited a place called Hamilton near Syracuse in USA and witnessed the community based initiatives there. Though we are different from them in population density, we can certainly organize ourselves for this kind of activities for keeping ourselves free from sight of accumulating waste in the neighbourhood. It is a matter of conviction and it can be achieved.
Unscheduled stop at HamiltonAjit Bharthuar, IFS Orissa I have read a lot about America, but I do not think books emote the real ethos of a place. Hamilton, a small village, not far away from Syracuse cannot be described completely on a few pieces of paper. How do you describe the “extent of happiness” on the faces of people? How do you describe the warmth they emote? How do you describe the deep concern for you on the faces of people? You have to experience it. Anything else would at best only give an idea about the place. However, may I have the audacity to do so?
“What is so great about Hamilton?” my colleagues have asked me several times. My answer is simple. What is not great about them?
Look at them. Here is a fully developed village, with all the facilities which modern society can offer, yet do not lock their doors.
Waste disposal and management is done by the community. Hospital is run by the community. Fire fighting and policing is done by the community. Anything you ask, and Dan, our Course Director at Syracuse, says it is done by the community.
“Why do you do it?”
“Because it is good for us”
And mind you all of them are done voluntarily.
Dan says that at times the neighbours are so helpful that you may feel that they are intruding into your privacy. With no locks, it may at times become embarrassing.
Do we do, what we know is good, for the community? I feel humbled.
It was not a scheduled stop for us in Hamilton. Dan lives in the village with his family. His wife is a doctor. What does he do? He rings up to his wife and most probably to the shop ordering for some Pizzas, soft drinks and fruits. All these things are ready for us in a park in less than five minutes. We are thirty odd people and guess who is there to help him to entertain us. Two of his neighbours had come with their families. Is it normal for neighbours to come to help voluntarily? Dan says, yes. Why? The same answer, it is good for us.
We enjoy his hospitality a lot and in the process have generated a lot of waste in the park. We offer to help him to remove the debris. He says no, please. We insist to help him, but he again declines politely and says that he has to segregate the waste before disposal. “Don’t bother”.
I have not seen a better example of solid waste management.
Meanwhile, some more families have joined us. Some of us are having photo sessions with them and their pets.
Dan and his family walk up all the way to the bus to see us off. I am sure, after we leave, his neighbours who were still waiting in the park would join hands with Dan to clean up the debris we had left behind.
I am sure Hamilton must be having its own woes, worries and problems. On the return journey, Rebecca asked me whether I would like to live in Hamilton.
“Of course, I would love it.” I replied. It is not the place, but its people that makes it habitable.