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Extensive Survey on Municipal Solid Waste in Ward 173

As per the Corporation of Chennai, the city produces 5000 metric tonnes of garbage every day. They know this because as each compactor or garbage truck enters the dumpsites at Perungudi or Kodungaiyur, they are weighed using weighbridges. Beyond this figure, there is no understanding of how much of the municipal solid waste (MSW) produced in the city is organic waste that can be used for composting, or how much recyclable plastic is disposed daily. As a result, the Corporation cannot effectively plan for sustainable management of MSW.

Transparent Chennai, as part of a project undertaken in partnership with the Madras Institute of Development Studies and Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives, with cooperation and assistance from the Corporation of Chennai, is undertaking a survey to determine the quantity and composition of municipal solid waste produced in Ward 173 (in Zone XIII – Adyar). This ward level sample survey would provide detailed information about the quantity and kind of waste produced in the ward – information that is required to plan for an effective system of MSW management.

This survey is being done in two phases: mapping and sampling. Over the last few months, the team, with the assistance of a number of volunteers and community participants, has mapped Ward 173. With the use of paper maps, we marked the location of houses, apartments buildings, open spaces, hotels, eateries, and schools, and recorded the total number of households and shops. We found that there are 14,443 households and 960 small commercial establishments in the ward. There are also 19 educational institutions, 27 offices, 2 hotels, 13 stand-alone eateries, and 8 community halls / kalyana mandapams. This data was digitised using GIS software to create a map of the ward, and separated into blocks of 250 to 300 households each.

In the second phase, that began on November 15, 2013, we are conducting a sample survey. We selected 750 households and 50 shops in the ward at random. We have provided them with separate dustbins to collect their organic, inorganic, and sanitary wastes, along with adequate numbers of garbage bags. Starting on November 21 we will collect these garbage bags for 9 consecutive days. Each garbage bag shall be weighed, and each component of the inorganic waste will be separated into recyclable categories. Cooperation by households and segregation at the household level will be crucial to the survey’s success.

This data, along with our earlier mapping data, will be able to tell us the total quantity of waste produced in the ward by households and shops, the total amount of organic waste produced, the monetary value of recyclable components that could be used productively, and also a correlation between the composition of waste and different socio-economic categories of residents. We are also separately surveying each bulk waste producer to determine the quantity and composition of waste produced by them.

These survey results would be used as the basis of a comprehensive plan for waste management for the ward based on concepts of a decentralised model that moves the ward towards being “zero-waste”. This proposal shall be presented to the residents of Ward 173 in community meetings, and inputs and suggestions from the community shall be incorporated into the proposal. The final proposal shall then be submitted to the Corporation of Chennai for implementation in the ward. Through this exercise, we also hope to present a model of participatory planning based on good spatial data for the Corporation to emulate in other wards of the city with the assistance of civil society organisations.