Garbage in the Open: Mounting Problem in Kerala's Capital

A mounting garbage heap in Kerala's capital city.

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Residents call it Mount Garbage. Thiruvananthapuram city's new landmark, a rising heap of waste spread over half an acre, lies behind the biggest wholesale market here and just four km away from the Secretariat, the seat of the state government.

The stench emanating from it is unbearable, with non-degradable and bio-waste all rotting in the open, through the sun or rain.

Mohammad Siddique, who runs a shop near the dump yard says, "Garbage has been thrown here for two years. Leaders make all kinds of promises but this (dump) has stayed causing sickness and stench. Just imagine our plight when it rains. We lose business because of this."

Ironically, the fresh waste dumped here every day by the government-appointed labourers is right next to a decentralised waste management plant, which has won the state a lot of appreciation.

SL John, in-charge of the waste compost plant, claims, "Segregated waste used to be brought here and decomposed. But, because of the road being constructed, it's being dumped outside, with no other alternative."

But the pile up is not recent. Residents say the heap was created over two years. This, in a city counted among the 10 cleanest cities in India.

VK Prashanth, the newly elected LDF Mayor of the city says, "We have made provisions for the plastic to be separated, the rest of the degradable waste will be handled soon. We obviously are doing well, that's why we have won so much of national appreciation. The only thing is that we are open and not hiding things which are not going well."

Thiruvananthapuram clearly has two sides - one where innovative techniques of waste management like source level composting and decentralised ward-level composting with locally found material have succeeded and the other huge garbage mounds dot the city in select places.