Having initiated a number of activities such as setting up solid waste management (SWM) parks in all its 9 blocks, the coastal district of Kanyakumari in India’s southern tip which was declared open defecation free (ODF) on 4th February, 2017 is now moving towards ODF plus.
ODF plus refers to total sanitation in terms of solid waste management, improved sewerage lines, storm water drains and pucca cement roads, in addition to open defecation free status.
According to Project Director, DRDA (District Rural Development Agency), S. Suresh, one such SWM Park was opened two months ago on the outskirts of Vellisanthai village panchayat in Kurunthencode Block that comprises of 24 habitations; the scheme was implemented under NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act). The park caters to 2893 households in the Kurunthencode cluster with as many as 13 sanitation workers (Thooimai Kavalars) assigned to carry out the work.
The park was set up on land that was earlier encroached upon by private groups; but now restored to the panchayat. It comprises of compost pits, a dumping yard, segregation shed, and vermi compost shed.
Each day, sanitation workers collect garbage from individual homes in the block and bring it to the SWM Park where waste is segregated into biodegradable and non-biodegradable waste. The wet waste mainly comprising of food waste and leaves is taken to the vermi-compost yard where it is converted into compost in about 45 days.
Thereafter, the compost is packaged and sold to individual homes. “Last week the panchayat leaders sold 108 kgs of compost at Rs 8 per kg, earning a total of Rs. 864,” said Mr. Suresh. Further, to increase demand for the same, farmers in the region have been informed about the rich organic manure they can purchase.
On the other hand, non-biodegradable waste made up of plastic, glass bottles, leather, thermocol, etc., is sent for shredding; shredded plastic is often used for road works. As for liquid waste, considering that most homes have trees around them, it is channeled into them. The entire operation of the SWM Park is handled by the panchayat leaders.
There is also an artificial pond and adequate space to plant vegetable seedlings. On a regular basis, water is pumped into the pond and it is used to grow vegetables such as cucumbers, ladies finger and a variety of greens.
Towards sustaining the ODF status of the district, the Project Director said that frequent review meetings with the use of various IEC material are held with all stake holders and officers. Further, medical doctors from primary health centres and government hospital have agreed to have printed messages on the importance of using toilets on the prescriptions they issue to their patients. This has helped a great deal in creating awareness among the public.
As far as the residents of Kurunthencode village Panchayat are concerned, they are happy that their surroundings are clean and tidy and that their waste (biodegradable and non-biodegradable) is collected from their homes.