Kerala’s Chemnad boasts replicable waste management practices

Chemnad panchayat in Kasaragod district of Kerala, which is made up of 23 Wards, transformed from its abysmal performance in waste management to one of the best, owing to various measures adopted by the Panchayat with the support of a green consultant.

The changes in the panchayat were dramatic, given that it had previously appeared in the red list of panchayats in terms of waste management with only 2492 households out of 16,457 (a meagre 15 percent) covered by Haritha Karma Sena (HKS – the Green Task Force of every local body) in March 2022.  The low coverage of households was reflected in the collection of user fees which amounted to Rs.66,965 which meant that the HKS members were earning a paltry Rs.1455 per month.

The Process:  To remedy the situation, the panchayat of Chemnad decided to engage a Haritha Sahaya Sthapanam (HSS – a Green Consultant) to address the issue of responsible waste management.  After entering into an agreement with the Green Consultant on 31st March 2022, they conducted two surveys to analyze the waste management programme.

The first step for the HSS was to analyze what was not working, following which they devised a new method by which all 46 HKS members covered an entire ward in one day rather than the earlier system when 2 HKS members took care of one ward.  This enabled better coverage of households and shops/institutions, where they collected waste twice a month from shops and institutions and once a month from households. 

Branding and publicity:  Furthermore, to bring about public awareness of the problem of waste management, a branding exercise was started, with the programme named – ‘Nalla Veedu, Nalla Nadu, Chelode Chemnad’ complete with a logo that was launched by dignitaries promoted by publicity activities in each ward.   

In addition to sanitation committees formed at the ward level, awareness classes were held by subject experts followed by a public meeting with the participation of vendors, shop owners, members of merchants’ association, local leaders, influencers, religious leaders, etc.

As many as 19 schools were provided with bins for waste segregation as part of the awareness efforts even as inaugural events were conducted to mark the beginning of the programme which attracted attention, and increased awareness and trust.

The first round of survey in May-June 2022:  Consisting of door-to-door visits, the HKS members visited all households in a ward, accompanied by members of the Community development Society, Area Development Society, a Junior public health nurse, Asha workers, Anganwadi workers, and members of youth clubs. They made sure that awareness about the programme penetrated the panchayat efficiently and effectively.

The HKS was able to visit 12524 houses in the first round where 65.8 percent of the people cooperated by paying user fees which amounted to Rs. 4,51,900. This was a 674 percent increase in user fees collected compared to the previous month of March. Also, out of 513 institutions that received service from HKS, 70.9 percent of them paid the user fee.

The second round in July-August 2022:  Encouraged by the success of the first round and learning from the same, the HSS resource persons conducted training for the HKS members before the onset of the second round, instituting some innovations in the programme.  This included:

  • An automated call in the voice of the respective ward members was sent to every household before the process of waste collection began
  • A colour code system to show the level of cooperation in each ward was started
  • A sanitation ranking was introduced for healthy competition between the wards and trophies were distributed to the three wards with the best performance in the first round
  • HKS receipt was made mandatory for Kudumbashree services
  • An event – ‘Kadalora Sucheekaranavum Malinya Samsakarana Bodhavalkarana Pracharanavum’ (Coastal Sanitation and Waste Management Awareness Programme) – was organised in coastal villages where user fee collection was the lowest in the first round (29 percent).  During this exercise, 3 tonnes of waste was removed from the beach by a coastal clean-up team under the aegis of the HSS.
  • A beach walk programme called ‘Suchitwa Sagaram Sundara Theeram’ (Clean Ocean Beautiful Coast) was organised. The event saw the participation of the Panchayat’s elected representatives, members of the Governing Council, NGO representatives, NSS volunteers, and HSS employees. This round saw 62,890 kgs of waste being collected from the Panchayat and almost 70 percent of people cooperated with the HKS by providing user fee, the total collection amounting to Rs. 5,21,105.

Rewards and recognition:  The work of the Panchayat, the HSS and HKS members did not go unnoticed. They were felicitated and the ‘Chemnad Model’ was presented at the Kasaragod District Confluence of Haritha Karma Sena. The panchayat has not just become a model panchayat but the HKS members now earn an average of Rs. 11,000 per month for their work with the waste management programme.

The ‘Chemnad Model’ is not just a story of government interventions working successfully. It is a model demonstrating the strength of a Public-Private-Partnership in waste management.  The process brought about social action through behavioural change.  It led to transformation, with the cooperation of the community increasing from 15 percent to 69.5 percent, although the continued engagement by the HSS and the Panchayat with the HKS members was integral in collecting data which drove the innovative methods employed in the programme. Further, the various awareness activities that preceded the actual D2D visits and segregation played an important role in the success of the programme. While the panchayat had the resources and the access to make a project like this take place, its success could be attributed to the interventions of organisations and people with expertise and experience who were motivated to ensure both efficiency and effectiveness.

Inputs: Mr. Akhilesh Ramesh

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