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How Coimbatore ‘parks’ its garbage

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SummaryWhile most cities confine themselves to collection and transportation of solid waste, Coimbatore started with its processing and safe disposal, but has yet to work on collection. Scientific capping of a few sites has transformed garbage-dumping sites into lovely parks

Coimbatore is the second largest city of Tamil Nadu and one of the fastest growing urban agglomerations in the state and in India. Located on the banks of the Noyyal river in Western Tamil Nadu, Coimbatore (Koyanputhur meaning the new town of Koyan) is believed to have been named after a local chieftan called Koyan.

Known for its textiles and engineering industries and for its educational institutions, the economy of Coimbatore has been adversely affected by the deteriorating electricity situation in recent years. Nevertheless, industrialisation and urbanisation have created conditions in which the city has experienced peripheral expansion, with smaller municipalities and large villages surrounding the core city becoming part of the area under the Coimbatore City Municipal Corporation (CCMC). Most recently, in October 2012, the area of the city has more than doubled from 105 square km to 257 square km and its population has increased from 10 lakh to 16 lakh.

With physical expansion, rapidly increasing population and growing industrialisation comes the challenge of rising amounts of garbage generated in the city. If not properly managed and safely disposed, solid waste can play havoc with the health of city residents. The Government of India had notified the Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules in 2000, thereby making it mandatory for all urban local bodies in the country to engage in collection, segregation, secondary storage in covered bins, transportation in covered vehicles, processing through composting or waste-to-energy technologies and disposal of rejects in engineered/sanitary land-fills. Even after 12 years, most cities have confined themselves to collection and transportation of solid waste. Processing and safe disposal are being attempted only in a few cases.

CCMC is following an integrated approach to solid waste management, with a difference. Rather than starting with door-to-door collection, building awareness for segregation at the household level, and transporting the rubbish to the dumpsites in the slow march towards solid waste management as has been the practice in many cities, CCMC has chosen to first take care of the backlog in processing and disposal, in its slow march.

Prior to 2007, Coimbatore was no different from most other cities of India in its neglect of the garbage generated in the city. Heaps of garbage were poorly collected and carelessly transported from transfer stations in uncovered trucks to dumpsites which could only be described as land-hills. As the city expanded over the years, the dumpsites got closer and closer

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