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The Big Picture: Govt finalises guidelines to turn Kerala’s dump yards into eco-friendly land banks

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Finally, Kerala government has expedited procedures to reclaim lands which have been holding solid waste of different sorts for the last many decades (legacy dumpsites) in the state.

Around 40 government lands running into several acres and spread across different districts will be reclaimed through bioremediation process in the next two years.

An order was issued by the Local Self Government (LSG) Department on October 29 approving the draft guidelines to be implemented for completing the procedures to select agencies and companies for reclaiming the legacy dumpsites and converting them into eco-friendly land banks.

As per senior officers in the LSG department, the reclaimed land through bio-remediation will be most likely to be included in the government’s land bank for future environment friendly projects.

“Remediation of legacy dumpsites involves various activities such as assessment of the nature and quantity of waste to be remediated, excavation works to open the dumps, screening and sorting to segregation of waste fractions, reuse and sale/marketing of recovered materials, scientific disposal of rejects as per the norms. It’s going to be a major project in the state. Multiple agencies will be involved,” a senior officer said, adding the detailed guideline has now been issued after the government found the progress in reclaiming such lands going slow.

“The progress of implementation of such projects has not been satisfactory so far. One of the main reasons is that there is a lack of clarity in the procedures to be followed for legacy waste remediation projects right from the approval of the project to the mode of execution (including sale and disposal of recovered materials) by LSGs since the nature of such projects is not similar to the general public construction/civil works. Also, the nature, quality and quantity of material that can be recovered from an existing legacy dumpsite cannot be accurately predetermined without opening up such dumpsites and hence it is not practical to prepare a workable estimate for the same like other public works,” said the government order.

The guidelines describe the procedures that need to be implemented in each stage of execution of works for the bio-remediation process.

Why Kerala Government expedited the process for reclaiming legacy dumpsites?

  • As per a report of Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), unlined and unscientific landfills (where LSGs have been dumping waste for last many years) result in irreversible environmental and health hazards ranging from greenhouse gas emissions, groundwater and surface water pollution and air pollution, to surface fires. Old dumpsites, in fact, are well-known sources of dislocated pollution due to the generation of hazardous leachates and emissions.
  • The Swachh Bharat Mission 2.0 has given a clear mandate to all Urban Local Bodies (ULBs) in India to complete remediation of their existing dumpsites by 2023 (for cities with less than 10 lakh population) and by 2024 (for cities with more than 10 lakh population) in compliance with environmentally sustainable methods.

What is legacy waste?

  • Aged municipal solid
  • Partly, completely, un-decomposed waste
  • Waste Contains scrap
  • Polymeric and combustible materials
  • Inerts

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