Kerala’s Alappuzha rated among world’s best in fighting waste

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The UNEP report notes Alappuzha’s key to tackling the problem was a decentralised waste management system

Thiruvananthapuram: Kerala’s Alappuzha district, known for its tourism resorts and meandering backwaters, has been rated among the top places in the world by the United Nations Environment Programme in fighting the problem of solid waste.

Once known as the Venice of the East, the coastal town is now known more for a few hundreds of houseboats that traverse the backwaters and the numerous other tourism offerings in the district. It is also a major producer of coir products.

Alappuzha has been placed in an elite group of five cities in the world that have successfully created a strong approach to tackling waste. The others on the list are Japan’s Osaka, the Slovenian city of Ljubljana, Penang in Malaysia and Cajicá in Colombia.

The rating appeared in a UNEP report titled ‘Solid approach to waste: How 5 cities are beating pollution’. The report notes that many cities in the world are yet to rise to the challenge of managing wastes.

By coincidence, the appreciation for Alappuzha comes at a time when Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is pushing a Swachch Bharat campaign, aimed at creating a clean nation. Based on the UNEP report, the rest of India could take a leaf out of Alappuzha’s book to turn themselves cleaner and more hygienic.

The UNEP report notes that Alappuzha’s key to tackling the problem of wastes was its decision to introduce a decentralised waste management system. As recently as 2014, Alappuzha did not present a pretty site as its canals were strewn with garbage and wastes, and a series of disease outbreaks brought shame to the district.

Things have changed since the introduction of the decentralised waste management system, where the biodegradable wastes are sorted out at the ward level and treated in mini composting plants, which in turn provides biogas for cooking to hundreds of local residents. One of the MLAs in the district, T.M. Thomas Isaac, also threw his weight behind the waste management system.

Despite the international agency’s words of praise, there is also criticism at the local level about the general hygiene in the district. The district continues to be challenged by the high incidence of diseases, shortage of drinking water in many places, and an alarmingly high mosquito population.

The appreciation from the UNEP, however, is expected to be a morale booster for the authorities, and a shot in the arm for the tourism sector in the state. For over two decades, the houseboats of Alappuzha have become an iconic attraction for visitors arriving in Kerala.

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