Saturday, December 31, 2011

From the municipality with love: A few loads of waste for new year

The town of Thiruvalla is sandwiched between the important towns of Chengannur and Changanachery. Its importance can be attributed to a high NRI population and a railway station which caters to small villages outside the railway corridor. The past two decades have seen enormous activity in terms of big apartments and new shopping malls. The mad rush was kick started by the gulf war and the fleeing workers of the oil rich state of Kuwait. Now people see Thiruvalla as a town which has all basic facilities and is conveniently placed.

The speedy construction and new buildings has also given rise to a serious problem which no one knows how to solve. The town is producing huge amounts of waste and the municipality does not know what to do with the piles coming up each day. The public stadium was seen in the eighties as the pride of the people, leading to the hosting of state level football matches and inter-state level cricket matches. But that image of the stadium changed with huge piles of waste being disposed all around the stadium. Early morning walkers and sports lovers were forced to retreat because of the unbearable stench of the waste.

This forced the authorities to shift the waste disposal to a private plot near the stadium and then to the area next to the private bus stand. All the while people have been protesting this haphazard outlook of the municipality whereby people are not able to wait for buses without covering their nose and getting nauseated. Every time some event comes up near the stadium the authorities shift gears to transport the waste to other areas. One such area is the vacant municipal plot next to the temporary KSRTC bus stand on the railway station YMCA road. Residents of the area were woken out of their sleep by the unbearable stench of the waste.

A similar attempt was prevented by the public a couple of years ago which may be the reason of the night attempt this time. The health official present had a few things to say. One, that this waste is produced by the people and therefore there is nothing wrong in disposing it in a residential/town area, two, don’t stop the authorities from doing their work (The official even took photos of the people present in a overt attempt to scare off those assembled.), three, disposing waste and putting mud on top is scientific and the municipality usually fills land with waste and this can then be made use of for the public. The public on the other hand had their version. One, the huge amount of waste is produced by hotels and other institutions. They then pay money for this to be disposed by the municipal workers. Two, mud is not put properly on top of the waste and this leads to crows and dogs scavenging the remains and spreading it all over. The sparsely covered waste will then start smelling and people start falling sick and the water table is polluted by the authorities themselves. Three, money changes hands over mud filling and dispensing of waste and there is an unholy alliance between the authorities and private players. Four, history has shown that the authorities have failed big time in waste managements and all they do is to pollute the soil and the air.

The options in front of the public are two. One, file a complaint with the municipal authorities and two, file a writ in the honourable High Court seeking stopping of the waste disposal in areas where people live. The municipal chairperson has already assured that the waste will not smell and that this is a one time affair. For some reason the public refuse to believe this.

As I sit writing New Year wishes to people, my mind simply won’t function the way I want it to. I can’t help drawing parallels with the municipal authorities and church authorities. Both are called to serve and both end up serving themselves and threatening the people of dire consequences if they show the courage to speak out. What is the common woman/man supposed to do? Approach the political leaders, approach the court or take to violence? As I think about my local experience I realise that this is what happens in my country as well. Why should 2012 be any different? All statistics show that corruption has increased, high handedness is the norm and the public are the least everywhere. The words public servant and service are a joke. Is something going to change? Will the people get what is rightfully theirs? Will we still bend our backs and tie our towels around our waste and say ‘yes, yes’ to our authorities or will we demand service? As a servant myself, will I be able to serve others rather than rule and boss over them in 2012? Let the small expectant sparks (if any) be the fireworks of 2012. Happy new year.


Anonymous said...

Sonu Nair, facebook, 4-1-2012- i guess municipality guys also donno what to do with the waste collected from all the restaurants and the new huge number of flats that has sprung up in tvla of late ...... they should ideally ensure all these are in place even before sanctioning new projects, which they dont want to do for obvious reasons..... its all money that rules man......

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

So true. I must say that the Thiruvalla we grew up in has been corrupted so much. People who come for vacation also go to other places now. It is very unfortunate that we have a political class which is in liaison with profit seekers and they together misuse the public places which in essence belong to the people (public). People who cause a loss to the public should be held accountable, however big they are. I talk knowing very well that I also have the call to serve the larger public.

Thomas said...

HI Dear Acha,
I bought a pair of glasses the other day. The glasses were covered with cardboard and two layers of plastic cover. Then, there was a cover of a thick cardboard box. I just wanted those glasses. But, i was given all these stuff. What am i supposed to do with these useless things? Those things are waste for me. Today, to make things attractive plastic and papers and cardboards are used, where these are not really needed and this adds to the waste.If this senseless practice continues, then it is going to be difficult to manage waste even in villages.

There are many fundamental things that have gone wrong. We need to get actively engaged in the public life to bring out any change. come back to Thiruvalla. Let's do something together.

Fr. Jerry Kurian said...

Thomas, it is true that the consumer culture that we live in has enormous waste as its by product. Earlier, we simply did not have so much waste. Guess we all have to get involved in our own little ways and yes I have it strongly on mind to get back soon.:)