Dr Yatharth Kachiar
Among all the big cities in India that are making great strides in sanitation and waste management, a small municipality of Vyasnagar in the Jajpur district in Odisha deserves a special mention. After all, the real success of India lies when remote and unknown urban local bodies (ULB) like Vyasnagar are adopting innovation and dreaming big. Despite its small size and limited resources, Vyasnagar is a rapidly transforming municipality that is accomplishing its sanitation and solid waste management goals by leveraging public participation and administrative will. The projects are implemented in a decentralized manner that has strengthened community engagement and ensured the long-term sustainability of initiatives. By replicating the big city model, Vyasnagar has streamlined the solid waste management value chain through an innovative citizen engagement model using ICT-based technology to monitor the entire system.
Solid Waste Management
Taking inspiration from the best performing cities, Vyasnagar municipality has achieved 100 percent door-to-door collection, segregation, and waste processing by leveraging App-based data capturing and monitoring through a vehicle tracking system in a short period. For wet and dry waste processing, the municipality has established a decentralized micro composting centre and Material recovery facility. To tackle the waste generated within the city’s limit, the municipality has also established a Construction and Demolition (C & D) waste disposal site and processing centre. The recovered material out of C & D waste is being used to construct paver blocks, kerb material, and backfilling of low-lying areas.
Liquid Waste Management
What makes the case of Vyasnagar municipality special is its zeal to adopt innovation and best available technology in the field of sanitation. In Liquid waste management, the municipality is utilising the RENEU (restoration of Nallah with ecological units) technology to treat stormwater drain in an eco-friendly, cost-effective and efficient manner. Vyasnagar is the only municipality in Odisha that is applying this first-of-its-kind natural way of treating drain water. Apart from its low capital, operational and maintenance cost, RENEU technology is also helpful in creating beautiful aesthetics. Similarly, to treat the faecal sludge generated in the city, the municipality has tagged the city with a 150 KLD capacity sewage treatment plant.
One of Vyasnagar municipality’s most significant achievements is the remediation of existing landfill sites in the city into ecological parks using Bio-mining and processing legacy wastes. Once again, Vyasnagar is the only municipality in Odisha that has channelled resources to transform dumpsites into ecological parks. The municipality has incorporated 3Rs (recycle, reuse and reduce) into the planning process to help reduce the city’s waste. The sculptures and murals made of scrap materials are placed at prominent places to beautify the city.
To ensure the sustainability of existing infrastructure, the municipality has completed the face-lifting of all public and community toilets by ensuring 24/7 water supply, electricity, water-saving technology, ultra-modern fixtures, fittings, cleanliness, and user-friendly toilets. Vyasnagar municipality is one of the frontrunners in faecal sludge and septage management because of its robust service-delivery mechanism. The desludging operator is registered and trained on all aspects of sewer and septic tank maintenance. In addition, all the septage transport vehicles are installed with GPS trackers to track the indiscriminate/illegal dumping and ensure safe disposal at the designated site.
Capacity Building of Sanitation workers
Developing best sanitation practices and a sustainable eco-system requires investing in the capacity building of frontline workers and SHGs. To ensure this, Vyasnagar municipality collaborated with National Safai Karamcharis Finance and Development Corporation (NSKFDC) to conduct a skill development training program for sanitation workers under Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL)/ upskilling. It integrated all the informal waste pickers in the municipality into the sanitation value chain. In addition, as part of the RPL training, the sanitation workers received a certificate of completion, ID card, Personal protection equipment (PPE), and linkage with at least three eligible government schemes. To boost the confidence of its frontline workforce, the municipality recognizes the best performing sanitation worker monthly.
Triggering Behavioural Change
The real success of all these initiatives by Vyasnagar municipality lies in engaging the community by triggering behavioural change through various awareness activities. To ensure citizen participation in sanitation, the municipality has involved various stakeholders like SHGs, citizen forum to conduct awareness and mass cleaning campaigns, including daily sweeping and night sweeping drives. The wall paintings have become an essential medium in the city to convey the message of ‘clean and green Vyasnagar’. Apart from generating awareness regarding sanitation, these wall paintings also play a vital role in beautifying the city.
The success achieved by a small municipality like Vyasnagar in sanitation and waste management is undoubtedly an inspiration for all other similar municipalities in the country that are struggling with sanitation and waste management issues. However, what could limit the success streak of this unknown Urban Local Body (ULB) is the ever-present challenge of having limited resources and expertise. It is yet to be seen whether the municipality could sustain the synergy developed between the community and the administration in the long-term. Perhaps, developing some collaboration with the best performing cities such as Indore can solve this dilemma.
(The author is a Consultant working with EY. Presently, assisting the district administration in Jajpur, Government of Odisha. Views expressed are personal.)