Kerala Aiming for a garbage-Free State by March 2024, Kerala has implemented substantial fines for individuals caught disposing of waste in public areas. The state cabinet recently gave approval to two ordinances that amend the Panchayati Raj and Municipal Act, introducing significant increases in fines and penalties.
Previously, the fine for littering in public spaces was merely Rs 250, but it has now been raised significantly to Rs 10,000. Additionally, the disposal of waste in water bodies has been designated as a non-bailable offense.
Minister for Local Self-Government MB Rajesh has explained that these ordinances are intended to support the waste management endeavors of the state government and local self-government.
“The government has set a target of achieving a garbage-free Kerala by March 30, 2024. To reach this goal, we have initiated enforcement measures and necessary policy initiatives. This ordinance will facilitate enforcement,” stated the minister.
For gatherings of over 100 people, proper waste disposal following established rules is mandatory. Event organizers must secure permission from the relevant local body and pay the associated fees.
“We have established two enforcement squads, each with specific assignments and targets, to ensure efficient enforcement through our local self-government institutions,” MB Rajesh further added.
Kerala Aiming for a garbage-Free State by March 2024
In order to boost enforcement activities for waste management, Minister for Local Self-Governments M.B. Rajesh emphasized the importance of the Kerala Municipality (Amendment), 2023, and the Kerala Panchayat Raj (Amendment), 2023. These provisions are seen as vital for the success of the Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam program, which seeks to make Kerala garbage-free by March of next year.
Each waste generator will be required to pay the user fee before the end of every month or within the timeline set by the respective local body. Defaulters could face a monthly fine of 50%, but these penalties may only be imposed if the user fee remains unpaid for 90 days.
Local bodies will have the authority to grant exemptions from the user fee to specific sections of the population within prescribed limits. These beneficiaries should be identified through grama sabhas, and the government will issue separate guidelines for this purpose, according to Mr. Rajesh.
SPECIAL FUNDS :
The new law will make it mandatory for Panchayat Raj institutions to establish waste management funds, which will receive fines collected for waste management violations, contributions from Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds, and other sponsorship amounts for waste management activities. These funds will be utilized for waste management initiatives, purchasing essential equipment, and conducting training and capacity-building programs.
Managing waste will soon become a crucial criterion for determining maintenance and development grants. Underperforming local bodies may risk losing funds as a result of this measure.
The first phase of the Malinya Muktham Nava Keralam program, initiated on March 15, has been remarkably successful. Over 90% of 422 local bodies achieved door-to-door collection coverage, while 298 others achieved between 75% and 90% coverage. Currently, 34,382 Haritha Karma Sena volunteers are actively engaged in waste management across the state, with 3,603 members recruited since the campaign’s launch.
Furthermore, the state is progressing towards its goal of establishing mini-Material Collection Facilities (MCFs) in each ward, with 15,247 MCFs in operation and nearly 5,000 more expected to start functioning by the end of November. In addition, 1,274 MCFs are operational in various locations.
What are the primary sources of pollution in Kerala?
Kerala hosts numerous factories, many situated near the coastline, contributing significantly to year-round pollution levels. These factories rely on substantial amounts of fossil fuels like diesel and coal for energy and produce secondary pollutants during their industrial processes. This includes chemical plants, food processing and packaging units, as well as other industrial productions like cement or metal factories. These operations release substantial emissions, affecting air quality.
Additionally, vehicle emissions, especially from cars, lorries, and motorcycles on Kerala’s roads, are notable contributors to pollution. Given the export-oriented industry, the state witnesses heavy truck traffic moving goods within the country, and cargo ships play a role in local and global exports. Ships, in particular, emit more harmful pollutants due to different fuel regulations, often containing higher sulfur content that eventually disperses into the atmosphere.
Cars and trucks, especially those running on diesel, emit various chemical compounds and fine particulate matter, posing health risks to both the exposed population and the environment.
Construction sites also generate pollution, with continuous roadwork and building activities releasing dust and particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10). Open burn fires are another issue in many parts of India, contributing to the release of plastic fumes and burnt organic waste smoke into the atmosphere, affecting pollution levels and public health.
How can Kerala improve its pollution levels?
Several initiatives can significantly reduce pollution levels in Kerala. Taking a cue from the improvements observed during the movement control orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, measures to reduce vehicle movement can be explored.
Implementing low-emission zones, offering incentives for reduced car usage, investing in public transport infrastructure, and imposing fines and charges on vehicles exceeding pollution limits can promote responsible vehicle use and potentially phase out diesel-based and outdated vehicles.
Similarly, enforcing sanctions and fines on factories surpassing pollution limits can encourage better industrial management and responsibility. These steps represent actions Kerala can take to achieve sustainable, long-term reductions in pollution levels.
How concerning are the pollution levels in Kerala?
Kerala, situated on the southwestern coast of India, boasts a rich history as a prominent spice producer and exporter. Even today, it maintains a strong presence in the agricultural sector, producing coconuts, tea, coffee, and spices, ranking as the 10th largest economy in India.
Like many regions with bustling trade and daily commuting, Kerala encounters pollution issues stemming from the extensive use of cars, trucks, and lorries for transportation of goods and daily travel.
As of now, available data covers pollution levels in Kerala’s capital city, Thiruvananthapuram, which offers insights into the overall air quality in the state. In 2019, this city recorded PM2.5 readings of 27.9 μg/m³, placing it in the upper range of the ‘moderate’ pollution category, requiring readings between 12.1 to 35.4 μg/m³ for such classification.
There were noticeable spikes in pollution during certain months, highlighting concerns about pollution in Thiruvananthapuram and Kerala as a whole. Given the similarity in infrastructure and the economic activities of other cities, it is reasonable to assume that this issue extends beyond the capital. Thiruvananthapuram’s reading of 27.9 μg/m³ ranked it 496th among the most polluted cities worldwide.
While there are more severely polluted cities in India, with many ranking high among the world’s most polluted, Trivandrum and Kerala experience pollution levels that are far from being consistently safe. They have a considerable distance to cover before meeting the World Health Organization’s (WHO) target of 0 to 10 μg/m³.