Friday, December 15, 2000

KMC composting plant rusting despite garbage pile

By Razen Manandhar

KATHMANDU, Dec 14 - The Mayor of Kathmandu Metropolitan City (KMC) Keshav Sthapit never forgets to demand 200-ropani of land from the government whenever he addresses a programme. He wants the land to establish a composting plant in a city overburdened by 350 tonnes of garbage accumulated daily. Meanwhile, a 16-year-old composting plant with a capacity to produce 60 tonnes of manure daily is lying abandoned in the KMC office premises itself.

The Solid Waste and Sewerage Management Project imported a composting plant from an Indian company in 1984 at cost of Rs 5.5 million. The project managed the garbage of the newly-emerging capital city for several years under the German assistance.

Nowadays, drug addicts use the huge apparatus left idle on the municipality premises as a hideout and rag pickers use it for storing their wares.

It produced as much as 40 tonnes of manure daily in 1990. After the political change of 1990, locals started to raise their voices against the plant, saying it spread a foul smell in the locality. The project stopped operating the plant and ultimately it phased out without proper handover.

"Everything was okay until the movement of 1990. After that, people made an issue out of the plant for their political gains," said Bishombhar Lal Pradhan, under secretary for solid waste management, Ministry of Local Development (MLD).

Pradhan was associated with the project in those days.

During those days, the manure produced by the plant was very popular among the local farmers as well as those from Lalitpur, Thimi and Bhaktapur. Pradhan said that demand for manure was so high that the traditional farmers had to queue for their manure.

However, producing manure for the sake of garbage management was not as practical as it sounds. Sanjeev Bajracharya, managing director of Social, Environment and Engineering Concern Pvt Ltd, said that though it helped quite a lot to keep the city clean, it was not economically feasible.

"You can repair the plant and run it again now. But still, composting the garbage and making money out of it is not a lucrative idea. For the production cost of one tonne of manure was around Rs 1,000 but we had to sell it at Rs 250 per tonne," he said. Bajracharya was one among those who played key role in establishing the plant in Kathmandu.

But, the KMC officers say that the plant is completely useless. Padma Sunder Joshi, the co-director of Kathmandu Valley Mapping Programme said, "It should be dismantled and sold in pieces.

Still, MLD’s Solid Waste Management and Resource Mobilisation Centre (SWMRMC) is taking steps to make the machine functional again. According to Devi Nath Subedi, the general manager of SWMRC, the MLD is working on a plan to use the abandoned plant.

"We have recently examined the plant. It has only rusted and one screening part is missing. We have not yet examined the maintenance cost but still, we are committed to repair it soon," he said.
[ Kathmandu Friday December 15, 2000 Mangshir 30, 2057.]