Bobbili might have lost the war in 1758 against Vizianagaram dynasty that wiped out the entire kingdom, but it has now won the war against garbage and stench. Bobbili Municipality, the second largest in the Vizianagaram district of Andhra Pradesh, is spread across an area of 25.60 sq km, with a population of 56,877 (as per the 2011 census). Bobbili is one of the top 20 municipalities in the country with a commendable waste management system. Bobbili town has banned plastic bags and water packets a decade ago, segregates waste into categories and, in the process, earns considerable income too.
"We are implementing the Supreme Court's guidelines on solid waste management by allotting two bins for each of the 15,000 houses. Green for wet and blue for dry waste. Then we have created awareness among the public about segregation of waste at source. Nine vehicles pass through the nine routes identified for this purpose, and collection takes place. Pushcarts are used in narrow lanes," says Bobbili Municipal Commissioner Sankar Rao. Over 18 tonnes of segregated garbage is then transferred to huge bins and dumped at the solid waste management park located on the outskirts of the town.
The commissioner is in praise of the residents of the municipality who abide by the cleanliness dictum. "Garbage collecting vehicles were funded under the 12th Finance Commission (2010-11), while push carts and bins were funded under the Swachh Andhra Corporation," says Rao. The highlight of Bobbili's journey into zero-waste management is the 8.5-acre solid waste management park, which has separate sheds for dry waste, wet waste, a biogas plant, and vermicompost.
A pulveriser breaks down wet waste into small pieces, which is then turned into compost. The whole process takes around 45 days. This compost is then sold to farmers at the rate of Rs 250 for two tons. Dry waste is segregated and packed into 50-kg blocks with the help of a bailing machine, which is bought by the local dry waste merchants on an everyday basis.
Every year, the municipality earns Rs 3.6 lakh by selling waste. In addition, the biogas plant generates enough power to run fans and lights in the yard, thus saving on electricity bills. Even the slurry, a byproduct of the biogas unit, is mixed with cow dung and used in making vermicompost, which is then sold at the rate of Rs 10 per kilo.
"Initially, people refused to cooperate, even though they faced severe health problems because of littering and the seepage of rotting waste into drinking water sources. They started following the rules only after we started awareness programmes in the form of pamphlets and street plays emphasising the need to segregate waste and imposed fines for littering. Efforts were made to reach out to every single resident of the municipality. The entire process took almost a year," adds Rao. The results are there for everyone to see. In an effort to eliminate the use of plastic bottles and sachets, free water is supplied by the municipal authorities in cans; every shop in town is provided with two bins, and it is the shop owners' responsibility to see that their customers use the bins appropriately; only biodegradable cups are allowed in coffee and tea cafes; those failing to keep their business premises clean are liable to pay a fine of Rs 100; after religious processions and public functions, garbage collection teams clear the garbage during the night.
Another feather in the cap for Bobbili is its declaration as an 'open-defecation-free' municipality after the construction of over 3,600 septic latrines, and nine community and two public toilets.
Bobbili has won nine national awards and a recognition by the Centre for Science and Environment for its war against waste. Bobbili is determined to continue with its zero-garbage mission as it has realised that it stands out from the rest because of its cleanliness drive.