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Zakaria Joy, Founder & CEO, Northamps ENV Solution

How does an urban local body assess a potential waste management service provider? How does it monitor it? Why are contracts sometimes prematurely terminated? Zakaria Joy, Founder & CEO, Northamps ENV Solution has all the answers from his work with the Mahe municipality.

Case parameters

We had signed a one-year contract for waste disposal with the urban local body of Mahe, a town on India’s southwest coast, which is part of the Union Territory of Puducherry but 630 km away from Puducherry city. It is India’s smallest district by size, and is surrounded by the North Malabar region of Kerala. It consists of a marine ecosystem, around 10,000 houses and 2,500 commercial establishments within a 9 sq km area. We collect waste from the houses of Mahe.

After evaluating our credibility and finding our performance satisfactory, the ULB has renewed the contract for one year again. As of now, we have been working with them for 15 months.

Ground reality

Before we commenced our services in Mahe, some agencies were collecting mixed wastes, and illegal landfilling was carried out. There was a lack of proper segregation and disposal of waste. When we began providing our services for scientific waste disposal in 2021, waste was collected in covered vehicles, and a full-fledged team was trained and developed for segregating different types of wastes, which was thereafter transferred for scientific disposal.

Disposal of inorganic waste is the most important process, due to its non-biodegradable nature. This waste, including glass, plastics, tires and aluminium materials, should be upcycled into new products.

We are continuously monitoring the data and quality of segregation. Every procedure and approach adheres to the guidelines of Swachh Bharat Mission, and there is drastic change in Mahe since we began working there.

Eligibility criteria

The urban local body had expressed some concerns regarding waste disposal before awarding the contract to us. The first concern was whether waste disposal is carried out scientifically or not. For that, they checked our credibility before starting the contract. They scrutinised and cross-checked our experience, facilities for waste disposal and certifications. Northamps has a lot of prior experience, proper treatment facilities and Kerala State Pollution Control Board Approval Certificate for material recovery.

The second concern was whether the workers were availing of the provisions of the minimum wage act/labour rules. The authorities cross-checked with our employees and made sure that they were satisfied with the benefits with PF and ESI provided by us. They also ruled out the possibility of child labour being employed. Only after all our credentials were evaluated and found satisfactory did the Mahe municipality sign the contract with us.

Daily operations

We have been creating awareness among the public about the need for proper segregation of waste according to guidelines, and playing slogans and music of the Swachh Bharat Mission from the trucks that are collecting waste. As a result, people are more conscious about proper waste management and the level of segregation has improved a lot. Their segregated waste is then transferred to suitable recycling units.

Work challenges

During the initial contract period, people were not willing to take up this work; they did not consider it a dignified job. Lack of skilled manpower was the first issue we had to face. We imparted proper awareness to people in the local community, and they finally agreed to take the job. 17 team members have been trained, given proper uniforms and educated about safety requirements. We have ensured they get all benefits including PF and ESI. Nowadays, more people are enquiring about such jobs with us, because they see it as a means to an assured future.

We also faced some problems in the transport system, which were rectified very soon by a transport unit with a GPS facility.

ULB monitoring

The Mahe municipality has continuously monitored our performance, credibility, experience, timely segregation of waste, material disposal, performance, GPS tracking in trucks (so that they reach all the points assigned), door-to-door waste collection and provision of employee benefits.

The local body has continuously tracked and monitored our vehicle movement. We submit daily data of the number of households serviced and the average quantity of waste collected. The urban local body compares our data with total waste generated to cross-check our credibility. We are also providing monthly data of different types of segregated waste collected to the local body; all these reports are provided in Excel sheets; as of now, we are not using any separate software. The future requirement for data sorting is an advanced software system.

ULB support

The local body must ensure the credibility and scientific ability of the agency responsible for waste management, and also ensure the proper disposal of waste in a scientific manner. The funds granted under Swachh Bharat Mission must be utilised properly. The local body should also make sure that in the case of wet waste management, source level treatment facilities are provided in households and at the commercial level. If there are space concerns, a common facility can be arranged and run in a scientific manner.

Premature termination

Recently, some ULBs have been terminating the agency’s contract for waste management before it ends, because of the unscientific activities carried out by agencies. ULBs are getting notices from the Central Pollution Control Board and higher authorities.

Another reason is that grants are issued from the ULB to the agencies, but the agencies are not able to suitably utilise it for waste management. In this situation, agencies should terminate their contract. If we have to overcome these issues, the project will have to be a long term one.

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