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1- IS GROWTH IN AUTO SECTOR REALLY BENEFITING THE ECONOMY?
2- TURNING SOLID WASTE INTO ORGANIC GOLD
3- POVERTY ALLEVIATION
4- PSDP 2004-05
5- KEPZ
6-
EMERGING ELECTRICITY CRISIS

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COMPOSTING: TURNING SOLID WASTE INTO ORGANIC GOLD

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By MUHAMMAD BASHIR CHAUDHRY

June 14 - 20, 2004
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The City District Government Lahore (CDGL) has taken a lead over other city governments including Karachi by signing an agreement with Lahore Compost Limited, a consortium of Saif Group, Menart Company of Belgium and Green Technology Pakistan, on 11th March 2004 for setting up a composting plant for converting solid waste into organic fertilizers. The Punjab Minister for Local Bodies, the Belgium Ambassador in Pakistan, the Export Manager of Menart, and the concerned officials attended the ceremony held in the office of the District Nazim, who informed that the project, costing Rs 250 million for execution on BOT basis, was first of its kind in Pakistan and ownership of the plant would be transferred to the CDGL after 25 years. The CDGL would provide a 300-kanal piece of land at Mahmood Booti land-fill site for the compost plant, which would become operational within one year. The plant would produce more than 75,000 tons of fertilizers annually after consuming and recycling 1,000 tons of waste daily. The City Nazim said that the investors would pay 10% of their profit to the CDGL for social sector development projects. Besides making availability of fertilizers easier, the plant would also help keeping the city neat and clean. He added that the agreement had been inked after assessing environmental impact of the project on the directives of Lahore High Court. M/s NESPAK, after carrying out a detailed study, had opposed burning of waste, as smoke produced thereafter was a major cause of air pollution and environmental degradation.

At the signing ceremony, the City Nazim also said that negotiations were going on with other investors for installing more composting plants in the city for power generation and manufacturing fertilizers. As per press reports, the District Nazim in November last directed the Solid Waste Management (SWM) to get feasibility reports from following three companies desirous of building compost and waste-to-energy plants in Lahore: (i) Lahore Compost's proposal for setting up of a compost plant on 200 kanals of the 539 kanal CDGL landfill site at Mahmood Booti on Bund Road. The SWM was to provide certain tonnage of waste daily to the company for production of organic manure by using Belgian technology; (ii) Softel's proposal to establish on 400 kanals of land on Ferozepur Road near Kahna, to be acquired by the company and the SWM had to supply specified tonnage of waste daily for production of fertilizer and generation of power; and (iii) the third compost plant was proposed to be set up on 300 kanals of land with the Chinese collaboration on the Multan Road to produce fertilizer and generate energy. Only the first proposal has since made progress and signed agreement with the CDGL, the rest might also be making progress.

EARLIER ATTEMPTS FOR COMPOSTING PLANTS: Progress on the proposed composting project for solid waste management is a positive development. Proposals from the private investors for municipal solid waste management have been for quite sometime under consideration of the civic authorities at Karachi, Peshawar and Islamabad. Karachi had a large compost fertilizer making plant based on municipal waste in operation some twenty years ago but it withered away due to a number of reasons. Around that time a compost plant was also approved for location in Islamabad but it did not materialize due to difficulty in acquisition of suitable land for the project. A brief account of the fresh attempts by different investors/cities in this regard gathered from the press reports is given below.

 

 

1. In 2001, the government considered to install at Rs 15 million compost plant in Peshawar with the help of a private firm. Approval for installation of the plant was given by the Peshawar city district government in January, 2002. According to the preliminary agreed terms, land was to be provided by the district government and developmental/operational cost was to be borne by the private investors. The private firm was also supposed to pay a minimum of Rs20 per ton of solid waste transported to the site of the plant. The district government collects and dumps between 350 and 400 tons of solid waste daily. The project could not be executed because of non-availability of the land. The city government asked private investors to arrange200 kanals on its own to execute the project but they did not respond.

2. As regards Karachi, the City Nazim during a briefing to the President last August mentioned that certain parties were desirous of putting up power plant based on city waste. However, further progress in the matter is not known.

3. It has been reported recently that Menart, a Belgian company that has signed an agreement with the CDGL, is currently negotiating with Capital Development Authority (CDA) for setting up a composting plant in Islamabad.

Composing: It is the controlled decomposition of organic materials, such as leaves, grass, food scraps and other municipal wastes, by microorganisms. The result of this decomposition process is compost, a crumbly, earthy-smelling, soil-like material. The composition of solid waste found in various counties/cities varies considerably. More than two-third of the municipal solid waste produced in the United States is compostable material. Composting can greatly reduce the amount of waste that should end up in landfills or incinerators. Items such as fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, tea bags, fireplace ash, leaves, grass, yard clippings, vacuum cleaner lint, wool and cotton rags, sawdust, non-recyclable paper, etc can be put in the composting bin. However, there are other items such as meats, dairy foods, fats, oils, grease, pet excrement, fish scraps, diseased plants, bones, etc which should ideally not be included because they can attract pests or compromise the quality of the compost. Whether composting occurs in the backyard, at a community site with yard trimmings, or in an industrial facility with mixed MSW, the resulting compost is a valuable product.

The decomposition of organic materials in composting involves both physical and chemical processes. During decomposition, organic materials are broken down through the activities and appetites of various invertebrates that will naturally appear in compost, such as mites, millipedes, beetles, earthworms, slugs, snails, etc. These microorganisms need adequate moisture and oxygen to degrade the organic materials in the most efficient manner. Microbes in the pile create considerable heat and essentially "cook" the compost. Temperatures between 90 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit are common in properly maintained compost piles, but may not reach these levels in backyard compost piles. These high temperatures are necessary for rapid composting as well as for destroying weed seeds, insect larvae, and potentially harmful bacteria. When the compost is finished, it has a crumbly texture throughout the pile.

Composting of mixed municipal solid waste generally occurs at a medium-to-large scale facility, operated by private sector firms or community public works departments. Generally, mixed MSW is received at the site. Recyclables such as glass and aluminum, and non-compostables are removed early in the process. The remaining organic material is composted, generally using aerated windrows. In-vessel composting, where the material is left to decompose while enclosed in a temperature and moisture controlled chamber, is another possibility. Final screening steps remove any remaining plastic film and similar contents. The finished compost can be sold, given away, or used by the company or municipality in local landscaping projects.

IMPORTANCE OF COMPOSTING: Generally composing is considered a better way to dispose of municipal solid waste as compared to landfill or burning for generating energy. However, its potential benefits go much beyond that and many countries in the world including India are appreciative of that. Mr. Almitra H. Patel, in his article "Using City Compost for Urban Farming in India" writes that if city waste would instead be composted before applying it to the soil, cities would be cleaned up and the fields around cities would be spared the declining levels of fertility induced by today's accumulating plastic-film waste, while health and hygiene in periurban areas would visibly improve. It is hard to imagine a more beneficial win-win solution. He adds that India's Green Revolution rescued the nation from famines, but left over 11.6 million hectares of low-productivity nutrient-depleted soils ruined by unbalanced and excessive use of synthetic fertilizers and lack of organic manure or micronutrients. City compost can fill this need and solve both the problems of barren land and organic nutrient shortages, estimated at 6 million tons a year. India's 35 largest cities alone can provide 5.7 million tonnes a year of organic manure if their biodegradable waste is composted and returned to the soil. Integrated Plant Nutrient Management, using city compost along with synthetic fertilizers, can generate enormous national savings as well as cleaning urban India. There is scarcely any other national programme, which can bring such huge benefits to both urban and rural sectors. According to him, composting of city wastes is a legal requirement for all urban local bodies in India, but central and state governments have yet to perceive it as a social good that requires official support. Also, the Municipal Solid Waste Rules of 2000 (MSW Rules) require that "biodegradable wastes shall be processed by composting, vermi-composting, anaerobic digestion or any other appropriate biological processing for the stabilization of wastes".

POLICY PLAN FOR COMPOSING IN PAKISTAN: Composting is considered a preferred route for solid waste management as compared to the other alternate techniques being practiced. However, there is not much awareness about composting or the technologies appropriate for the purpose or the policy framework for public-private partnership in the setting up and operation of the composting plants. The following suggestions are submitted for consideration by the government and by different city governments currently involved in the setting up of composing plants for proper and safe management of municipal solid waste.

1. Awareness and serious commitment at different tiers of the government is a pre-requisite for proper disposal of municipal solid waste through the composting routes or through landfill or burning for generation of energy and/or a combination of different measures. Proper disposal of solid waste will improve the cleanliness in the city and improve the health of the citizens. Further, the application of compost of desirable composition in recommended dozes will rehabilitate our lands, reduce use of chemical fertilizer and enhance land productivity and the earning of the farmers. Due to wider scope of compost production and marketing, and to achieve the best results in the short-term, the SWM matters might be coordinated by a number of departments and ministries. All stages in the overall process need to be scientifically examined and modified to best suit our needs. Suitable laws and regulations as well as standards for compost suitable for application to different lands need to developed or modified as soon as possible.

 

 

2. Unpleasant odour is associated with municipal solid waste, the waste dumps, landfill sites and the compost plants. People surrounding these areas rightly protest and oppose the locating of such facilities in their vicinity. Due to this resistance by the surrounding population, it is difficult for the private investors to find land even for locating proper compost plants. The sites for such projects might be carefully selected by the city governments with concurrence of the surrounding population and proper measures as required by the Environment Authorities might be taken including the installing of specified equipment for odour control.

3. Compost plants in most cases would be implemented under public-private partnership arrangements that should be equitable, fair and transparent. Risks and rewards must be evenly shared. An enabling policy environment shall have to be provided for promoting such partnership for the execution and operation of civic infrastructure projects. As there is limited experience or knowledge about compost technology, economic size of compost plants, responsibilities of the counterparties under the Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) arrangements including cost of collection and transportation of unprocessed municipal solid waste, restriction on scavengers for free picking of recyclables, compost pricing vis-a-vis prices of chemical fertilizers, compost demand by the plant-nursery owners/farmers, any compulsory lifting of compost by the city government, seasonality of demand for compost fertilizers, etc, it would be desirable if all major parameters are shared among different stakeholders for likely standardization of procedures and/or the concession agreements.

4. Cities in Pakistan are spread over large geographical areas. One large compost plant located in a particular area outside the city might be theoretically capable for composting the entire solid waste produced daily. However, from logistics point of view it might be uneconomical/impractical to transport all the waste generated in different parts of the city to that plant. In such a situation, two or more plants with modest capacity might be more suitable to compost the entire solid waste of the city. Waste from adjoining cities could also be so processed. Solid waste in Karachi and other large cities might be examined to determine the extent of combustible as well as organic material to better assess the possibilities of setting up the power plants based on municipal waste and / or the compost plants.

5. The City Government shall have to engage an able and experienced team for the handling and finalizing of the binding arrangements with the private sector. Training of the officials with the help of the friendly governments and the multilateral financial institutions before the finalization of any contractual arrangements shall be highly beneficial. The city governments might strive for prudent utilisation of funds with maximum transparency and prudence. They might generate own funds raise loans from Pakistani banks and institutions until there is a proper Municipal Bank to meet their funding requirements.