Chennai Coastal Cleanup - Nochikuppam - Working towards a Zero-Waste Model Community

Friday, June 24, 2016

“Like music and art, love of nature is a common language that can transcend political or social boundaries.” 


The Light house lighters team was formed much in advance in April, for the June 19th Chennai Coastal Cleanup 7, so that we can work with local communities for various awareness initiatives to reduce the Garbage overload.

To begin with, we did a survey of the Light house zone to assess garbage levels on the beach, we also surveyed the new Nochikuppam housing board block which is very close to the coast. To our surprise found that all kinds of mixed garbage was strewn all around the blocks and the hapless children there were playing amidst all the filth. As long as kuppams along the coast and river and canals in Chennai don't become places with good sanitation and awareness there are no hopes for clean coast or rivers. They are like the owners of the coasts and rivers and they can become the guardians. We decided that day to work there and change things for the better.

From then on we have been working relentlessly on the challenging task of converting the Nochikuppam low income community to zero waste – not just one without garbage strewn around but one which does not even produce garbage. The community has 600+ homes in 5 blocks A to E. We didn't have a good grasp of the local dynamics initially and on April 30 evening invited CTC CESAW (CTC Environment and Social Awareness Wing) team and other CTC leads and tried to bring people from all the blocks together to the park located within to talk with them. We realized our folly. We understood it is not easy at all to make them believe in any kind of change. That was our first challenge. Though the buildings were new, they were reconstructed after old tenements were demolished and the same people had been put up there for many decades. Their old habits took over in just a short while after they occupied the new buildings and the place soon turned a garbage mess. Hence the people there were full of skepticism. We had to work hard make them or the community leaders believe that Zero waste Nochikuppam is possible and feasible with a proper solid waste management system in place. While the CESAW team started engaging kids in their own creative ways, the rest of us went floor by floor, home by home and engaged with the people and explained what source segregation is and how waste can become wealth and even generate cash for the community and employment for some folks amongst them. We got some positive responses but not enough to get them out to assemble as we hoped.

The following week we had the energetic source segregation activist Priya from 2bin1bag Bangalore join us for a weekend meet with the Nochikuppam ladies giving a good boost to the efforts. We could talk to almost 60 to 70 ladies talking floor wise in the A block which we made our first target for source segregation. Their response and understanding of the issue was very encouraging. We knew with some persistent effort its possible. We got couple of volunteers out of the ladies from each floor who will later act as the knowledgeable overseers who tackle issues in segregation by residents. We understood factors favoring and those that are not.
Factors favoring source segregation at Nochi:
1)    Very bad sanitation and garbage/flies everywhere. Everyone is concerned about it but helpless at the same time.
2)    Many of them already were segregating – Good value plastics were being kept separately by a number of them for selling. A forgotten practice for most of us.
1)    It's a low income community with low education levels.
2)    No association at all – Just TNSCB office collects 50 per home per month for some basic maintanence.

We hope the source segregation and door collection effort and some cash it may generate will help unite the people and form a lasting association in place, the lack of which is one of the biggest curses of such communities.

No stopping the Light house lighters from then on. We have been visiting Nochikuppam on most Sundays to to talk to the chosen women volunteers and other residents of A block, meet the local community leaders and apprise them of the plans, talk to the Ramky (conservancy Contractor) and Corporation officials. We even met the Corporation Zonal officer and Chennai Mayor and enlisted their support.

And finally we also started signing up the locals to buy the source segregation kits costing approx Rs.100, at half the price of Rs.50 (remaining to be funded by CTC through sponsors). The kit comprises two color coded closed bins and a large bag to hold up to a week’s dry waste. We went inside each home and spoke to all members of the family to understand their views too. The sign up has been overwhelmingly positive with a 90% success rate.

Two immediate tasks:
1)    Go as 3 to 4 member teams to all the homes to talk to all members of each family. Use the awareness posters to explain them the problem and take their signature in the sign-up sheets.
2)    Do a massive cleanup of the whole area on Thursday 30th June (6AM to 8AM), all around the 5 blocks and enter the minds of the people and gain their trust and support. The blocks will then be ready for the source segregation launch the coming week.

Timeline of the work done till now by the Light house lighers team.

   April 25 -               Zone survey with Jatin and Dhanamadhavan - The first meeting of the initial team.
   April 30 -               Briefing about the source segregation plan to the team at Light house and visiting Nochikuppam and Earth re-cycler compost site and segregation at MRC Nagar.

   April 30 -                Initial meeting with Nochikuppam residents along with big participation from CESAW and CTC team. Kids poster awareness event was conducted by Chella Babu. The team covered two blocks floor wise and going door to door to talk about the benefits of source segregation. Power cut played spoilsport and residents couldn't be gathered outside. The leaders were themselves very skeptical and didn't offer much cooperation.
   May 22&23 -          Source segregation Presentation for EFI and other NGO volunteers from local area and Raja street Residents association to involve more people and start source segregation in Raja street. Meeting the nochikuppam A block residents floor wise to kick-start the Pilot effort along with Priya an entrepreneur specialising in SWM from 2bin1bag Bangalore. It was a good success with almost half of the ladies from each floor coming out and listening and accepting to our proposal. Volunteers were identified in each floor to help with organizing people and monitoring segregation.

   May 25 -                 Met Conservancy Inspector of Division 125 under which Nochikuppam falls. Neelangarai Ninjas too joined and supported us. CI was a man going beyond his duty and doing composting in a burial ground from all wet waste he can collect. He is willing to support us in all possible ways.
   June 1        Pasted posters in each floor and in visible areas in ground floor in Nochikuppam and also met all women volunteers we identified earlier.
   June 4        Awareness run with marina minnals and a small discussion session with them.
   June 5        Initailly had meetings with Raja Street residents association team on May 21 and May 28 to detail them about source segregation and clarify their doubts. They opted in and will launch soon.
   WORLD ENVIRONMENT DAY  themed plantation in raja street with team AINTHINAI and an awareness session by team CESAW about segregation with the kids and apartment members,in the evening engaged with the nochikuppam block A assigned volunteers and managed to get assurance from a group of women who were quite positive about the task of segregating waste.An article about the combined magnanimous effort was published in the Indian express online paper 

   June 8         Awareness session and participation with the MONTFORT school children in santhome along with other ctc volunteers in their morning assembly period. Addressed the entire school and the effort was indeed fruitful in reaching into the young brilliant minds.

   June 10       Meeting with the zonal assistant commissioner which didn't quite turn out fruitful but nevertheless have assigned a new date to meet up with the city mayor in order to push things into correct places.
   June 11      Corporation office compost yard visit to get inputs from the already established unit pertaining to the details like area required,structure,method of composting and mainly knowledge sharing.
   June 12      Assembled at Raja Street, Mandaveli and spoke to many apartment block association and enrolled them for door collection of source segregated waste. Min 100 homes required to start. Already we have close to 50 on board.
    Assembled at Nochikuppam went floor wise teams and meet people door to door with the large color posters and sign them up for Rs.100 2bin1bag and door  collection of segregated waste.                                                                 

    June 18      Invited nochikuppam residents for the Chennai coastal cleanup and informed all blocks about our Zero Kuppai plans for them.
   June 19      The Chennai Coastal Cleanup day that you all know about.




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