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An Express Investigation-Part 3: Punjab’s first ‘Smart City’ Ludhiana that’s anything but

Not a single project sanctioned under the Smart City Mission, to improve solid waste management (SWM), has been completed yet even as Ludhiana produces 1,000-1,100 tonnes of waste every day.

Written by Divya Goyal | Ludhiana |
Updated: July 6, 2022 11:47:00 pm
ludhiana news, punjab news, ludhiana waste management, ludhiana smart city project, punjab latest newsA portable compactor transfer station at Sarabaha Nagar in Ludhiana. (Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh)

It was in 2016 that Ludhiana was selected by the Government of India to be developed as a “Smart City”, the first from Punjab, even before UT Chandigarh.

Six years on, it is anything but.

Not a single project sanctioned under the Smart City Mission, to improve solid waste management (SWM), has been completed yet even as Ludhiana produces 1,000-1,100 tonnes of waste every day. If anything, following ouster of the A2Z Group, a Gurgaon-based waste management firm, last year after a tussle with the municipal corporation, 21 lakh tonne waste has piled up.

Bioremediation of legacy waste

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With the A2Z Group leaving the work midway, the civic body now has a herculean task at hand— processing of 21 lakh tone of waste accumulated at Jamalpur landfill. Isha Kalia, CEO, Punjab Municipal Infrastructure Development Company (PMIDC), the nodal agency for implementation of Smart City Mission projects in the state, said, “The bioremediation of 5 lakh MT legacy waste in Ludhiana is proposed to be done under the Smart City pilot project. The remaining would be done under the Swachh Bharat Mission.”

Bioremediation is a process to break down pollutants by introducing microorganisms. A note prepared by the civic body said a detailed project report (DPR) has been approved. It further said that after “successful opening of bids and approval in State Level Technical Committee (SLTC) dated 16.05.2022, the lowest bidder has been selected and forwarded to the committee of chief engineers for approval”. However, the project is yet to take off.

Portable compactor transfer stations

Of 37 portable compactor transfer stations that were proposed to be set up at civic body’s secondary collection points, only eight — each station costs Rs 1 – 1.25 crore — have been installed with the assistance of Ludhiana Improvement Trust (LIT).

While 22 compactors were approved under the Smart City, 14 were proposed under LIT and one under GLADA. Not a single compactor station approved under the Smart City has been completed yet. The compactors compress the waste, which is then transported to landfill in closed containers. At the sites where compactors are operational, three machines have been installed — two for dry waste and one for wet. However, even as the waste is being segregated, it is not of much help as the processing plant at landfill is lying shut and all sorts of garbage is being dumped together.

The only silver lining — open dumping has been stopped in Sarabha Nagar, Rishi Nagar, Lodhi Club, Barewal, Tajpur road, and Midha Chowk, the areas where compactor sites have been installed. The story is full of stench at Dhandari Kalan, Giaspura, Daresi, Cheema Chowk, and Civil Hospital where garbage is dumped in open at civic body’s secondary collection points.

Other projects yet to see light of the day

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According to the CAG report for the period April 2015 to March 2020 on the working of local bodies tabled in Vidhan Sabha, several projects related to solid waste management under Ludhiana Smart City are yet to start despite their DPRs being approved, such as installation of compactors (Rs 13.62 crore), supply of backhoe loaders (Rs 86 lakh), supply of dumpers (Rs 1.67 crore) and setting up of a Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste management plant (Rs 5 crore).

What next

Speaking to The Indian Express, Kalia, talking about the backlog of 21 lakh MT of legacy waste, said: “Tendering process for remediation of 5 lakh MT of legacy waste has been started. Another company, M/s E&Y LLP, has been hired as consultant. The process of windrow composting has been started at Jamalpur landfill. Two compressed biogas plants of 50 TPD each have been proposed to be set up in Ludhiana for processing wet waste”. In the Swachh Survekshan Survey, Ludhiana’s rank slipped from 34 out of 47 cities (with population of 10 lakh or above) in 2020 to 39 (of 48 cities) in 2021, scoring poorly in solid waste processing.

Status of major projects for Solid Waste Management in Ludhiana

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– 37 Portable Compactor Transfer Stations: 8 installed under LIT; 22 pending under Smart City, 6 under LIT & 1 under GLADA
– 18 Material Recovery Facilities: 11 constructed, rest pending
– 570 green belts/parks out of 922 covered under on-site composting, rest pending
– E&Y consultant hired through NICSI to prepare new DPR for Integrated Solid Waste Management project. A team of five from E&Y deployed in Ludhiana, to submit DPR for remediation of 8 lakh MT legacy waste
– Construction and Demolition (C&D) waste treatment plant: Approved under Smart City, site finalized at Dhandhari, work yet to start
– Bioremediation of 5 lakh MT legacy waste under Smart City: Lowest bidder selected, pending for final approval by committee of chief engineers
– Purchase of 350 e-rickshaw to strengthen collection: First lot of 20 rickshaws received, remaining expected before July 15, 2022
– Purchase of 20 compartmentalized tippers: Selected bidder did not respond, work order cancelled, re-tender pending
– Supply of 3 backhoe loaders, 8 dumpers: DPR approved under Smart City but work not started
– Sweeping of roads: 5543 safai sewaks deployed by MC for sweeping roads, 01 mechanical sweeping machine works at night, 4 more machines being purchased

(Source: MC Ludhiana & CAG report, 2021)

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First published on: 06-07-2022 at 07:21:16 am

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