8 Feb 2014

Urban Solid Waste for Construction of Railway Platform - A Story of Sustainable Waste Management

The Indian Railways has joined hands with Suchitwa Mission of Kerala Government in finding out an effective solution to the crisis of solid waste management in Thiruvananthapuram city.  Urban waste disposal in the state capital city has caught media attention nationally when people launched an indefinite agitation against a waste treatment plant proposed in the nearby Vilappilsala panchayat.  Finally government was forced to abandon the project when the agitation turned violent.

            Against this backdrop, the attempt by Suchitwa Mission & Southern Railways is laudable one.

            The 40 metre long and six metre wide platform of the Murukkumpuzha railway station is a testimony to that attempt.  The Southern Railway constructed the platform on land filled using solid waste collected from the state capital city.  The newly built railway platform is the first of its kind on the rail network in the country where the urban solid waste was used as landfill.  The filling of the land using the city garbage was under an agreement between State and Railways.  

Under the agreement the Thiruvananthapuram Municipal Corporation provided the garbage and  red earth required.  Around 600 tonnes of non biodegradable waste was used to construct platform II of the Murukkumpuzha railway station.  The platform with coloured interlocking tiles will not give any clue to what lies under it.  The plan was to construct the platform up to a length of 540 metre but only 40 metre was completed due to protest by local people against the landfill by waste materials collected from the city.

            Landfills are said to be one of the most safe and engineered method to protect the environment and prevent pollutants from entering the soil and possibly polluting ground water.  In Municipal solid waste landfills synthetic lines like plastic are used to separate the landfill's trash from land below it.  About 55 percent of waste generated in the United States goes to landfills while around 90% of waste created in United Kingdom is disposed in this manner.

            The construction process involves spreading of thick plastic sheet at the identified site and layer of trash and earth is evenly spread over it as 30 cm layer.  Each time the spread is thoroughly compressed by rollers.  When the spread attains required height, a layer of red earth is sprinkled over it.  On the top cobble stones or interlocking tiles are laid as part of beautification.  Railways was able to save Rs. 10 lakh in construction by using the garbage for landfill.  The Southern Railway is ready to develop the remaining 500 metres of platform if the local people extend the support for this new experiment.

            After the successful completion of Murukkumpuzha platform, Thiruvananthapuram Railway division of Southern Railways is now going ahead with platform  construction at Kochuveli, a nearby railway station by making use of the same technology.  The platform construction at Kochuveli is measuring 540 m x 5.5 m in dimension.  If the local people extend support, Southern Railway is planning to extend the platform at Parassala on the Kerala - Tamil Nadu border.

            According to Suchitwa Mission, using urban waste for landfill is fully safe method of waste disposal, thereby protecting ecology and evironment since hills need not be razed for red earth  to do the land filling.

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