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Chennai city is doing great in terms of waste water management / sewage treatment, managing to get recognition from the prestigious United Nations. However, on another note the problem of e-waste is looming the city and is growing to be a matter of serious concern.

The Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) has been successfully handling 400 million liters of sewage every day across nine sewage treatment plants (STP) in the city.  The efforts from CMWSSB have not only ensured improved sanitation in the city, but have also come as a saving grace for the crippled Tamil Nadu state electricity board. Close to 67% of the total sewage that is handled every day in the city, is treated at four STP facilities which have the capacity to recover methane rich biogas and produce electricity. These four STP’s have been helpful in mitigation of 61,200 tons of CO2 every year through their power generation initiatives and it is for this reason that the United Nations has acknowledged the efforts of CMWSSB. Sources suggest that the UN will also funds CMWSSB in appreciation of their efforts and this fund would be used for expansion of the capacity of these STP facilities to handle the increasing sewage levels in the city.

While the efforts of Chennai corporation for sewage management has earned them accolades to them, the increasing threat of e-waste accumulation in the city has made them cut a sorry face for the lack of a sound e-waste management  system in the city which is ranked fourth amongst various cities that contribute to the country’s e-waste generation. With an annual generation of over 30,000 tons of e-waste, the city is in a dire situation to come up with a waste management system if it has to handle the projected 2,00,000 tons per year e-waste that is likely to be generated in 2030.  The race between the two political fronts (free distribution of television in the previous term and free lap tops now in this term), is obviously going to add to the e-waste heap. The Kodungiyur and Perungudi dump sites are already over flowing while the Urappakam private recycling facility also needs a multifold capacity expansion if it has to handle the raising volumes.

If the e-waste handling and recycling looks to be a matter of serious concern, then the issues related to collection of waste is even worse. TNPCB has recommended the corporation to set up e-waste collection centres at 15 zones in the city, but this project would be completely unviable without public cooperation. More than 87% of the e-waste generated in the city annually is from computers (desktop PC’s and laptops), television and mobile phones. A considerable amount of this goes to Moore Market and Pudupet which are the resale hubs of the city, which then moves to unauthorized dismantling hubs – Mannadi and Pulianthope.  E-waste is rich in rare metals than their metallic ores and hence unauthorized handling is an attractive business for many. If the government established collection centres has to be successful in waste collection, there is a need to improve public cooperation. This calls for an attractive reverse tipping fee for the public which would encourage them to deposit waste at authorized collection centers against unauthorized resale hubs. Also, there is a need to put an end to these unauthorized collection and handling so that a major portion of the e-waste would reach government run collection centers.

Chennai corporation has been performing meritoriously in terms of sewage / liquid waste management and they are also working out effective plans for handling municipal solid waste in the city with active engagement of various civic bodies and through public private partnerships. Given their impressive run on municipal liquid and solid waste management, TNPCB anticipates that the city corporation would effectively roll out plans for addressing the mounting concern of e-waste with multiple collection centers and a couple of government run waste recycling plants.