Today is the last day of the research project. Time really flies when you are having fun, and being productive of course! Since our last blog update a lot has happened again. So let me start telling you about our final experiences in Kochi.
On Tuesday evening we had a business dinner with the owners of the NGO called ‘Plan @ Earth’. After earlier conversations with Plan@earth we felt that there was a real ‘click’ and believed we spoke the same language when it came to the waste problem. This is why we proposed a micro plan where Plan @ earth will become responsible for the collection of the paper and plastic in Kalamassery. The owners of Plan @ Earth where really interested in our plans and very open to obtain a stake in the micro plan. They also provided us with some information about other institutions where we could talk with.
On Wednesday we were very busy with organizing our seminar on waste management at the chamber of commerce of Ernakulam. We called all the stakeholders that we had been talking to and the Indian students from Rajagiri had written an official letter that they personally delivered to all the governmental institutions. Furthermore we had a very interesting meeting with Vodafone. In India the competition between telephone providers is very big and they are all having gigantic marketing (bill) boards all over the cities. Since in Pune Uninor (one of the big telephone companies) had set up a huge CSR campaign to ‘keep Pune clean’ we thought it could be very interesting for a company as Vodafone to invest in a street campaign that would give them more awareness but would also be able to show citizens that Vodafone feels responsible for taking care of the waste problem. The people from Vodafone were really interested and when the local government would be able to help them getting the necessary facilities this could really help them to get a win-win situation.
Earlier in the week we were able to see the Bhramapuram plant of Kochi. This is a gigantic waste dump that is currently under construction because it is not functioning properly. The plant is owned by the corporation of Kochi, but an NGO called CED is running the daily operations of the plant. The people from CED told us that the company that constructed the Bhramapuram plant failed because of some practical matters. For example the structure of the ground wasn’t stable enough and also the machines got wet during rainy season and caused a lot of troubles. The NGO told us that if the Corporation of Cochin is not improving the situation at the Bhramapuram plant within the next month they will quit their job, which will of course worsen the problem even more.
On Wednesday afternoon we were also able to call the engineering company that constructed the Bhramapuram plant (we got the contact information by an NGO), but they kept denying that they had anything to do with the Bhramapuram plant, an interesting observation!
On Wednesday afternoon we also had an appointment with the Kerala State Pollution Board. The chief engineer told us that the KSPB is controlling companies with regards to pollution. Currently they told us that the Corporation of Kochi has to improve the situation at the Bhramapuram plant within the next month or else they could go to court for the pollution that will be caused by the plant. However they also told us that the KSPB had never gone to court before, so we wonder how much of corruption will take place at these institutions…
On Thursday it was our big day! In the morning we finalized our presentation and then we went to the Chamber of Commerce of Ernakulam to show our findings. There were around 60-70 people from different organizations and so our first goal was already achieved. At first there were some interesting speeches by some other people who were concerned with the waste problem as well and then it was our turn to present our findings and possible solutions. The audience was listening carefully and for the first time the amount of mobile phones that were ringing during presentations and phones being picked up were kept to a minimum. There were also a lot of people from the press and as a crown to our work we reached the news paper on the next day! The journalist however didn’t really get the point of our presentation since their reports were really straight forward. But the good news is that we might be getting a story in the Indian Times in one of the upcoming editions since a journalist of the Indian Times was working on a story about waste management for a while already. Since the Indian Times has the largest circulation in the world, this could be a real achievement!
After our successful seminar on waste management we had to say goodbye to all the friends and staff from Rajagari but we didn’t leave empty-handed. As a gift they gave us a mini house boat and a certificate from Rajagiri for all our efforts and achievements.
At night we also had our last dinner with Mrs. Mary David who opened up her house to us for the past three weeks. As a final treatment Mary cooked us her famous noodle dish. On Friday afternoon we flew from Cochin to Delhi where we reunited with our friends from other research projects. It was really nice to share our stories and had a bit of relaxing time.
Tonight I will fly back to Amsterdam and so the story of the research project will be coming to an end. Stijn and Paul are already on their way to Sri Lanka to do a bit of travelling. End of August we will start working on our report and in the meantime we will keep in contact with all the stakeholders who now have to take the project to the next level by starting to work on a collaborative solution with regards to the waste problem.
Although our research sometimes might have felt a bit unsatisfying since it takes time for solutions to be implemented, we think that we can be proud of being one of the first researchers who really looked outside the box for potential solutions. We have talked to people from all kind of organizations no matter how small or big. We have been visiting the biggest smelly waste dumps to talk with rag pickers, presented advanced waste processing systems to local governments that are tied up in red tape and were welcomed to a lot of future-oriented companies that clearly saw the light of generating profit out of waste. With days passing by we could find all the pieces that completed the puzzle and now we can provide a clear overview of all the stakeholders that are operating in the supply chain of waste. And with those findings we can clearly outline what needs to be done to improve the situation of waste and hope that within time we can see those improvements being made towards the city.
We would like to thank the Pellikaan foundation for everything. We had a fantastic time and our story will be continued soon!