Waste Management at the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal: Need and Necessity
Established in 2004 in the Howrah district, around 20 kilometres away from Kolkata, the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal is one of the major transport hubs of West Bengal. Covering an area of 42 acres, this Terminal can accommodate and ply up to 6000 large trucks per day. Many private transport offices, warehouses, loading and unloading facilities and shops are located inside the walled compound area of the Terminal. There is also a huge wholesale vegetable market adjacent to a part of the compound wall.
The Terminal and its adjacent areas witness thriving human activities. Yet, there was no waste management system in this area till 2016. Rampant and unchecked open dumping of garbage was very commonplace. When our activists from DISHA visited the place in 2015-16, they could see that garbage had heaped up in many places inside the terminal, and the consequent foul stench had filled the air. The truck terminal authority would only sporadically arrange for garbage disposal, and that too, of only some of the garbage, which would thus keep piling up. Rodent infestation was pervasive. Most of the drains were broken. The urinals and lavatories were hygienically untenable for human use. Due to broken roads and cement plants in the neighbourhood, the entire truck terminal area was full of dust.
Seeing these issues and realising the environmental and health hazards posed by the same, we decided to step in through our Clean My Transport initiative, launched on 19th August 2016.
Regular Cleaning and Waste Collection
This initiative materialised in the form of our flagship Waste Management Centre at the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal, which we continue to facilitate and operate. We engaged workers in the daily sweeping of the terminus area while ensuring that the workers wear protective equipment, and get gainful economic support for their professional services. The workers hail from the waste pickers community of the region and outside, and from DISHA we have always promoted the safety and empowerment of the waste pickers community. Along with sweeping, we also conduct door-to-door collection of garbage and cleaning of garbage from the choked drains to allow for the passage of wastewater regularly. The coverage of our work has kept on steadily increasing, with more and more truckers, shopkeepers, and workers, as well as waste pickers and people from the local community keeps on coming forward to work with us. With the increase in coverage area and time devoted, the variety and volume of waste management activities that we conduct in and around the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal have significantly increased.
We continue to conduct extensive environmental awareness campaigns among the truckers, shopkeepers, workers, and traders in and around the Dhulagarh Truck Terminals. As a part of our work, we have also opened dialogues with the trucker associations, shopkeepers’ associations, transport companies and the terminal authority. Other than regular awareness drives, we regularly organise public awareness events and campaigns on occasions such as Swachhta Divas, Earth Day, World Environment Day, etc. The Pradhan and the Secretary of Dhulagarh Gram Panchayat attend some of our programs. As a part of our campaign, local school students actively participate in a host of activities, such as quiz contests, puppetry shows, skits and mimes, games etc., on waste disposal and hygiene practices.
The truckers’ community that uses the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal comes from all over India. We had to take a multi-lingual approach to ensure their participation in our campaigns. Other than Bengali, Hindi and English, some campaign materials, like placards, are also written in Tamil, Telugu, and Malayalam. We take translation and interpretation services from truckers and trucking industry professionals well-conversant in these languages, especially during communications. This multilingual nature constitutes one of the unique features of our campaigns in the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal that evolved out of the realities we encountered at the ground level while taking the campaigns forward.
Facilitating Behavioural Change
The key objective of our campaigns in and around the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal is to achieve a behavioural change among the truckers, and shopkeepers there, by instilling a pro-environment, pro-hygiene mentality and encouraging them to actively participate in keeping the place clean. Open urination, defection, spitting, littering, and garbage dumping have stopped. The dust bins that we had installed are being used more frequently. Waste management activities like daily garbage collection, and segregation of wet and dry waste have been possible because of the active participation of the truckers and shopkeepers. This is one aspect in which our campaigns have achieved significant positive results.
Source Segregation and Recycling
A key feature of our Waste Management Centre in Dhulagarh is the source segregation of dry and wet waste and recycling. Rickshaw vans carrying waste bins go door-to-door daily to collect waste. The dry and the wet waste are collected at different times and through separate bins to ensure effective separation. The shopkeepers, truckers, and workers are also encouraged to separate their waste before disposal. The valued recyclable wastes are separated and sold at a fair price to secondary collectors. The proceeds generated are utilized to benefit the community by boosting our waste management activities in this area further. At the same time, the bio-degradable waste is identified, sent to our composting pits, processed, and turned into organic fertiliser, get tested by reputed and certified laboratories and then packaged and sold to local farmers at a fair price. The proceeds are utilised to bolster our waste management activities further. Other inert waste, which cannot be composted, is sent to an isolated corner of the terminal. The local Panchayat service collects this inert waste from time to time, on request.
Composting and Vermicomposting
As indicated above, composting and vermicomposting of wet biodegradable waste is also a key feature of our Waste Management Centre at the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal. With permission from the truck terminal authorities, a land area of around 2000 square feet in one corner the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal is being utilised for our composting unit. When we started in 2019, we could dig only two vermin-composting pits, each being 50’x6′ in dimension, below a shade hoisted over a part of this area. Our composting unit suffered some damage during the devastating Amphan cyclone of 2020. But we could promptly repair the same while ensuring sufficient durability. Thus, the unit survived the Yaas cyclone of 2021. By the end of that year, we could also get two more vermin-composting pits of the same dimension dug. Thus, as of today, there are four fully functional vermin composting pits in our composting unit in Dhulagarh. We get the organic fertiliser thus generated tested at a reputed and accredited laboratory under the renowned multinational company, the SGS S.A. (General Society of Surveillance). Then, based on suitability, it is packaged in an eco-friendly way and sold at a fair price. The vegetable market adjacent to the terminal also serves as a source for our composting units at Dhulagarh. Production is increasing every year. The proceeds are utilised to benefit the local community by boosting our waste management activities in and around the Dhulagarh truck terminal.
All the activities of our Dhulagarh Waste Management Centre happen through intensive and extensive community involvement. We have helped establish the Paribesh Mitra (Friends of the Environment) Committee to facilitate and coordinate our activities at the ground level, including the sales, collection and utilisation of sale proceeds. Committee members include round-level stakeholders, such as truckers, shopkeepers, workers, waste collectors engaged in the waste management processes, and local community members. These people have all pitched in to clean up the place, ensure regular collection and separation of waste, participate in the campaigns, spread awareness, and ensure that our Dhulagarh Waste Management Centre continues to function effectively and with ever-increasing efficacy. Plans are in place for developing a garden in an area adjacent to the Dhulagarh Truck Terminal. As a result of our collective effort, the area in and around the truck terminal has become remarkably waste-free and hygienic.