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Waste management

update April 2002 

Auroville Eco-Service

updated December '03

Waste management in Auroville caters to a relatively small population i.e. about 1,700 Aurovilian residents and their employees and visitors. The roughly 100 Auroville settlements are very much scattered, a point which has to be taken into account in the design and organisation of technical solutions.

Aurovilians have been, and are being, educated about the need to separate various kinds of waste at source, i.e. at the site of waste generation, regardless of whether it is a household or an industry

The Auroville Eco-Service is a waste collection team comprising of a coordinator and two "rag-pickers" recruited from neighbouring villages. A solid waste management task force of several Aurovilians in the background discusses policy and steps of development. The authorized rag-pickers have been equipped with a uniform and a card for identification and are responsible for collection in respective areas. They move around on tricycles and a bullock cart. If waste has been properly separated in the various communities - basically into wet/organic/compostable waste and inorganic/non-compostable waste - households pay less towards the collection service.

Composting

The costs for transport of waste to a centralized composting site would be unproportionally high, hence composting of well-biodegradable waste has developed decentralized and is encouraged to stay like that. Composting is happening in heaps and windrows i.e. by aerobic means, and in pits by anaerobic processes. Some farms and households use other methods, for instance vermiculture, biodynamic preparations, or EM technology.

Incinerator

Presently there is only a small waste incinerator at the Auroville Health Centre which cannot take care of all waste from Auroville. This incinerator has been designed in Auroville itself. It is far from a state of the art incinerator, but nevertheless reaches temperatures of 800 degrees Celsius, and hence is expected to control release of toxins to a great extent. The wear and tear of daily incineration at high temperatures does not permit that this incinerator is used for more than the small waste loads generated at the Health Centre.

It is envisaged that another incinerator should be built which can take care of larger volumes of combustible waste. This facility should ideally be combined with energy retrieval. It remains to be studied whether some of the very costly filter devices can be dispensed with if waste items that are likely to generate dioxins and furanes can be separated from the waste stream that goes to incineration.

Landfill

On a plot of Auroville land with very low groundwater table, an excavation was dug to dump residual waste that is not being taken by local recycling agencies and is largely inert.

Waste water treatment

As regards wastewater and sewage treatment, the first solutions in Auroville were cheap: simple combinations of septic tank and soak pit. Since the population of Auroville is growing, and the density is expected to assume more urban character, more appropriate solutions are now being sought after and tested. There are many wastewater treatment plants of small or moderate size (from 2 to 200 users), many of them based on the technology of horizontal (or vertical) sand/gravel filter beds planted with reeds or other plants. Several biogas plants are in operation, and various combinations of primary and secondary sewage treatment. Several baffled tank reactors - another module of decentralized wastewater treatment - are in place. In a few instances, EM technology has been introduced into the treatment systems so as to improve performance.

Sewage sludge treatment

The Auroville Eco-Service also operates a mobile desludging unit that can be called to desludge septic tanks and other sludge holding devices. The sludge is processed in pits by co-composting with carbon-rich material such as coir pith or wood waste and treated with EM. The compost produced is used in forestry. Presently the sludge pits are in the compound of the Botanical Garden, and their team collaborates in running the operations.

 

updated December '03

 

For further information on solid waste treatment contact:  ecoservice@auroville.org.in

For more information on wastewater treatment contact: csr@auroville.org.in

For the application of composting methods, vermiculture, biodynamic farming, EM technology - contact: auroannam@auroville.org.in

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