K Mohammed Y Safirulla is the district collector of Ernakulam, one of Kerala’s busiest districts. A recent report by The Hindu identified Safirulla as the collector assigned to oversee the waste-to-energy plant being developed in Brahmapuram, an initiative that has been approved by the government and will soon begin construction. However, even before he took on the overseeing of this first-of-its-kind plant in Ernakulam, Safirulla was already working towards his vision of a greener Ernakulam which part of the umbrella mission, Haritha Keralam.
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According to the official website, Haritha Keralam aims to fulfil three tasks: encourage proper waste management, rejuvenate rivers, ponds streams and tanks, and finally, promote organic agriculture. Looking further into waste management is another local government department in Kerala, known as the Suchitra Mission. Its ‘green protocol’ highlights a set of measures to reduce waste.
“Using these ideas as a base, we have our own set of innovations which we have applied to Ernakulam district”, says Safirulla, speaking to The Better India.
According to this IAS officer, the district has been encouraging the practice of “green marriages,” which was motivated by research which revealed that at any given wedding in the area, plastic the waste generated per person was 150 grams!
“Last year, we invited catering heads, religious leaders, and marriage hall owners to educate them on how to follow the green protocol. They agreed to use steel glasses instead of plastic or paper, and worked towards creating decorations made of biodegradable material,” he explains.
In 2017, 40 such wedding were conducted in this manner. Every couple who decided to make their wedding more green was awarded a certificate, signed by the district collector himself.
That isn’t all. Safirulla decided to expand these operations to public events as well. The Malayathoor pilgrimage, Thiruvairanikulam temple festival, and the recently held Mannapuram Sivaratri celebrations were all conducted keeping in mind waste management and sustainability.
“We take green protocol to children as well. Our project, Haritha Vanam aims at implementing change in their own homes, such as not using plastics, and planting their own small home garden. After all, change has to start from home,” he says.
Safirulla is also a strong advocate for banning plastics under 50 microns in the district. This idea has taken hold across several subdivisions of Ernakulam.
According to him, many are in the process of passing a bylaw which bans the use of plastics under 50 microns.
He adds, “We have targeted the creation of 34 material collection plants in Ernakulam. While 15 facilities are currently being constructed, we already have two which are running in Perumbavoor and Paravur. These material collection facilities will collect the plastic waste above 50 microns and send it to the plastic shredding facility.”
Now, he will be overseeing the Brahmapuram waste-to-energy plant, an idea conceptualised by the Kerala Corporation. Around 16 acres has been set aside for the construction of the plant, land which was previously used for paddy cultivation. The plant will take tonnes of plastic waste and use it to generate energy, which will then be sent to utilities around the district. The project has been approved and is set to be operational in 2019. The land itself should be handed over within the next month.
“Ultimately we want to involve and change the attitudes of the public through these initiatives. We are working as a team to improve actions of the public and the youth,” he says.
Safirulla has also worked to implement the Namma Oonu program across Ernakulam, a project which aims to eradicate hunger in the district. You can read about the program here.
Featured image courtesy: Flickr