Goa looks to German town to cure its garbage woes

Panaji, Jul 9 (IANS): A southwestern German town, known for its clinical fetish for cleanliness and garbage management, will be Goa's inspiration as India's best-known beach tourism destination finally tries to sort out its ever-burgeoning garbage woes.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar's visit to picturesque Kaiserslautern last week and inspection of the city's efficient and comprehensive garbage handling systems have impressed him so much that he now plans to replicate it in Goa to solve "our long pending garbage woes".

"I was highly impressed after visiting their garbage treatment and waste management plant which handles mixed garbage, waste and plastic similar to what is generated here in Goa," a visibly impressed Parrikar said on Facebook after his return.

With tourism in Goa increasing nearly triple-fold in the last decade or so, the state has been unable to handle the 150 cubic tonnes of garbage which the industry generates daily.

What has compounded the issue further has been the inability of the state government to identify a single site big enough to dispose of garbage, both organic and non-organic. As a result, it is not unusual to find piles of garbage strewn along the roads as well as near urban hubs in this beach tourism destination, visited by 2.6 million tourists annually.

Not that efforts have not been made to dissuade people from 'garbage bombing' of Goa's roads and fields, right from creating vigilante groups to imposing heavy fines. But with no formal system to dispose of garbage both on a micro or macro scale, there has been no headway so far.

Is the Kaiserslautern replication really the answer? Parrikar seems to believe so.

"There was no stink emanating or flies, pests menace in the vicinity of the treatment plant. I am convinced that setting up such treatment plants will be the solution to our long-pending garbage woes," the chief minister believes.

He is already planning three such facilities in Goa, where over 300 tonnes of garbage can be treated every day. The facilities can also generate revenue, Parrikar said, "by selling fuel pellets and gas which are commercially viable by-products of the garbage management process".

With a population of 165,000, Kaiserslautern has emerged as one of the leaders in waste management systems in Europe.

Located nearly 100 km from Frankfurt and host to a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) base, the town even has a "garbage guide", which instructs its residents on how to dispose of various kinds of garbage in the best possible manner.

Incidentally, Goa's inspiration to look towards Germany is ironic, considering the fact that German tourists and Goans residing in Germany have been lobbying with the state government to manage its garbage.

"A lot of the feedback that the society (Indo-German Friendship Society Goa) gets is that Germans no longer want to come here because Goa cannot solve its garbage problem," Aurobindo Xavier, a professor of Goan origin teaching in a university in Munich, told IANS in an e-mail.

Xavier, who heads the IGFSG, said that a clean Goa would only help the state bring in more tourism dollars.

"The garbage situation, the increase in the number of Russian tourists, have led to the decline of German tourists here; also other beach destinations like Thailand are much cheaper than Goa," he said.

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