Tackling Khon Kaen's mountain of garbage

national November 29, 2015 01:00

By JITIMA JANPHROM
THE SUNDAY NA

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MORE than 800,000 tonnes of garbage in Nakhon Khon Kaen municipality - accumulated over the past five decades at Ban Kham Bon in Muang district's Tambon Noen Thon - gives this city in the Northeast the dubious distinction of having the eighth biggest rub



Residents living around the 98-rai (16 hectare) dumpsite at Ban Kham Bon believe the amount of rubbish could exceed one million tonnes if waste buried beneath the ground is included.
They also lament they have been negatively affected by the foul smell from the site and polluted water leaking into rice fields and water sources, as well as by occasional fires sending off smoke.
The residents say they have protested and filed complaints about these issues many times over the years.
Despite the municipality’s efforts to tackle the dumpsite’s impacts on people, as well as handling the amount of garbage before the site reaches maximum capacity, the level of waste coming in is relentless – and increasing on a daily basis.
As Khon Kaen has expanded and its population grown over the years, so has the amount of trash. 
Burying the garbage has only led to a faster rate of accumulation, while the mooted establishment of a biodiesel factory to turn plastic waste into energy is not deemed as value for money – because it cannot compete with petrol, the price of which has fallen.
Attempts to find more places to bury garbage have faced protests from villagers near other areas.
Mayor Theerasak Theethapha said this meant the city had to find new solutions with minimum environmental impacts.
The first solution of constructing a wastewater-treatment system, featuring a 20-rai pond with 129,000-cubic-metre capacity to gather polluted water, has lessened the problem of polluted water leaking into villagers’ farmland, he said. 
The next challenge, however, was to tackle the huge mountain of garbage, and the most suitable solution was seen as an electricity-generating plant powered by burning the municipality’s solid waste, he said. 
The idea was in line with government policy to support alternative-energy production and the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand’s policy to buy electricity from retail power generators, he explained. 
The municipality finally found a private company with expertise and funding for 100 per cent of the investment required to build such power plant, the mayor said.
Public meetings about the project with stakeholders, including villagers, went well, as people agreed it was a good solution for Khon Kaen, provided that all impacts on villagers would also be addressed and solved, he said.
Work on the project commenced in 2011 and all steps have been carried out in accordance with the law, including licence application.
The Bt800-million power plant will be operated by Alliance Clean Power, and applies the direct-fired-furnace method to produce heat for electricity generation, Theerasak said. 
The plant, also equipped with an air pollution-eradication system, will dispose of tonnes of garbage at a low cost of less than Bt249 per tonne for the first three years. This would rise by 10 per cent every three years, with the operating period initially set at 20 years, he said.
When completed, the plant is expected to dispose of 450 tonnes of garbage a day and yield 4.9 megawatts of power per day – 4.5MW will be sold and the rest used within the facility.
Plant construction has now progressed 50 per cent and the facility should start operating by next April, he added.
The mayor said that since early this month 20 local administrative bodies in the province had brought garbage to the dump in accordance with the province’s policy. A further local bodies nearby will have to wait for the power plant’s completion before their can unload their trash there also.
The municipality normally produced 200 tonnes of garbage a day, but the amount arriving at the site has risen to at least 350 tonnes.
The original plan for the plant was to dispose of 250 tonnes of accumulated trash per day and 200 tonnes of “new” garbage. That would have meant getting rid of Ban Kham Bon’s mountain of garbage in seven to 10 years, he said.
However, the increasing amount of trash has caused them to seek additional measures to ensure the disposal of no less than 350 tonnes a day, in order to keep up with the growing rate of “new” trash from the city.
 

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