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Arunachal Pradesh's Changlang district is often in news due to high insurgency incidents in the region such as extortion, abduction etc. Over the years, the district has turned into a hotbed of militancy. As a result, the rural economy in the district didn't get a chance to flourish. Around two years back, an AIIMS doctor-turned-IAS officer started a small initiative that turned the district's economy around.
District Magistrate Devansh Yadav set up a plastic-shredding unit at Kumung Pathar panchayat, an area with a large adivasi (tea tribe) population. The unit shreds single-use plastic for road-laying work.
The mixture of bitumen and the plastic is used for road construction. One of the main advantages of using this mixture is that plastic can prevent water seepage and ensure better durability. The plastic-shredding unit that was set up in 2019 has allowed in managing plastic waste.
Yadav who observed many road constructions in and around Arunachal pondered of using non-recyclable plastic in some way. As this idea came to his mind, Yadav set up the plastic-waste processing unit. The unit has been shortlisted as the top six projects for innovation under the Prime Minister's Awards, 2020.
For selecting the unit's location, Yadav found Kumung Pathar's vicinity to be most suitable. Due to the lack of dumping ground, locals would put garbage in the streams that resulted in flooding in areas bordering Assam. As the dumping of garbage was creating environmental issue, Yadav held meetings with villagers and the local panchayat.
Yadav convinced the locals to donate their land for waste dumping and promised them good revenue and employment. Once the locals were confident about the project, they started cooperating.
Till date, a revenue of ₹ 2.75 lakh has been generated from the sale of over 10 metric tonnes of shredded plastic, The New Indian Express,
The Changlang DM shared that they recently sold two metric tonne waste to the company constructing the Changlang-Tirap Highway. They have also received orders for 10 metric tonnes for the Longding-Kanubari Road. The funds required for setting up the unit was received from oil exploration major, the Oil India Limited (OIL), under its corporate social responsibility (CSR).
The plastic waste is also transported to the unit belonging to urban areas of neighbouring districts such as Lohit, Namsai and Tirap. All four districts have at least five women self-help groups (SHGs). Each of the group has at least 10-12 members each. The district of Changlang has around 10 SHGs.
Apart from easing plastic waste disposal, this project has also enriched the coffers of Kumung Pathar Village Council, which manages the unit. The council gets the proceeds generated from the sale of shredded waste to road construction companies.
The village council uses the amount earned on community assets. Various SHGs, who are assigned to segregate non-recyclable plastic waste, earn from the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) funds of waste-purchasing companies. These SHGs work in coordination with the District Urban Development Agency (DUDA), which facilitates the transportation of waste with EPR funds' help.
The residents of Kumung Pathar who do the shredding receive a monthly remuneration of ₹5,000. For the project to be carried out smoothly, an additional DM oversees it at the village level. Yadav looks after the functioning of the project at the district level. The profit earned from waste recycling and reuse of plastic has incentivized waste segregation in district urban development agencies of Lohit, Namsai, Tirap, Changlang districts.
The Kumung Pathar Village Council started repairing village approach roads using revenues earned. By using the revenue earned through this, the council plans improve local development needs such as repair of schools, installation of solar lights, etc. Another major advantage of building roads by using plastic shreds is that it ensures high strength and stability. Due to this the roads require low maintenance in heavy-rainfall areas.
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