Tamil Nadu leads in use of plastic waste for rural roads

Tamil Nadu has taken a lead in laying of rural roads with plastic waste and it is a success story in terms of overall socio-economic and environmental impact
Tamil Nadu leads in use of plastic waste for rural roads

India needs to construct additional 77,000 Km rural roads by 2022. Focus under Pradhan Mantri Grameen Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) is on work with speed and use of cost effective green technologies. The Centre encourages states to widely use new technologies. The National Rural Road Development Agency (NRRDA) monitors quality and issues necessary guidelines to promote use of these technologies. While several states have started using new technologies and material.Tamil Nadu has certainly taken a lead in using plastic waste for its rural roads and so far constructed over 6,000 Km length of roads using such waste.

Rural Development Department of Tamil Nadu had started using plastic waste a decade ago but in 2011-12, the state government announced a separate fund for ‘laying roads with plastic waste and eliminate plastic waste from villages’. Finding the performance of these roads encouraging, the department set up 20 plastic waste collection, segregation and recycling units in 16 districts from a separate fund. These units are run by the Panchayat level Federation (PLF) of Women Self Help Groups (SHGs).

Engineers say that the technology significantly increases the strength and lifespan of roads as compared to conventional bitumen roads. The reduced consumption of bitumen makes plastic roads cheaper, but they prove to be further cheaper, say by 10-18 percent, in the long-run as they do not require maintenance for at least 15 years.

Credit goes to R Vasudevan, Dean of Thiagarajar College of Engineering in Tamil Nadu, who is the pioneer of plastic roads in India. The innovative technology uses usually 10 tonnes of bitumen to lay one km single-lane road which is not only water-proof but uses fewer stones and other raw materials. Above all the process helps in consuming waste materials.

“Till 2013-14, we have laid nearly 5,700 km of plastic rural roads using Vasudevan’s technology. In 2014-15 also the department took up nearly 1,600 km length of roads,” says Superintending Engineer of Tamil Nadu Rural Development Department.

There are many benefits of this technology. It helps in elimination of plastic waste and thus improves the environment. It offers a livelihood opportunity for the poor, destitute women SHG members.

Livelihood Opportunity for SHGs

The department has established 20 collection and recycling centres in the state which are being run by the PLF of SHGs. These PLFs are formed and monitored by the Tamil Nadu Women Development Corporation. The shredded plastic required for laying roads is being sourced from these centres. State officials say that during 2013-14, a sum of Rs 40 lakh had been allotted for establishing 10 additional collection centres under Environment Protection Fund.

These centres have now been established in 26 districts. The raw plastic waste is bought of Rs 3-5 per kg from schools, households, commercial complexes and places of public gathering. Approximately, 1 kg of raw plastic yields 800 gms of shredded plastic. After shredding, 1 kg of plastic is sold for Rs 30-32. The SHGs collect the material for lesser amount and market them with sufficient profit margins. Overall, the technology protects environment, provides cost effective quality rural roads and income opportunities to the SHGs members.

Tamil Nadu shows the road ahead to other states.Notwithstanding the financial and technical support from the Centre, onus lies on states to scale up green roads. So far signs are encouraging and we are heading towards adequate length of green roads across the country in the next five years.

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BK Jha is the Special Correspondent of Rural & Marketing. Prior to this he has been associated with The Hindustan Times, Political and Business Daily along with many other media organisations.
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