Wealth from waste

RELENTLESS CRUSADER

ON A GREEN DRIVE Geetanjali Sridharan volunteers her time and energy to give talks and demos on composting to  Bangaloreans. DH PIC BY DINESH S K

For Geetanjali Sridharan, protection of the environment is not an abstract concept to be bandied about frivolously. It forms the core of her spirituality and daily living habits.

A relentless crusader for a clean environment, Geetanjali initiated the change within her own home in Richards Town in Bangalore by vermi-composting her kitchen waste for several years till she discovered specially designed terracotta composting pots, which are not only effective but aesthetic in appeal.

Targetting households and establishments in her green drive, Geetanjali volunteers her time and energy to give talks and demos on composting in Richards Town and Kalyan Nagar on weekends and in locations at people’s request. “People are interested, but don’t know how to do it correctly. It’s to these people that I’d like to reach out,” she says.

Bangalore’s garbage problem is too monumental to be managed by the BBMP alone and it’s every citizen’s duty to chip in by segregating their waste at source, she avers.

ITC, with whom she is engaged in constant follow-up, has a door-to-door pick-up of solid waste recyclables for which they even pay. “The solution really is in our own hands,” she says matter-of-factly, adding that cash-strapped BBMP should decentralise the garbage clearance process rather than incurring heavy expenditure on it.

Distressed at the proposed garbage cess, she feels it’s disheartening to people who are managing the bulk of their waste themselves and discouraging to those who would want to try.

Expending all of one’s energies in not-for-profit ventures can get extremely frustrating sometimes, but Geetanjali will not be stonewalled in what she has identified as her life’s purpose and mission. “It’s a commitment,” she asserts with conviction. Simplicity being her credo, Geetanjali believes that “if we feel one with our environment, we can alter our lifestyle to be in tandem with nature.”

This feeling of oneness, she strongly feels, is the guiding force that prevents her from flagging in the face of many hurdles. Averse to the mindless use of plastics, she is always seen carrying a cloth bag and encourages everyone to do likewise.

Forthright and blunt in spreading the green message, she sears the consciences of the snobbish lot who wrinkle up their noses at the thought of managing the waste that they themselves generate through their consumerist ways. The stubbornly resistant include not just households, but also clubs, religious institutions, prestigious builders and even schools that she has approached. Environmental studies may be part of the school syllabus but she hardly finds a link between the preaching and the practice.

The so-called educated classes, who are the most empowered to bring about change, are ironically the most apathetic, she rues. “Most of us are particular only about keeping our homes and immediate environs clean. Do we even spare a thought about where our garbage is being dumped? Do we realise that it is only being moved from our doorsteps to the doorsteps of poor people living near the landfills, such as the one at Mavallipura?

That through our thoughtless actions we are committing a grave sin because we are creating a hazardous, disease-prone environment and contaminating the ground water around the landfills?” These are some of the embarrassingly thought-provoking questions that she raises.

Ever ready to walk the extra mile to sensitise people, policy makers and the city at large to mark this issue on their priority lists, Geetanjali has talked to women’s groups in the city, apartment and layout residents’ associations, the Mudaliar Sangam and homes in her neighbourhood and beyond. At her initiative, the Solid Waste Management Round Table shared their experience too at a well-attended workshop in Frazer Town.

Joining hands with the traffic department, she pioneered emission drives in her locality and complained against tree-chopping near a newly-built commercial complex on her road. At huge personal expense, she also published a couple of newsletters to promote composting of kitchen waste into rich organic manure and to discourage pollution of lakes through idol immersions.

Geetanjali treats every phone call and email seriously and attends to queries systematically, helping people set up composting units, suggesting cheaper alternatives, conducting inspections to see that they’re doing it properly, rectifying mistakes and making new friends in the process.

 The magnitude of the problem may dwarf the results she has achieved but it’s been a rewarding experience thus far. She acknowledges the fact that there are miles more to trudge, but then the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

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