Wealth from waste

Wealth from waste


Wealth from waste

From effective waste management to terrace gardening, women in Bangalore’s Malleswaram show the way. Anitha Pailoor meets them to understand the importance of sustainable living.

“I haven’t bought a single tomato in the last four months. There is a considerable drop when it comes to buying other vegetables also,” says Nagamani S Rao with a sense of contentment. Her spacious terrace has a variety of vegetables, greens, flowers and herbs grown in 150 pots. She gets tomatoes and greens from the garden on a daily basis while brinjal, ridge gourd, cluster beans, beans, double beans, carrot, radish, capsicum, and chayote are available at regular intervals.

Nagamani Rao, a resident of Malleswaram in Bangalore, has become a successful terrace gardener thanks to her sheer passion and dedication. She has developed the garden by trial and error method. When she started, she was clear about two aspects — chemical-free gardening and judicious use of water. The family, which has consciously stayed away from digging a borewell, makes use of rainwater to a certain extent. Nagamani also takes enough care to reclaim and reuse water whenever possible.

Marigold plants placed at different places act as pest repellents. She is happy that her plants attract honeybees and birds; pests have kept away from her garden so far. If there is an indication of some pests taking shelter in her plants, she sprays water on the plant so that the insects get washed off. The pots contain one layer of coco peat, one layer of manure and one layer of soil. She rarely buys seeds from outside. Some of the vegetables like beans are left in the vine to mature, and dried seeds are then preserved. Certain varieties like tomato seeds get scattered without any human effort. Some seeds get sprouted in the compost. She has understood that waste is an asset not a liability.

Nagamani feels that the terrace is the best place for gardening because plants get sufficient sunlight. She is in touch with the Organic Terrace Gardening Group which facilitates her to get new ideas and share her experiences.

Reduce, reuse and recycle

Terrace gardening didn’t happen by accident to Nagamani. Vegetable cultivation in the terrace was a sequel to her efforts in waste management which she started a year ago.

She was introduced to the concept of ‘wealth from waste’ from Dr Meenakshi Bharath who has been championing the cause since the last four years. It was a revelation for Nagamani when she realised that garbage, which otherwise is considered to be a nuisance, could do wonders when given a place in the backyard. It takes just a couple of minutes for any person to segregate waste into wet waste and dry waste. It is this wet waste that gets composted and turns into fertile manure. Dry waste is again separated into paper, plastic, glass, metal etc. Different organisations and companies collect dry waste at regular intervals.

Nagamani takes a wet cardboard sheet on which she spreads a layer of wet waste. She then sprinkles sour buttermilk which facilitates microbial activity. 

Cow dung can also be used. It takes six weeks for the waste to get converted into manure. Dry leaves are added to absorb moisture.

The pioneer

Dr Meenakshi, a gynaecologist, gave much thought to the problem of dealing with garbage when her daughter had dengue. It didn’t take her too long to understand that her daughter’s illness was linked to improper garbage management.

She contacted experts and learnt methods to manage garbage effectively. She started the experiment at home. A biogas plant and a compost pile in her compound along with wet waste composting containers are indicators of her commitment. Twelve papaya trees, an avocado tree, pongamia and several other trees and plants yield well as they get manure prepared from their shredded leaves.

Dr Meenakshi feels that garbage management should be decentralised. She feels that every household should take care of its own garbage; dry waste should be recycled and wet waste composted. Dry waste collection centres should be set up in every ward. Only a small part of the waste that cannot be recycled should be treated by the authority concerned. It is beneficial to both the local administration and the community.

An active member of ‘Malleswaram Swabhimana Initiative’, a Resident Welfare Association, she spread the message of waste management to likeminded people. A network of enthusiasts was formed and they lead the way under the banner of ‘We Care for Malleswaram’. In these two years of formation, they have made an impact not just in Malleswaram but throughout the City and in other cities like Tumkur and Mysore.

Members of the team meet every Monday in the group’s founder member Vani Murthy’s house and strategise their action plan. One gets an indication of her zeal in the e-waste box placed right at the entrance of the apartment facing the footpath creating awareness as well as providing a point for the general public to dump their electronic and electric waste.

Compost containers have replaced dust bins in different parts of Vani’s house, right from the balcony to the terrace. A partitioned container for vermicomposting, ‘daily dump kambha’ and ‘bokashi method’ are the three different methods adopted by Vani to decompose her waste. While the first two are aerobic modes of composting third is anaerobic.

These passionate campaigners are also members of Solid Waste Management Roundtable (SWMRT), a Bangalore initiative to build awareness and adopt best practices in waste management at different levels.

A long way to go

Consequences of dumping garbage without segregation are fatal. Bangalore realised it when people of Mavallipura and Mandur refused to become the City’s dump yards. ‘We Care for Malleswaram’ has taken up the challenge of sensitising public and transform their notions about garbage. Inspired by the campaign, many apartments, individual houses and institutions have made conscious efforts to segregate and manage solid waste. Meenakshi has motivated and trained employees of Institute of Wood Science and Technology, Bangalore to take up composting in its campus.

Such activities have ignited a sense of responsibility in the locality for the waste generated in the house there is a long way to go in terms of creating a sustainable system for waste management. Through SWMRT they have also worked at the policy level and conceived the concept of local dry waste collection centres.

Inspired by their activities, residents of Jayanagar have formed a similar group under the banner of ‘We Care for Jayanagar’. Garbage management is a serious problem faced by every city in the State.

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