A solid approach to waste management

Neeladhara Monappa Shettigar, a resident of Nitte, hadn’t thought of any other means of livelihood than as a farm labourer until he met waste management expert Vellore C Srinivasan, who came to the village as part of a waste management initiative by the district administration. Srinivasan’s efforts to create clean villages inspired Neeladhara to start working at the Solid and Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) unit at Nitte Gram Panchayat. Now, he, along with a team of seven members, is working towards ensuring zero waste in the Nitte Gram Panchayat jurisdiction. 

This is not just the story of Nitte. Vandse and Varamballi gram panchayats are also silently scripting a revolution through effective and scientific management of waste. These panchayats have ensured that no waste from the villages enters the landfill sites.

The initiative began under the leadership of former deputy commissioner Priyanka Mary Francis. Like Neeladhara, mant others in the village, have started turning waste management into a profitable venture. Training by Srinivasan helped them manage solid and liquid waste by incorporating scientific methods. This venture is supported by the gram panchayat and the district administration.

Dual purpose

“Till we met Srinivasan, we did not know that waste could become a resource. Now all kinds of dry waste, including unused pen, pet bottles, hair, chappals, cardboard, papers, straw, plastic wrappers, have a value. Efforts in these gram panchayats have shown that the conversion of dry waste into resources provides job opportunities to enterprising and ecologically aware people,” says Vidya, an employee of SLRM unit from Nitte.

Efficient waste management requires people’s participation, says Subhashchandra Hegde, vice president of Nitte Gram Panchayat.

At a time when the cities are finding it difficult to deal with the garbage generated, these gram panchayats are silently working to ensure that waste generated in their jurisdictions are properly collected and converted to resources which not only provide an additional income to the people involved but also keeps the surroundings clean, thereby realising the concept of Swachha Bharat in true spirit.

Big cities generally have solid waste management units constructed on the outskirts and these units are known to emanate a staunch smell. These gram panchayats have constructed compost pits inside the villages and at the anganwadi centres as there is no problem of bad odour.

“We put all the wet waste into a compost pit. Thus we don’t need a dumping yard. This method is eco-friendly and doesn’t pollute the groundwater and air,” says Shettigar. A disciplinary mechanism of segregating waste at source has been initiated in the society.

SLRM also supports a plethora of other related activities. The eggshells collected are used for preparing egg calcium powder, which is a good manure for plants. In addition, the cow dung and cow urine are used for the preparation of bioinsecticides panchagavya and amritapani. The unused cloth pieces collected from tailor shops are used for preparing cloth bags, pillow, and mats for sale by the SLRM staff.

Currently, 23 gram panchayats have adopted the new technique in the district and are slowly progressing in their work. Since the initiative’s launch in 2017, the gram panchayats have collected 2,500 tonnes of dry waste and 3,500 tonnes of wet waste and have earned an income around Rs 40 lakh, says Zilla Panchayat Project Director Srinivas Rao.

At Vandse, garbage is collected from 150 shops and 700 households. The dry waste collected is divided into 67 categories like pen, cardboard, straw, pet bottle, glass and so on.

Reduce, Reuse and Recycle is the mantra of the initiative and these waste warriors follow this at every step. For instance, they prepare rangoli powder from dry flowers.

As part of the waste management programme, cows and roosters are also reared under SLRM unit. The cow dung and cow urine help in converting wet waste into manure. Rooster feeds on wet waste. The waste gets converted to manure in about 30 days. The unit produces 10 tonnes of manure per month, which is sold to the public, said Shettigar.

The collected dry wastes like bottles, plastic materials, cardboard and paper are sold by the SLRM members. A kg of pen fetches Rs 18, pet bottles fetch Rs 24 per kg, says Vidya, another staff.

“People generally consider these waste as useless and dispose them of. However, wastes can become resources and augment income. We collect at least three to four kg of footwear and 18 kg of bottles per day in Nitte alone,” she adds.

Teams from across the state as well as from West Bengal and students from Japan have visited these units to study the concept of Solid and Liquid Waste Resource Management.

Of the waste collected, only a small quantity is non-recyclable (items such as thermocol and multi-layered plastic covers). Diapers and sanitary napkins are disposed of scientifically by burying them beneath the soil and planting a sapling on it. Non-recyclable waste is sent to cement factories in Kalaburagi and Bagalkot as per an agreement. 

Collective efforts

“When we first went to convince people about waste management, only 50% were supportive of the idea. However, after the implementation of the scheme, even those who had doubted the practicality of the project joined,” say the unit’s staff.

The panchayats have distributed green buckets to collect wet waste and red buckets for dry waste to residents. A prescribed amount of fee is collected from the households and business establishments by the gram panchayats every month.

Canna plants are grown as these plants help in absorbing wastewater generated in the households and these plants play a vital role in the management of such wastewater.  Growing of these flowering plants is encouraged at households, colonies and slum areas, says Srinivas Rao.

The results of SLRM unit are there for all of us to see. “Apart from keeping our surroundings clean, I am happy that gram panchayats in Udupi are getting noticed by people and officials from various parts of the country for its initiative to handle waste effectively. As citizens, we too are contributing by segregating the waste at source and not littering our surroundings,” says Sunitha, a resident.

Rafiq, another resident, says, “People visiting our Gram Panchayat now get motivated to keep their villages clean.”  

“Since the SLRM units were set up, villages look cleaner as people have stopped dumping waste beside the road. In addition, burning waste, or throwing waste into the water bodies or stormwater drains in the village has been minimised,” Rao says.

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