SOMETHING MAGICAL is happening on the banks of Yamuna, away from the din of the ongoing festival season. Starting Diwali, students from more than 100 schools across Delhi, including special children, will recycle puja flowers from homes and communities, which are dumped into the river every day to extract Holi colours; and help the river breathe.
“We have set up two collection points, one at Geeta ghat and the other at Kalindi Kunj near Okhla barrage to collect puja flowers,” said Madhumita Puri of the Prabhat Society for Child Development, the brain behind the project.
Posters urging people and traders to donate prayer flowers for the project will be put up in the wholesale markets and residential neighbourhoods.
Known as the Clean Yamuna Temple Flower Project under the Society’s unique Trash-2-Cash scheme, it is funded by the Union Environment Ministry and covers middle-of-the-rung schools from East and North Delhi. These also include institutions for “challenged” children. The project is part of their SUPW exercise.
Till recently a small-scale enterprise conceived by Prabhat a couple of years ago, it took off in a big way last week after volunteers acquired prayer flowers from Kashmere Gate Durga Pujabari, one of the biggest community pujas in Delhi. “This is the first time Durga Puja flowers were used for commercial enterprise because prayer flowers are considered scared,” said Puri. The Kashmere Gate Pujobari donated four sacks of flowers — mostly marigolds and roses.
“A meeting convened by the Delhi Pollution Control Board convened on October 17, for the first time, directed the puja organisers to recycle flowers,” said Kamaleshwar Sen of the Kashmere Gate Pujobari. He was told to get in touch with Puri.
Extraction of colours from flowers involves four processes: sourcing, cutting, pounding, colour coding of shredded petals, air-drying and storage. The coloured powder will be sold at a special stall in Dilli Haat around March to coincide with Holi. At present, 15 shrines dotting Yamuna’s banks send their flowers to the Puris’ vocational centre at Rajpur every morning.
“Processing flowers is a long-drawn process,” explains Puri. Sourcing begins around October after the rains. Flowers from 15 little shrines dotting the banks of Yamuna are picked up every morning and brought to the Society’s processing centre at Rajpur every morning. The children are trained in the processes at workshops at the Bal Bhavan in ITO. “We have held only one workshop so far. The next one will be held in January after petals are ready for processing,” said Society officials.
According to patron Dr Narottam Puri, Trash-2-Cash serves two purposes: the modalities are used to teach children the tolerance of diversity and human integration, along with ecological awareness and offers the mentally challenged a source of livelihood.