Sixty-five-year-old Bandra teacher Maria D’Souza did not breathe easy when the burning waste at the dumping ground in Deonar left the city engulfed in thick smoke earlier this year. To tackle the waste problem, she approached schools, housing societies and churches in Bandra, convincing them that dealing with their waste was the only solution.
Three months down the line, 44 housing societies are carrying out 100% waste segregation under the advance locality management (ALM) 33 at H (West) ward. Thanks to her efforts, two schools, four churches and six housing societies recognised by the civic body, have undergone a transformation by becoming ‘zero-waste’.
“Mumbaiites are shrugging off the responsibility of dealing with their own waste and discarding it in areas where people are struggling to breathe clean air. It is nothing short of a crime and cannot be tolerated,” said D’Souza, who retired from St Stanislaus High School, Bandra, in 2008 and is now professionally employed as a freelance teacher. “The recent Deonar fires stand testimony that the only solution to improper waste management in the city is through dealing with it at source.”
She said that her efforts were further motivated after a circular was issued by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in January last year asking ALM’s to segregate and compost waste compulsorily. “People are still apprehensive of segregating waste at source. For this, I developed a WhatsApp group that has close to 80 members across the 44 housing societies wherein all the problems are discussed,” she said.
According to D’Souza, every month, each housing complex, school or church, on an average, recycles 450kg of wet waste — comprising fruit and vegetable peels and food leftovers — into 50kg of compost. The manure generated is used in gardens or open spaces within every complex.
“After the successful implementation of our composting project, apart from using manure in our society gardens, we began planting trees outside the society premises and increased the green cover substantially ,” Basant Talreja, chairman, Le Papillon Apartments, Bandra (West).
The dry waste is collected every Monday and Friday by BMC dumpers from the area managed by ALM and is sent to NGO Force that segregates, recycles and sends it back to industries.
“She [D’Souza] inspires students and teachers in our school and has taught us the benefits of waste segregation and composting,” said Sister Victoria Gonsalves, superior, Mount Mary Convent High School, Bandra, that generates close to 10kg of compost every 15 days. “Currently, not a single piece of paper is discarded by any student. We became a zero-waste school after students learnt the value of waste management.”
Through workshops, discussions and even handing out pamphlets that highlight the benefits of waste recycling, she reached out to different educational, religious institutions and housing societies convincing them to adopt compost drums of either 170kg or 710kg capacity to recycle wet waste.
“At a time when the municipal corporation needs support from citizens to reduce the amount of garbage going to overburdened dumping grounds, the efforts by this ALM led by Maria D’Souza is commendable. D’Souza’s efforts have helped develop a zero-waste model followed by a chain of housing societies, schools and religious institutions in Bandra to handle waste at source,” said Mangesh Mayekar, junior overseer, solid waste management department, H (West).