The old bungalows and dilapidated buildings around Diamond Garden in Chembur are giving way to new constructions, but the two cement waste composting pits in a small lane have remained untouched, allowing local residents to maintain a zero-waste model, which they have for the past 15 years.
As one of the first advanced locality management (ALM) bodies in the city, the Diamond Garden Residents’ Forum began mulling segregation of waste in 1997. By 1998, around 130 families had supported its initiative to start converting waste into compost.
Looking for a space away from their homes, residents identified a spot occupied by overflowing garbage bins atop a choked gutter and approached the civic body, proposing that two compost pits be built on the gutter. These odour-free pits are placed subtly behind trees planted after they were installed.
Every day, 120 kg of wet waste from 130 families is put into the compost pits by privately appointed workers, who take away the dry waste to sell it.
“Initially people resisted the initiative, and this includes my family. Raising money to build the 5ft x 3ft pits was tough.
We had to spend Rs10,000. The idea was to keep the area clean and not depend on civic authorities,” said Rajkumar Sharma, chief co-ordinator, Diamond Garden Residents’ Forum and a supporter of decentralised waste management.
Soon after the pits were built, the overflowing bins were taken away, the gutters were cleaned and residents started seeing tangible results of the initiative.
The compost made was used to grow trees at the spot.
For 15 years now, locals have not been dependent on the BMC for waste collection and the initiative is going strong.
“Keeping people motivated is the biggest challenge. The women have a done a great job as they took the lead in waste segregation in their homes. We collect Rs40 per household [every month] to pay the workers and for minor repairs to the compost pits as they get vandalised,” Sharma said.
Two lanes away from Diamond Garden, residents of DK Sandhu Marg ALM followed suit.
In 2000, they installed four cement compost pits on the road and now compost waste of residents living on DK Sandhu Marg.
“People like walking around these roads because they are clean,” said Sharma.