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Waste not, want not

Mumbai produces 7,000 tonnes of garbage every day, of which only 25 per cent is segregated. The rest ends up on top of the rising pile of rubbish in the dumping grounds, reports Amrita Kadam & Bhavika Jain.

india Updated: Sep 01, 2008, 01:06 IST
Amrita Kadam & Bhavika Jain
Amrita Kadam & Bhavika Jain
Hindustan Times

Mumbai produces 7,000 tonnes of garbage every day, of which only 25 per cent is segregated. The rest ends up on top of the rising pile of rubbish in the dumping grounds. There are signs of change, however. Some people have realised that segregating garbage in their homes, schools or societies can help them do their bit for their environment and reduce their carbon footprint.

It’s not such a difficult or complicated thing to do. All you have to do is start by segregating your waste. This, if replicated in the entire city, can stop at least half of the waste from going to the dumping ground.

One woman army

A pioneer of the trash segregation movement in Mumbai, there is little 75-year-old Savita Mehra does not know about garbage. “When wet waste is mixed with dry waste, it’s called garbage. For zero garbage, the wet waste should be separated from the dry waste,” says Mehra, who lives in Bandra.

Mehra is the woman behind the waste segregation discipline in hundreds of households on Dr Peter Dias Road. She first started talking of the ‘zero garbage’ concept over a decade ago by teaching people how wet waste could be made into compost and used for gardening in place of mud and fertiliser. And how dry waste could be recycled, thus preventing anything from going to the dumping ground.

Incidentally, Mehra has composed a jingle “Aao banaye ek soch nayee, apni Mumbai ko Clean-Up karenge…, amchi Mumbai ko Clean-up karenge…” that is played in the garbage tempos that collect the waste every week.

This concept caught the imagination of 13-year-old Jared D’silva, a resident of Marinisha building. He started going out with scrap dealers to collect waste from all the buildings on Peter Dias Road in Bandra and was instrumental in setting up the first composting pit in his building. To celebrate his success, an award called ‘Marinisha’ is given each year to buildings in Bandra that go ‘zero garbage”.

Students of management

Young as they are, students of MVM High School are counted among of the pioneers of solid waste management. They began small, with a manure pit in the school compound in 1992.

Now they go around the vegetable markets and societies near their school to collect vegetable leftovers and other organic waste that they can turn into manure.

“We started this activity to make students responsible citizens of tomorrow,” says Usha Nayak, the teacher who is the brain behind the drive.

Since last year, students are focusing on offerings made at religious places and festivals — such as flowers and fruit — that end up polluting water bodies.

“Students go to the colonies and temples in the school’s vicinity once in two weeks or so and collect waste flowers, which we use to generate manure,” says Nayak.The school now has a Nature Club in which students take up environmental projects. “We have started spreading awareness about eco-Ganapati, which is made of clay,” says Naik.

The funds that are generated from the sale of the manure is used to educate needy students.

Cleaning up Chembur

With six roads, 111 buildings and a slum at its doorstep, overflowing garbage bins and filthy roads were a part of Pestom Sagar in 2003.

Now, from a pool of Rs 10 per flat per month for sweeping roads, maintaining the local garden, the neighbourhood is amongst the cleanest in Mumbai.

There is no community bin at all.

“We all segregate our garbage at source, including the slums. We helped them adopt the habits through workshops,” says Dr V M Sangole, who played a lead role in forming the ALM in Chembur in the year 2000.

The wet waste goes into a large vermicomposting plant and very little goes into the BMC garbage van. “We organised house stops for the garbage van, where every building is given a time and place. They get their garbage out at that time and put it in the van. There is no need for a community bin,” says Dr Sangole. The neighbourhood has also hired sweepers to compliment the work done by BMC sweepers. “The BMC guys clean the roads in the morning, but they get dirty by afternoon. So we get them cleaned again,” he says.

“After all, that’s what we do in our own homes, where we don’t think twice before sweeping our house twice a day. We should think of our neighbourhood as an extension of our homes and help the BMC clean it,” he says.

The civic authorities are obviously happy with the people participation. “It is a great help to us. To encourage these endeavours, we have announced clean-up awards for societies and schools that make a contribution in waste management,” says RA Rajeev, additional municipal commissioner.

“Mumbai’s a densely populated city that produces several tonnes of waste, which makes it difficult for the BMC to manage. We have to encourage such endeavours,” he adds.

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