Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Residents unite to make a meaning of the mess

Residents unite to make a meaning of the mess

PK Surendran. Bangalore

For years, the residents of Kalyan Nagar produced tonnes of kitchen waste which they dumped in vacant spaces. Today, they are producing something else: manure.
The wake-up call came 12 years back, when the stink from rotting mounds of garbage made them sick even as strays pounced on them at night after feasting on the waste.
"We then had about 500 to 600 houses," recalls CM Subbaiah, the president of Kalyan Nagar Residents' Association. "We had a lot of open spaces then and the residents were conveniently dumping their waste in those plots. But some senior citizens were upset. 'What will happen when the society is fully developed?' they asked themselves. The idea of making manure from waste germinated in their minds then," he says.
While most city residents kept crying in despair "Garbage, garbage everywhere…", and blaming it on the Palike, the people of this area tried to find a solution for themselves. The Kalyan Nagar waste management was set up. Today, it stands as a good example of how self-help can help residents to address many civic problems. The 2500-odd residents are now not only free from dirt but proudly produce rich manure for their gardens.
"We are proud to be a model for even the BBMP which has assured us that it will supply us free buckets to collect trash. They hold our team as a model for others to follow," says DS Rajasekhar, a young executive member of the management.
"We have a good system in place where some 26 people, 75% of them women, go collecting kitchen waste from 2,500 homes bringing over 2,500kg to 3,000kg of waste. After segregating plastics and polythene, the bio-waste comes to 500kg to 600kg. We prouce about 500kg of bio-manure," says Rajashekhar on the economy of compost.
The spin-off advantages are many. "When an area is rid of waste, it obviously leads to a healthy ambience. It also prevents proliferation of street dogs and the manure proves a healthy input for organic food. We have planted many trees and fed them with bio-fertiliser," says a beaming Rajashekhar, who, incidentally, is going to be a citizens' candidate for the civic elections.
"This group activity in clearing waste and producing manure gives a steady income to about 26 poor residents here," says a resident who was initially sceptical of the scheme.
But the team had to face hurdles in the way. Elders in Kalyan Nagar recall how their initial suggestions drew more sneers and less smiles. "But perseverance prevailed" says NB Naik, a resident. "Those who thought it unnecessary later agreed it was a good idea."
"Yes," agrees Rajashekhar, "a few years ago, the BBMP declared a scheme for door-to-door collection of kitchen waste. Many of our residents argued why we should pay when the Palike is going to do it free of cost. But we persisted with the scheme and look where the Palike has floundered and we won," he says.
Former chief health officer of Palike Dr CH Nagarbetta views this group activity as a health education to the residents and youth. "We learn practically how to lead a healthy living," he says.

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