AID-India has a new Saathi (program that sponsors an individual for a period of time). His name is C.Srinivasan, a ‘young, dynamic environmentalist’ from Vellore, Tamil Nadu, India. He is the founder of Exnora Green Cross (EGC) and is the moving force behind an eco innovation in Vellore called the Zero Waste Management (ZWM). If you are wondering what that is, you are in good company. Until I read that article, I had not heard of it either. Yeah, ok..I am claiming I am good company here.The concept of Zero Waste Management (ZWM) is that a city or community should “recover” ALL waste so that zero waste gets into dumps or landfills. Quite easy to say, but extremely complex and hard to implement. The incredible part is this – Vellore district (area 6077 sq km, population over 3,026,432) is now fully into this ZWM experiment – all thanks to Exnora Green Cross (EGC). They have trained Self-Help Groups (SHGs) on waste processing and now these groups are powering the ZWM movement. (Note: My other Vellore story of this month is about one such Self-Help Groups called SHARE.) So, what exactly happens?
- Garbage is segregated at source into recyclable and organic waste.
- SHG teams collect the garbage and bring it to the processing facility.
- At the processing facility, recyclable waste is separated, cleaned, and sold for reuse.
- Animal edible organic waste (kitchen garbage like vegetable peels, etc.) is separated and fed to cows.
- Non edible organic waste is thrown into a compost pit.
- Cow dung (waste from the organic waste eating cows) goes to the biogas plant to produce energy for cooking or lighting.
- The slurry (biogas waste) is used as an agent for breaking down the other organic waste sitting in the compost pit.
- The resulting organic fertilizer is sold in the market giving rise to a whole organic farming industry.
Quite the virtuous cycle! This is a very manual process from the start to the finish and EGC intends to maintain it that way since that provides employment. ZWM now provides beneficial employment to 200 people in Vellore. In addition, these activities also provide an income stream for the SHGs by way of selling recyclables, organic fertilizer, etc. (Wow, I managed to use all three acronyms in one paragraph!) Exnora Green Cross has a really informative site with photos to explain all of this. If you are even remotely interested in waste management, run there now. If you are not interested in waste management, you better get started. I read somewhere that United States with 4 or 5% of the world’s population produces 40-50% of the world’s garbage (if someone has that statistics and happens to read this, please post it as a comment). If the liberalizing economies of India and China start producing more garbage in keeping with the changing lifestyles, then we will all be sinking or drowning in trash soon. Innovations like the ZWM provide the light at the end of that very dark tunnel. Even otherwise, the EGC web site is worth a visit because they talk about a few other ecological/urban greening programs like rooftop gardening, reforestation, etc. The other highlight of this article is my pet theme – beneficial intersections. This is yet another example of how groups with different agendas collaborating together for mutual benefit can solve more of the local community’s problem. EGC is interested in the environment and SHGs are interested in women’s empowerment. This ZWM effort solves the pollution and waste problem for EGC while the income streams provide economic power to the SHGs. The community gains cleaner neighborhoods, local employment, alternate energy sources, and organic food in the process. A great deal all around! Acronmyms Galore:
- ZWM: Zero Waste Management
- EGC: Exnora Green Cross
- SHG: Self-Help Group
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