Converting village waste into wealth

Dr Raja Muzaffar Bhat
From last 5 years I have been writing a lot on the issue of sanitation and waste management. Waste is no-more a waste but a kind of resource. It is not a useless entity but wealth if utilized properly. I have been very much critical about rural waste management as Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen was messed up in J&K since its inception ie October 2014. Until last year no progress was seen on the ground visa vis implementation of Solid Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) which is now called Solid Liquid Resource Management (SLRM). But after a new Director took over the department of Rural Sanitation, there is some visible change. Rural waste management is in discussion now which was not at all a priority earlier. Under SBM Grameen only lavatory blocks were constructed until recently that too marred by large scale bunglings and corruption. Solid and Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) which is an important component of SBM Grameen was not even touched by authorities from 2014 to 2018. Some pilot projects have now been taken up and the results are appreciable. Department of Rural Sanitation has found a very good partner to implement the waste management work. The women Self Help Groups (SHGs) of State Rural Livelihood Mission (SRLM), few NGOs are handholding these women and the result is quite positive.
Processing of Dry leaves
Dry leaves are a source of air pollution once they are burnt in villages and towns. With an aim of managing rural waste and implementation of “GobarDhan ” scheme across J&K , the Department of Rural Sanitation initiated processing of dry leaves. During the process dry leaves are converted into compost that is used as an organic fertilizer by the farmers. Recently a four day workshop began at R S Pura Jammu that was organized by Department of Rural Sanitation in association with Indian Green Services an NGO based in Tamil Nadu. Phase II of Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM Grameen) has been taken up for implementation in J&K some time back wherein Solid Liquid Resource Management (SLRM) and Gobardhan Schemes are taken up for implementation at village level. Recently Secretary to Government Rural Development Department Sheetal Nanda inaugurated a 4 day workshop on “Dry Leaf Compositing”. Block Development Officers (BDOs) from all the blocks of Jammu district participated in the programme. This was the first kind of trainingprogramme being imparted in J&K for processing of dry leaves.Director Rural Sanitation J&K who is also in-charge of Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen programme while addressing the workshop said that composting of dry leaves was an essential component under SBM Grameen. Dry leaves from massive Chinar and poplar trees are especially burnt in Kashmir valley during autumn season (October to December). This produces lot of smoke and causes air pollution as well. Dry leaf composting is a process wherein fallen dry leaves which others wise get wasted by way of burning are mixed with cow dung and water and then made to undergo a natural decomposition. This process takes 45 days in normal time and in cold places like Kashmir it might take 60 days or more. The dry leaf composting can be enhanced by shredding the leaves in mechanical shredders and pulvelizers and then allowing the mass to get decomposed. This transforms the dry leaves into a high nutrient manure called as mulch which is used to grow vegetables in kitchen gardens and traditional farms.The four day workshop was attended by several District Panchayat Officers (DPOs) from various districts plus Block Development Officers (BDOs), Junior Engineers, Gram Sevaks and Helpers from District Jammu. I have been told that similar workshops will be organized in Kashmir valley after March. Experts from India Green Services (IGS) described the entire process on ground and informed the participants that the use of mulch does not require use of soil in the pots. Secretary Rural Development Department informed the officers participating in the workshop that Dry leaf Compositing as a rural waste management technique needs to be replicated in all the blocks of the State so that dry leaves are not burnt in an unscientific manner. Infact, burning of dry leaves have already been banned by Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) last year but they haven’t yet given an alternative to people of Srinagar city and on the other hand Rural Sanitation Department has taken a lead to give a solution to people. I have been told that very soon cattle dung will also be treated at village level by setting up small bio-gas plants at household level under GobarDhan scheme.
Institutionalizing waste management
During our recent meeting with Chief Secretary B V R Subramanhyam on the issue of waste management, I personally stressed upon him to strengthen the Department of Rural Sanitation which has been almost defunct since its inception. The meeting was attended by Financial Commissioner Housing and Urban Development , Secretary Environment and Forests and other senior officers of HUDD and Commissioner Jammu Municipal Corporation. During the power point presentation (PPT), I argued that municipal institutions were taking care of waste management and sanitation in urban areas of state but no such services were available to rural population ? I have been told that authorities are planning to provide enough manpower to Rural Sanitation Department at district and block level so as to manage solid waste in Rural areas. In one of my articles, I had suggested that State Waste Management Authority (SWMA) be created so that rural and urban waste management is managed through a single window system. I would even suggest that a separate Department of waste management be created in J&K to tackle the menace of solid and liquid waste.
Processing of waste cloth
Waste and left over garments , cloth and other similar material is also bulk waste that is a kind of nuisance in our villages. This waste can be recycled or reused. As part of Rural Sanitation Department’s “Solid Resource Management” initiative , several women led Self Help Groups (SHGs) in Bishnah and Akhnoor blocks are involved in recycling of waste cloth in dozens of villages . The waste cloth is converted into carry bags that is used for shopping. Recently Director Horticulture Planning and Marketing Shahnwaz Bukhari purchased hundreds of such bags from these SHGs who are being trained by Rural Sanitation Department through an NGO namely G K Educational Trust Jammu. A function was held at Narwal fruit mandi recently to impress upon fruit merchants, mandi authorities to opt for bio degradable cloth bags so as to reduce the plastic waste generation inside fruit and vegetable markets. The waste cloth can also be shredded and used in mattresses and pillows. Some locally made machines can be purchased and local youth skilled to do this work. From last few years in almost every Kashmiri village the cloth waste , old and torn mattresses, quilts and pillows are being recycled by people who come from Bihar and UP. These skilled people set up these machines in some village corner and continue to recycle this huge bulk waste and earn their livelihood . This is a classic example of converting waste into wealth. Otherwise these torn and old mattresses , pillows and quilts are thrown into water bodies , rivers , ponds or lakes and thus chocking these water-bodies.
Waste management needs passion and dedication towards work. To implement Solid Liquid Resource Management , we need passionate government officials who can make this a reality. We don’t need enough money , technology or manpower to tackle waste but what we need is will power and commitment. I believe Director Rural Sanitation Indu Kanwal Chib has this capability and she is leaving no stone unturned to carry on the mission of Swachhta in State.
(The author is Founder & Chairman of Jammu & Kashmir RTI Movement)