Waste is not wasted, nor does it end in landfills in Ushidpur gram panchayat of Krishnanagar I block of Nadia district in West Bengal. It is made to yield profit, with extensive economic and social impact.
As a result, the air there is clean, water bodies are free from pollution, and roads are spotless as garbage is heaped in designated areas. Most importantly, farmers have easy access to high quality bio-fertilizers that help in producing bountiful crops, according to District Coordinator-Nadia, Mr. Shiban Bhattarcharya.
In most places around the world, such change is typically brought about by large systems or organizations. However, in Ushidpur, it is attributed to the efforts of a sole, inspired citizen from Brahmanagar Samabay Krishi Unnyan Samity. When some members of that association first heard of the ‘Sabar Shouchagar’ programme, a vision of spinning social benefits through a symbiotic association between the sanitation project and a Solid and Liquid Waste Management (SLWM) system gradually took shape.
Born into a farming family, the director of the Samabay Krishi Unnayan Samiti (SKUS) had seen firsthand the benefits of converting waste into fertilizer. “The talk of building toilets in every household got me thinking about the possibility of turning all human waste into fertilizer,” he said.
A few years earlier, the association had received Rs. 20 lakh from Nadia Zilla Parishad to start a SLWM unit at the Brahmanagar SKUS. To that, they added Rs. 9.00 lakh from their personal funds and launched a simple, cyclical process that converts all environmental waste into bio fertilizer.
However, convincing villagers to deliver their waste to the SLWM facility proved an arduous task. While the village community was not accustomed to saving their kitchen waste, farmers were in the practice of feeding their farm waste to their cattle.
Under the circumstances, members realized that awareness regarding community’s buy-in was crucial to the success of the SLWM unit. Equipped with this knowledge, they campaigned extensively to educate village communities about the environmental benefits of waste recycling. Their efforts finally triumphed over the centuries-old practices, when people began to gradually take their waste to the SLWM unit every day.
At the facility, waste is painstakingly segregated into biodegradable and non biodegradable waste. While the latter is sold as scrap, the former is recycled to produce fertilizer such as vermi-compost. The unit produces about 200-250 kg of vermi compost every six weeks.
The main objective of the SLWM initiative was to make Ushidpur pollution free. Over the last two years, the benefits have been three-fold – less pollution, healthy crops, and additional livelihood for the locals.
Clearly, the initiative has evolved into an income-generating program. While some positions, like those of technical workers, require specialized skills in vermin-composting, the unit has provided employment to several non-technical workers who collect waste from the villages, the director said.
The Ushidpur waste management model has now been taken to two other villages that now have their own SLWM units. The success of the programme has encouraged the district administration to consider adopting similar SLWM units in projects involving cleaning of the Ganga and providing arsenic-free water to villages in the surrounding areas.