Gurdaspur pledges to create the best out of waste

Located in Srihargobindpur Block of Gurdaspur District in Punjab, Peroshah village had adopted the Thapar technology for liquid waste management.  In addition, it has fixed issues pertaining to solid waste management that have contributed to visual cleanliness and wellbeing of the community.

The village spread across an area of 500 acres has a population of 1130 individuals and 120 households.

Previously, residents would often squabble over garbage being thrown on empty plots around their home and fields, that contributed to disharmony.  Amid the COVID-19 outbreak when hygiene is of utmost importance, this practice of leaving hazardous waste lying unattended does put the community at risk.

Independent effort by the Panchayat:  To address this issue six big bins were placed around the village for collection of waste.  Simultaneously, a waste worker was hired, and a tricycle purchased for his use. Unfortunately, owing to lack of knowledge about waste segregation the garbage that was collected could not be managed efficiently; forcing the panchayat to give up the idea after just 6 days. That was when the MGNREGA team suggested that a Solid Treatment Plant be constructed in the village. The Panchayat considered it on the condition that they first can visit existing plants elsewhere, to understand the model and assess its benefits. 

Cross pollination and sharing of ideas:  The MGNREGA team then connected the village officials to the BDPO who has been supervising similar projects in Doraha Block of Ludhiana.  After learning about the need of Peroshah village, she connected them to Mr. Gagandip Singh, the Sarpanch of Village Lande, (Block Doraha in District Ludhiana) which has been running a self-sustained solid waste plant.

Collaboration with Round Glass Foundation:  Following the visit, the Panchayat representatives were convinced with the way waste was segregated and managed with separation of recyclables before preparation of compost in Doraha village was the proper method.  That is when the Panchayat Secretary Mr. Sandeep Singh mentioned about the work being done by the Round Glass Foundation in various villages across Punjab to develop solid waste management models. The Panchayat reached out to the Foundation which immediately agreed to help the village in constructing their very own solid waste management plant.

The organisation remotely helped the village set up the basic infrastructure for the plant such as the pit and shed on the land donated by the community, voluntarily for the purpose of the plant. Once the basic structure was ready, the Foundation shared a note on how to make it aesthetically pleasing so the prejudice against waste management being a ‘dirty’ job could be removed. Moreover, wall art and slogan designs were shared which were used in the design of the outer walls of the plant as well as the tricycle.

During the last week of December 2020, six representatives of the Round Glass Foundation visited the village and hosted a 10-day long training session to generate awareness about how to segregate and manage individual household waste.  One woman per family was invited to attend the workshop.  The waste worker hired by the Panchayat to collect waste was also extensively trained.  Thereafter, two marked bins were provided by the Foundation to every household in the village.

The SWM plant was officially launched on 3rd December 2020.  One member from the Foundation stayed back and assisted and monitored the worker with the waste collection process.  While pointing out ways for improvement, he informed households about segregation and handling of certain types of waste.  This continued for 3 days after which the trainer declared that the residents were responsive, and the waste worker was made in charge of prompting the residents when required. 

What the plant looks like and how it works: The total area of the SWM plant is 35×32 sq.ft.    It has 3 pits which are covered with a common roof, each measuring 8 ft. in depth, 5 ft. in width and 13 ft. in length. The plant has a boundary on all sides and the outer wall is adorned with slogans and wall art supporting waste management activities. But given the small household size of the village, the plant was not receiving enough wet waste to fill the massive pits. The process of gathering a big amount of wet waste to be converted into compost was not matching the timelines.  Hence the Panchayat decided to divide one of the pits into two. The first pit which now is 8 ft deep, 4 ft. wide and 6.5 ft in length was finally filled in February 2021.

After adding the enzyme supplement suggested by Round Glass Foundation, the pit was closed on 3rd of February.  It was sealed with a 3-inch-thick layer of mud and wet cow dung was applied on it. This gives the right environment for the enzymes responsible for composting to work. The first batch of this compost is due in the first week of May. The Panchayat plans to sell the compost for a nominal cost to the community to cover various costs.  Meanwhile, the other solid waste is separated, and recyclables are exchanged for money by the waste worker.

Costs and Budget:  A total of Rs, 2,96,000 was sanctioned to the village under MNREGA Funds out of which material was procured for Rs. 2,94,000 and Rs. 53,000 was spent on labour. Round Glass Foundation has been supporting Peroshah Panchayat with a contribution of Rs. 2000 per month since December 2020.  These funds have been provided for an initial period of 6 months to help the Panchayats run the SWM Plant smoothly.  The waste worker Mr. Lakhwinder Singh has been hired at a fixed monthly salary of Rs. 6500. To take care of this cost, the Panchayat collects Rs. 50 per household. Currently 110 out of 120 households in the village support the SWM activities and make payment against it. The deficit is taken care of by the funds received from Round Glass Foundation.  In addition, Mr. Lakhwinder can keep the money received against the sale of recyclables to Kabadiwalas.

Future:  The Panchayat is keen to understand about the different categories and value of waste being collected in the village and how it can be best utilized for supplementing the income, ensuring ecological sustainability.  Plans for organising specialized sessions and campaigns on sanitary waste are currently in consideration.  Among good practices being studied are Project Red Dot and others which would be a good source of inspiration. Based on the quality of the first batch of compost, they will take decisions on how to use it.

Voice from the field:

Lakhwinder Singh, Waste Collector, Peroshah: “I am incredibly happy that I could find a job in my very own village, that too during the pandemic.  The salary helps my family meet our basic needs and I know that once the project takes off, my salary would be supplemented.  I have been provided with a set of reusable gloves and an apron. The village has given me a sense of dignity which is usually missing in our line of work; hence I am more than happy to work for the welfare of my village.”

Smt. Ranbir Kaur, Resident, Peroshah:  Initially it was hard to keep track of the kind of waste each bin was meant for.  However, with the support of the waste collector, I have understood to a great extent what constitutes wet waste and what does not. Previously there was a lot of ignorance amongst the community about waste and its proper disposal.  Ever since this plant has come into existence, the situation has improved.  I often find myself discussing with the women in my neighborhood about the wet waste they send to the plant each day.

Key Inputs:  Arsh Dadwal, District Development Fellow, Jaspreet Kaur, Additional Program Officer, Gurdaspur

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