How to smell roses, when surrounded by garbage
Stories of Role Models
Padmashree's story shows the middle finger to the Tragedy of Commons -- The universe wanted me to smell garbage not roses. I did not.
I live in Koramangala - a posh part of Bengaluru - yet visiting relatives would comment on the garbage heaps in the vicinity, when they came visiting.
Things escalated, when my daughter had difficulty breathing.
I would lay in wait for the garbage collection auto and when he came by. I insisted he do a better job.
He complied after initial reluctance.
I was happy till I went for a walk one evening and found my garbage - I could recognize it - strewn on the dump in the next locality instead.
I realised, this was a band-aid at best. We had to do more. I did not know what.
I was game to go petition for a just cause to the powers. Involve the neighbours. Yet, it seemed callous to take our waste and dump it around a village on the city outskirts.
Out of sight, Yes! Out of harm's way - No!!
The unsorted waste that goes to landfills has the potential to load the local water table with heavy metals and contaminate the lives of those who live there.
At the bottom of the food chain - their protest voices are set to permanent-mute.
I knew we had to process our waste locally.
I found a kindred soul. She was trying to do the same. We made friends.
Our biggest challenge was to segregate the waste and we made several trips to the local municipality offices to get this sorted out.
At the same time, we had to educate our neighbours on what they should do for waste segregation and why it was important.
3 years went by slowly putting this in place. We kept on at it.
The garbage auto now had some rules that everyone had to follow. Waste was segregated by pick-up days. Identified by colour.
It was not easy for the neighbours. Yet everyone complied when everyone else was complying. Defaulters had to cough up 1000/- fine.
More housewives joined in. We put peer pressure on the naughty neighbours. We made videos to educate. We cajoled on whatsapp.
It saddens me when waste segregation is done for name-sake at the door-steps. Then someone mixes everything when out of sight and off all of it goes to the landfill. When we only give lip-service to our intentions then this is what happens.
At our behest, the local MLA agreed to revive the plans for a integrated waste yard including a biogas plant on 2 acre land.
We went to ISKCON and saw how they did things. We came back and kept at it - till Koramangala had its own waste processing facility.
Today we process 8 tonnes of waste daily and pipe cooking gas to 2 restaurants in the vicinity, who pay for it. This keeps us funded.
Our infrastructure does not need doles and grants to keep going.
The government has been a willing partner and we are now helping by sharing our lessons with other Bengaluru localities too.
No garbage on roads. No stink.
We can now smell the roses.
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