The dumpyard near Gandipet village doesn’t look like one. Unlike a regular landfill that announces itself with stench emanating from decomposing and burning waste, this one has been transformed into a composting unit. A small truck is being loaded with dry recyclable waste, including plastic, which is sent to Waste Ventures India, a waste management enterprise. Leading up to the sheltered composting unit are a row of bins with waste from 700 households in Gandipet village and nearby gated communities.
Bharath, the supervisor who works with three other men at the composting unit, quips, “Taking a look at the waste we know which gated community consumes what — who eats more mutton and chicken.” Jokes apart, Bharath and co-workers have been diligently overseeing the composting process that takes roughly 45 days.
There are 15 piles, each in a different stage of composting, with labels indicating the initial date of waste and temperature recorded each day. The unit follows aerobic method of composting and each pile is turned over every three or four days to regulate temperature and let the microbes and maggots enable the composting process. Flowering plants lining the composting unit speak of the change in the area.
This dumpyard was like any other stench-raising landfill in January 2016. Unsegregated wasted was being dumped close to Musi nala , and locals recall sighting cows from the nearby ghosala that would feed on mixed waste.
Gandipet village with 700 households is now surrounded by real estate projects with gated communities at every other turn. The vicinity also has plush farmhouses.
Irked by the continuous burning of mixed garbage at the dumpyard, a few members of Gandipet Welfare Society felt they had to do something about the waste. Some of these volunteers we met didn’t want to be in focus, but are eager to see more localities surrounding Gandipet emulate their model of waste disposal. A few of them approached K.T. Rama Rao, seeking direction, and with his help, got in touch with Ranga Reddy district collector Raghunandan Rao, who is actively involved in waste management process and has declared Gandipet village a plastic-free zone.
“Getting people to segregate waste at source and reducing use of plastic bags was not done in a day. It took us nearly a year,” says Prashant, Gandipet sarpanch Vijetha’s husband. Prashant and Vijetha took up the responsibility of getting households in the village to cooperate with Gandipet Welfare Society. “Once they learnt about the benefits of segregation and disposal, they were willing to do. We gave them cloth bags and today they avoid using plastic as far as possible,” he says.
The Gandipet Welfare Society, with corporate funding (see box), generated Rs. 12 lakh to set up the composting unit shed, while the sarpanch helped in setting up the transformer to provide electricity at the unit to run the sieving and shredding machines, lights and CCTV cameras. The surveillance cameras help them identify anyone who dumps mixed waste in the area late at night.
Small and medium-sized business establishments, including the rhythu bazaar, in the area have banners announcing that they don’t use plastic bags.
Segregate at source
The tougher part, say members of Gandipet Welfare Society, was to get gated communities tow the line. Some homes argued that waste disposal was government’s responsibility and were reluctant to even segregate dry and wet waste in separate bins. Once, a meeting held for households of gated communities saw more maids than owners in attendance! The composting unit today handles close to 1000kg waste. Some of the compost is given to houses in the village and gated communities for garden use and the rest is sold at Rs. 40 per kg, the proceeds going into a welfare fund. The compost is sent to Prof. Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University for quality check once in three months.
The Gandipet village is a striking picture of cleanliness. Walking the length and breadth of a few streets, it isn’t an exaggeration when we say we spotted just one small carton thrown on the street.
“We don’t want our area to become like the landfills in other parts of the city. We are happy with the combined effort we’ve put in to make this recycling and composting possible,” says Bharath.
Gandipet Welfare Society has now been requested by Raghunandan Rao to take up waste management for seven other villages in Gandipet mandal. As the group gets ready to train residents and gather funds for required infrastructure, they are open to volunteer participation.
Their biggest challenge is the Narsingi dumpyard that caters to Narsingi, Kokapet and Neknampur areas with nearly 20,000 households.
The initial funding for the composting unit came from individual volunteers and Nava Bharat Ventures Ltd. and the extension of the unit is being supported by Hetero Drugs Ltd. via Hetero Foundation.
Women in Gandipet self-help groups make cloth bags that are sold to shops in the area. Women in Khanapur make leaf plates and bowls while those in Himayat Sagar produce eco-friendly bags, furniture and accessories under the brand name Mahi or Mahila of Himayat Sagar.
(For more details, look up Gandipet Welfare Society’s Facebook page)