Managing Waste: Goa Shows a Profitable Way Special

Posted Nov 8, 2011 by Stella Paul
Waste is often nothing but misplaced resources, and in Goa – India’s most popular tourist destination, the rate of the misplacement is clearly higher than anywhere else.
In Goa  locals are making a fast buck making and selling vermicompost
In Goa, locals are making a fast buck making and selling vermicompost
After the latest census, Goa has a population of 14 lakh (1.4 million), and according to official records, Goan houses produce collectively 300 tons of waste daily. However, the state also witnesses a huge annual inflow of tourists. In 2010, Goa was visited by 26 lakh people in the tourist season (November- March) alone. This means, despite an apparently small population, the state has the daunting task of managing waste produced by nearly half a billion people. Since there is no organized mechanism to collect or manage this waste, every day, a huge volume of organic waste is dumped on street corners and in open fields, where it putrefies, emanating foul odours, and spreads diseases.
Desperate to curb the garbage menace, the state government has tried several measures, but none actually worked. In 2009, it conducted a waste-to-energy experiment by employing anaerobic decomposition. But the project failed because garbage generated in the city had a high content of animal waste which clogged the digestion tanks. In January 2011, it launched a door to door garbage collection campaign called ‘Chaka Chak Goa’, but after barely a few months, it has already been declared a failure.
In such a dire situation, the solution might come from Vermicompost, which not only promises to tackle the organic waste problem, but has also caught the attention of entrepreneurial locals as a viable source of earnings.
Dr Sheela Gupte, a gynecologist and native of north Goa, is one of the locals who have started to vermicompost. In her sprawling garden, Dr Gupte has built a vermicompost unit of her own with the primary aim of managing her own waste, but has been able to sell and make a profit as well.
The vermicompost is a simple process through which various species of worms are used to enhance the decomposing and recycling cycle of organic matter to produce nutritient-rich compost that works as an excellent fertilizer, soil conditioner, and a natural pesticide. The chief objective is to compost organic wastes not for the disposal of solid organic wastes but also to produce superior quality manure to feed our nutrient/organic matter hungry soils.
Says Gupte, “Using this process, anyone can manage to recycle all of his/her organic waste, which can then be used in the garden and farm. Vermicompost does not require much effort, and it considerably reduces the garbage.”
To help people like Gupte and to promote vermicompost in Goa, Goa has joined hands with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). The government is actually looking at vermicompost as a dual achiever: 1) bring a sea change in the way Goa treats its rural garbage, and, 2) altering the employment scene by introducing vermicomposting as a source of income generation in remote areas of the state.
For Goa alone, ICAR has developed a special tank where vermicomposting can be done. The prototype of tanks, designed to suit Goa’s environmental conditions, are 2.5 metres deep and one metre wide, where garbage can be converted into manure.
African crawler, a variety of earthworm has been identified as the most feasible for Goan soil conditions and is being suggested by the government for using in vermiculture. Apart from this, another variety called Eudrillus Euginae is also found to be suitable for Goa. Researchers have found that this variety breeds well in Goan environmental conditions. Also their reproduction capacity helps in saving capital investment to purchase worms. One earthworm reproduces in the form of 250 others, which increases the profit.
The state Government, on its part, has decided to provide 50 per cent subsidy for the construction of unit and purchase of earthworms.
ICAR has also started training rural youth in vermiculture technology. So far, 800 youths have been trained to convert garbage into manure using vermicompost and earn a living by suppling to the farms at a good rate.
Sulochana Pednekar is a young woman living in Siolim village who has just learnt of the scheme. An excited Sulochana says, ‘“In my neighbourhood, most people have a very rural lifestyle and our daily garbage mostly consists of biodegradable materials such as coconut scraps, vegetable peels, fish scales and fallen leaves from trees. All of these can be used in vermicompost. After learning of the process, I also started some vermicompost, and it works very well,’ Sulochana is now considering selling vermicompost to the local farmers. The rate – Rs. 350 a bag of 50 kg, sounds lucrative to her.
The initiative is also slowly finding support of village panchayats, considered as a crucial party to make the scheme a success. Arvalem, a village and a pilgrim center along the northern border of Goa, has built a unit which is run jointly by the panchayat and the villagers. By turning organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer, the village has decided to make vermicompost as part of the solution to their garbage crisis.
What is needed now is more panchayats, especially the likes of Calangute, Baga, Anjuna and Morjim which have the largest number of hotels, eateries and beach shacks, take this initiative to a larger scale. Nearly 350 shacks dot the 105 km long beach belt of Goa each year. Millions of tourists visit the shacks all day long, eating and merrymaking. This results in the beach shacks producing tons of wet waste. But with the total absence of garbage disposal system, the shacks owners either dump the garbage into open sea or by the road – an issue that has become a bone of contention between the shack owners and the government. Setting up of vermicomposting units nearby the shacks can not only provide a solution to the foul-smelling problem, but also provide the owners – who employ a number of people to manage the shacks, a great income generation opportunity.