Recently, certain Mumbai temples have become sites of an initiative that's not entirely religious. Nirmalaya, floral offerings made by devotees, is composted at these temples and the manure is sold for Rs 20 per kilogramme. Nirmalaya manure has become quite a hit among devotees.
The project is the brainchild of Prathibha Bawlekar, vice chairperson of Mumbai Grahak Panchayat (mgp). "Mumbai's temples generate about 15 tonnes of nirmalaya waste every day. Earlier, much of this made its way to the sea despite a ban on such disposal. Many local train passengers would carry the flowers in polybags and throw them out in the Mithi river,' she says. About seven years ago, Bawlekar began persuading temple authorities to compost their waste. She was rebuffed time and again. The Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (mcgm) also offered no support.
After much persuasion, in 2002, authorities of the Parleshwar temple decided to allow Bawlekar to compost nirmalaya. "They did set two conditions though: I will not ask for any financial help or human power,' she reminisces. mgp decided to fund the project. A contingent of waste-pickers was hired, the composting area was covered with a shed and the project took off.
"We follow the simple aerobic composting method: heaps of waste are accumulated and powder is added to culture it. A gram of powder is mixed with 1 kg nirmalaya, every other day. This goes on for about 20 days. Water is sprinkled regularly. It's important to churn the waste regularly, to prevent leachate formation and avoid stink. The compost is ready within 35 days,' explains Bawlekar.
Siddhi Vinayak joins in In June 2004, Bawlekar approached authorities of the Siddhi Vinayak Temple. Mumbai's most famous temple generates an average 120 kg of nirmalaya every day