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(nearly) Waste-Free city of INDIA: PUNE

Gangotree

Unlike many western countries, Indian consumers waste remarkably little food, as a use is found for nearly all left-overs and food scraps. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s no waste, and Pune, a four million person city three hours southeast of Mumbai, is implementing an innovative initiative to change that.

Meet Mr. Santosh Gondhalekar, an engineer, energy expert, and founder of a bio-energy start-up company, Gangotree Eco Technologies. Pune is on its way to being India’s first waste-free city.

Each day, Pune generates about 1,400 tons of waste – 800 tons of organic waste and 600 tons of dry waste (e.g., paper, plastic, glass, and metals). In addition to the city’s municipal waste collection agency, Pune also has a sizable waste-picking community, with over 2,000 individuals who work full time as part of a cooperative to collect and sort the city’s waste. Nearly all of the dry waste has value so it gets sorted out by the waste pickers before being sold to recycling companies. The organic waste remains, and historically has been placed in a municipal dump.

Just a few years ago, the Pune Municipal Corporation engaged in a number of public-private partnerships to extract value from this organic waste. Here’s how it works: the city puts up the required capital to build bio-digestion facilities that can convert organic waste to electricity. Private companies then operate the facilities, selling the electricity back to the city to be used to power street lights. Excluding the upfront capital costs, the operation is profitable for the private firms. And for the time being, the city is willing to invest the capital, essentially subsidizing the projects, as they reduce the city’s waste burden, lowering the cost of maintaining municipal dump sites.

Currently 10 of these bio-digestion plants are operational, each converting five tons of organic waste to electricity every day.

How it works ? The Process:

Each morning, city trucks pick up organic waste, primarily from the city’s hotels, and deliver it to the bio-digestion facilities. The hotels are required by law to pay a fee for this service, which generally covers the transportation costs. Once the waste arrives on site, waste pickers sort it to ensure that it’s 100% organic as other inputs could disrupt the bio-digestion process. The waste, or feed stock, is then chopped up and put into the bio-digester, where bacteria converts it to methane and compost. At the end of the day, the gas is scrubbed to convert it to 99% methane, and then burned in a generator that creates electricity. The compost is given to local farmers.

So far the initiative has been very successful, and there are plans to have 20 additional plants operational by the end of 2012. Pune has 144 city wards, and if each ward had its own bio-digester, the city would be able to extract electricity from all of its organic waste.

Mr. Gondhalekar has been involved with the planning and execution of these projects, and showed his enthusiasm for the initiative’s success. However, his company, Gangotree Eco Technologies, is working a new project he finds even more promising. His plan is to convert municipal organic waste to what he calls green coal.

Go Green This Ganesha Festival

Green Ganesha

[1] Use clay Ganesha idols

Only Ganesha idols made out of clay should be used as they dissolve in water easily.

[2] Use natural dyes & colours

If a colourful Ganesha idol is being purchased during the festive season, then it should be painted with natural dyes. Dyes are available in many places across the state.

[3] Stop immersing, start exchanging!

The immersion of idols pollutes water bodies. To reduce pollution, Ganesha mandalis could retain the same idols and exchange them with other organisations every year. This will ensure the usage of existing idols without polluting the water. Such a trend is already taking place in Pune and Mumbai.

[4] Immerse idol in bucket of water

Instead of using drinking water, the people should immerse idols in pushkarnis and other places specified by district administrations. Immerse idols in buckets of water. Before the immersion, remove all decorative items, like flowers, plastic, garlands etc. Do not immerse idols in rivers, lakes and wells. Avoid using plastic decorative items. Use natural leaves, plants and flowers.

[5] Avoid bursting Fire Crackers

People should control the use of crackers which cause noise, air pollution and generate solid waste. Avoid blaring music from loudspeakers or organising orchestras. Sound pollution causes extreme discomfort to the elderly, patients and infants.

Living with Leopards in Mumbai

Livingwithleopardssnap

Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) is said to be the lungs of Mumbai and provides the bustling metropolis with clean drinking water among other ecosystem services. Biologically rich, SGNP is often in the news as the site of conflict between people and wildlife, mainly leopards. The forest department of SGNP has taken a proactive step to help manage the park better, mitigate conflicts and engage with the interested citizens of Mumbai. The Forest department has launched a project called ‘Mumbaikars for SGNP‘ to assess and assist leopard conservation and mitigate man-animal conflict in and around the park, by involving scientists, students and other members of the civil society. The project will be carried out by the Forest Department and the Centre for Wildlife Studies (CWS), Bangalore.

The main objective of the project is to use basic scientific methods and involve interested people in Mumbai to better understand the beauty, importance and challenges the leopards and the Park face, in an effort to focus positive action by Mumbaikars to better manage the park.

One such initiative of the project is the attached poster to increase awareness on how to deal with leopards in and around human-dominated areas, typically on the periphery of the park. Often, the interaction between leopards and humans depends on how the human/s react to the presence of the leopard. The best practices in dealing with leopards has been presented in this poster.