Manish Gupta, a GIM student, recalls his first experience of visiting Shantadurga Temple, Ponda.
“The first thing I probably noticed was the abundance of flowers at the place of worship. There were flower sellers at the entrance, devotees offering flowers in the form of blessings – there seems to be no limit. The crude form of disposal of waste attracts pathogens, flies, mosquitos etc. spoiling the beauty of sacred temple premises and causing harm to the people and the environment. The plastic waste (plastic bottle, carry bags, wafer packets) brought by the tourists visiting the temple adds on to the non-disposable waste. I was wondering what happens to those sacred flowers once we are done with our prayers?”
Shri Shantadurga temple situated in the beautiful village of Kavlem is a 450 years old temple in Goa. Its devotees belong to Hindu Gaud Saraswat Community and are widespread across the Konkan region. This avatar of Shri Jagadamba Devi which had come to make peace between Lord Vishnu and Lord Shiva came to be known as Shri Shantadurga Devi. Various festivals are celebrated by its devotees include Panchami Utsav, Jatrotsav, Palkhi Utsav, Sangod Utsav etc.
“Devotees often offer their prayers to the deity in form of flowers” says 23 year old Ankit. “These flowers are offered to the deity on the same day and are taken away on the very next day. This generates an average of 12-25 kg floral waste every day and it multiplies at the time of festivals. According to many religious beliefs, flowers that are offered during prayers are sacrosanct and cannot be dumped into the garbage once they’ve wilted” says Ambika, another student from GIM. “This is one of the reasons why people prefer to discard them in forest, rivers, lakes and other water bodies. But not many of us think about the fertilizers and pesticides that might have been used to grow these flowers, which then mix with the water and pollute it”.
Ankit, Ambika, Vishakha, Tanishtha, Manish and Debdatt: all students of GIM had often thought of this issue. Ankit who is from Goa says “The forest of Goa had been an important part of Goan lives and it pains to see it become increasingly polluted year by year”. We all became friends after coming to GIM and we choose this project the moment we saw opportunity coming in the form of Give Goa initiative. Ankit used to go to the temple every month and he would see the waste flowers being collected to be dumped in the forest. So we thought of doing something to treat these flowers,” says Ankit. According to him, every day, approximately 20-25 kg floral waste are dumped into Goan Forest. So, the team started thinking of a way to convert these flowers into an eco-friendly solution.
After several rounds of discussions with management and through analysis of various possible solutions to the problem and we opted for the Vermicomposting option on the pilot basis. The key reasons to choose Vermicompost is that it is rich in all essential plant nutrients and is eco-friendly. It is easy to handle, store and does not have bad odour. It is free from pathogens and toxic elements and provides excellent boost for an overall plant growth. Also the operational cost involved in this method is extremely minimal.
According to Tanishtha and Debdatt, “Once the compost is generated, it can be either sold in the market or the local vendors and certain NGO’s can be approached who would be willingly to sale this product. We are working to first satisfy the internal requirements of the manure for gardening purpose as the temple trust is planning to lay lawn in the selective area within its premises. We are also planning to generate certain other value added products like Agarbatti which could be sold to local Agarbatti and flower sellers at a subsidized prices”, says Visakha. “We are striving to work in optimizing the process in financial as well as operational perspective and generate maximum revenue for the temple trust. We plan to design a well-defined system for Nirmalya and other waste disposal, as well as structure and develop a business model to the temple trust which will be sustainable by its own in near future”.
“Initially the temple trustees were not very much convinced with our idea. Their approach were not very motivating and they thought our ideas might or might not work” says Ankit. “Now they are quite positive about it because they see everything happening. The process is already in the completion and the first slot of manure will be ready by next week”. The team went to Mr. Pandurang Ghate, a renowned environmentalist, for his technical expertise in the composting. Prof. Pravat, who is guiding this group as a faculty, appreciated the work done by his students. Prof. Manas, who is the coordinator of the whole Give Goa initiate at GIM commented “while most of us leave it to the gods to take care of the flowers we offer up in places of worship, kudos to these students for turning at least a part of the offerings into such amazing and environment-friendly products”.