The journey of making the world a greener place starts with one step, a step taken at home and locally. Seeing their neighbourhood slowly becoming worse due to garbage dumping, the residents of Hoysalanagar in Bengaluru spearheaded an initiative to convert a 25-meter long garbage black spot into a beautiful garden.
How did it start? What challenges did you face?
It all began when the people from my apartment in Hoysalanagar Horamavu (ward-25) came together. We became a community with 500 houses from five different apartments. Also, the leaders of all political party supported us and so did the nearby shop owners and the respective building owners. We adopted 2Bin-1Bag 3-way segregation system in 2015. 55 residents are doing home composting here. Many of them grow vegetables in the balconies using that home-made compost.
But, near our apartment complex, the cross junction started turning into a garbage dump. The shopkeepers and residents from nearby areas started to dump the waste here. The water drain was filled with garbage. Nobody could even walk there. The area was occupied by cows and stray dogs. It would stink a lot and was almost impossible to walk even on the road. The situation was very unacceptable for us. More so because we had achieved 100 percent segregation and responsible handover of waste to Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) approved vendors.
How did you sort out this problem?
Almost a year ago, around 20 volunteers from my street started guarding the area from 8 pm to late in the night for two weeks. During weekends some of us would patrol the area in the daytime as well. It was quite evident that the dumping was completely stopped. But we had to stop late night guarding as the police who were patrolling instructed us to stop gathering late in the night. In another month, the situation was back to same. We had a WhatsApp group, so this time I drafted the plan and posted in the WhatsApp forum.
- Convert the garbage and stinky black spot into a beautiful flower garden.
- Choose plants that are not edible for cows since many cows & stray dogs were roaming in the cross road when garbage was there.
- Make a fence with bamboo sticks to stop the dumping on the garden. Bamboo sticks were procured from bamboo bazar.
- Use the wasted construction bricks freely available on the roadside as an outer protection barrier. Perfect Reuse!
- Every week Saturday 4 PM was fixed for the work.
The first weekend, in the morning three of us procured the bamboo sticks. We chose Nandyarvattam (East Indian Rosebay), and Nithyakalyani (Periwinkle) plants for the garden. These were not edible by animals. We decided that we will complete the 25-meter long garden in five days at the rate of five meters progress per day. We had planned it this way to get the local support and to give sufficient time to people to change their habit.
What changes did you observe?
There was a significant change. Each day the area of the black spot was reducing, and the volume of dumping was also visibly reducing each day. When we completed 20-meter long garden, the waste was reduced to 10%. The volunteers were committed to their cause. Each day, the success we were seeing boosted their confidence. A lot of people visited us each day during the work and expressed their wish to work with us. Leaders of political parties appreciated our work. We were also joined by shopkeepers, building owners, auto drivers and the residents from the nearby area.
How did you maintain it?
After completing the garden work, less than 5 percent garbage was dumped overnight adjacent to the fence. We knew that even a small quantity of waste would attract more people in future. We decided to guard the area overnight and early morning. The waste dumping completely stopped, and it also changed the habit of other people. The volunteers and the nearby shop owners water the plants every day. We use home made compost as manure for the garden plants. The plants responded to the care and bestowed upon us beautiful flowers. These flowers are alone enough to prevent dumping in future.
How does the garden look now?
Oh, it looks beautiful. It is very attractive. There are beautiful hand-made posters stuck on the fence. The anti-garbage posters in Kannada and English are made by school students. The plants and the flowers have now become an attractive sight for passersby.
How has it helped the society to come together?
Such activities like gardening or guarding gave us the opportunity to know more people. It strengthened the cooperation among neighbours. Also, we are now one big family.
What message do you have for the local bodies or municipal workers?
I appreciate their work. We all can come together and fight against incivilities. I would request the BBMP and local representatives to fix a littering fine board in areas, construct a proper water drainage canal for the cross and ban plastic in our area.
What other things have you observed other than a clean garden?
We learnt a lot of things. With a continuous presence, it helped us get support from local community. It also increased the number of volunteers. The beauty of the flowers and the bamboo fence prevented people from dumping garbage further. The nearby shop owners and residents were also forced to wait for the BBMP garbage collection vehicle for direct handover. We also observed that people had not taken government’s order to ban plastic seriously. Many people still use it. And also mix different types without segregation.
What other plans do you have?
We are now planning to start awareness on composting, as many people in the city hand over the waste directly, especially those people who work on shifts. The garbage vehicle doesn’t get sufficient time for individual handover due to a large number of houses to cover. So, for such people, composting will help manage the waste.