Thursday, July 3, 2008

Worms & All That.....

Ahead of schedule and in time for the visit by the World Bank representative, the Vermi-Composting Unit has been opened.

Vermi-composting is an eco-friendly way of turning organic waste into compost. All the peelings, scraps and food waste from hotels and businesses will now be turned into cash for Clean Himalaya.

Very briefly - the organic food waste is sieved and as much moisture removed as possible. It is then piled on the floor, covered in cow dung and left to decompose on its own, with regular checking for temperature, moisture content, acidity. When the temperature of this waste is correct it, worms are added and get to work on this lovely mixture. They chomp their way through it for 25 days, eating 5 times their body weight every day! The organic waste turns to fine compost, the worms are sieved out and put to work on the next batch of yummy waste! The beauty of this process, apart from its simplicity (and I am sure I have oversimplified it here..) is that it is entirely environmentally friendly. It is an aerobic process (i.e. it uses oxygen to break down the materials) with the result that no harmful gases, like methane, are produced. The resulting compost will also be entirely beneficial for the local farmers as it has no chemicals to harm their lands.

Another friend to Clean Himalaya, Ashish, who has his own large vermi-composting unit in Dehli is the man with the know-how and drive for this project. Clean Himalaya (CH) have built a new, large, monkey-proof shed, specifically for vermi-composting, on a site he selected at the edge of the nearby forest. It is a short walk from the CH workshop, where the sorting of dry waste, is done.

Last weekend, the shed was officially inaugurated and blessed by Swamis from the Divine Life Society (DLS) and opened for business by Ashish, by setting up the first composting troughs. The shed was decorated with flowers, and petals scattered on the paths leading to the entrance. Traditional snacks of vegetable pakoras and rasmali awaited the guests after the blessings and (very short) speeches. There were guests from Clean Himalaya, DLS and a number of interested passers-by. It was a truly beautiful occasion.

It was made even more of an Indian experience, blessings, chanting and flowers notwithstanding.... The smell of the incense in the shed competed directly with the buckets of cow dung. Some of the singing and speeches were hard to hear over the honking air-horns of the passing buses and trucks, the road diggers working directly outside and the chatter of the ‘guests’ who had just popped in for the pakoras!!

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