A Holy Mess

Art of Living‘s latest initiative involves recycling waste from temples and dargahs

Published: 07th July 2019 05:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2019 01:39 PM   |  A+A-

New Delhi Municipal Council along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at a temple in Delhi

New Delhi Municipal Council along with Sri Sri Ravi Shankar at a temple in Delhi

When landfills begin to resemble hills, one realises how important a role waste management plays in the urban context.

Never mind even if the detritus has emerged from places of worship such as temples and mosques. To handle this modern-day malaise, Art of Living (AOL) Foundation has undertaken the initiative of recycling solid waste from temples and dargahs.

It’s been two years since the solid waste management project was started says Deepak Sharma, a trustee of the organisation, who is involved in the project, “Gurudev (Sri Sri Ravi Shankar) maintained that every place of worship should be a model in itself. When we go to temples we change our clothes, wash our legs, it is so dirty. We deemed that Swachh Bharat should start from temples and mosques and that brought into focus the solid waste generated from these places of worship and its management thereafter.” 

 Waste collection at Ajmer Sharif; Dakshineshwar Kali
Temple waste collecting unit

The first temple to participate in the scheme was the Dakshineshwar Kali temple in West Bengal, says Deepak, who found that there were 400 kgs of flower waste being generated from the famous Kali shrine.

“The flowers placed next to the deity, on the dais enjoy great cachet and hence are not put into the dustbin, rather they are dumped into river Ganga. Besides flowers, bangles, vermilion powder, glass and mirrors also comprised part of the waste,” adds Deepak.

A composting machine that could handle 500 kg waste was set up at Dakshineshwar. The successful outcome of the project ensured that other temples such as Kashi Viswanath, Kamakhya also hopped onto the recycling bandwagon.

“In the last two-and-a-half-years, we have covered 14 places of worship including Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajasthan,” he adds.

The composting machine has been designed in-house by experts with one of the devotees at AOL being given the responsibility of setting up a manufacturing line as well.

Donations were raised from devotees and individual donors, as well as our CSI partners, Coal India and Iffko Tokyo informs. Deepak.

“One of our officers went to Indonesia and procured the enzymes which help decompose the manure. Normally it takes 26 days to compost, but in ours it takes only 7 days,” he adds.

A few representatives from the temples and other religious sites have been trained for the job. 

However, the biggest challenge to the organisation came from the mafia. “In Kashi Viswanath, there is this person who has been taking care of waste for the last 25-30 years, for which he gets paid almost `2 lakhs.

Such people are always flush with political support, so naturally our free of cost schemes are not promoted,” informs Deepak.

There was resistance from temple authorities who felt AOL might overshadow all their work.  

The success of the solid waste management project in temples got the government’s attention, with them asking AOL to implement it in municipal corporations as well.

“We first teamed up with Ghaziabad for this, then later with New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and Akola in Maharashtra. We are working with two other municipal corporations right now,” he says.

But the business dynamics differ when it comes to temples and municipal corporations. “We have an MOU with the latter wherein we give them machines free of cost, but they have to buy back the compost.

NDMC, for example, is buying it from us. Temples farm on their land and need compost which is given to them free of charge. Even the profits go to them.

But when it comes to municipal corporations, we need to earn to offset the administration expenses,” says Deepak.The project has produced tangible results.

“In NDMC, we have been successful in creating a decentralised waste management module. We will be expanding to Kalighat temple, Kolkata next,” says Deepak about the project’s next goal.

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