Delhi's Enactus Hansraj craft alternative measures to help farmers dispose crop residue

It's the spell between harvesting and sowing when a spike in stubble burning is seen in states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

Published: 21st October 2021 08:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st October 2021 08:16 AM   |  A+A-

The students of Enactus Hansraj talk about vertical 'Tabdeel'

The students of Enactus Hansraj talk about vertical 'Tabdeel'. (Photo| EPS)

Express News Service

In north India, the month of October marks the harvest period for Kharif (fall harvest) crops like rice and maize. In this month, farmers pack their produce and transport it to the mandis (marketplace) for sale while beginning to prepare for the next sowing period in December.

It's the spell between harvesting and sowing when a spike in stubble burning is seen in states like Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.

The activity of stubble burning is identified as a major contributor to air pollution in Delhi and other northern Indian states. Even though the state governments have tried to adopt alternative measures to curb the low-cost practise of straw disposal, crop residue burning continues uncontrollably.

Addressing this issue through state-of-the-art measures, the Enactus club of Delhi's Hansraj College launched Project Vriddhi in 2018 to utilise crop residue for commercially-viable, alternative ventures. The Project currently has four verticals - mushroom cultivation (Tabdeel), handicrafts production (Shilpkari), washroom construction (Nirmaan), biogas production (ReStove).

From bane to boon

On researching the potential usage of stubble, Enactus Hansraj found that mushroom cultivation is a useful way to deploy crop residue and keep stubble burning in check. Taking this idea forward, they reached out to a few farmers in Haryana who were willing to make this switch.

To facilitate mushroom cultivation, these students helped the farmers acquire both equipment and training. Currently registered under the name of Harsana Kalan Farmer Producer Organisation, the team managed to help over 200 farmers shift to sustainable mushroom cultivation.

"At Enactus, we have an exit-strategy. This means, we try to build models that can sustain even after we have withdrawn our intervention. The mushroom farmers of Haryana are managing their business sustainably themselves. Our intervention is minimal," says Sarthak Agarwal (20), who is the current President of Enactus Hansraj.  

The vertical Shilpkari looks at converting crop residue into handicraft items - bottles, paper bags, and straws - that serve as eco-friendly alternatives to single-use plastic items. Since the artisans involved in the production are mostly women from economically-stressed groups, the team also helps them sustain their livelihoods.

Enactus Hansraj has partnered with a Pune-based organisation, which designs and develops sustainable-building materials to meet construction needs for their third vertical Nirmaan. Through such technology, in 2019, the students were able to build a washroom for public use in Arthala, Ghaziabad.

"On paper, we [the country] claim to be hundred per cent open defecation-free. However, the situation on ground is quite the opposite. In Delhi, there are a lot of areas where proper toilets are not available. During one of our field visits, a group of women told us that accessing proper sanitation facilities, especially at night, is very difficult for them," shares Anvi Garg (20), a second-year student at Hansraj College, who currently heads Project Vriddhi.

As of now, the team is in the process of building another washroom at Rajendra Place, a project in collaboration with the Delhi government.

Their final vertical ReStove focuses on installing a biogas plant that uses biodegradable products like stubble, manure, and animal waste, among others, to produce biogas. This can be further used in place of natural gas for various operations. Under their pilot project, the team has stationed a biogas plant in a gaushala (cowshed) near Rohini, where the produced biogas is used as a fuel alternative.


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