Any experiment diligently executed can fail due to some silliest of the mistakes, mid-way.
Soaring mid-April temperatures called for frequent watering to ensure proper moisture levels in the bed. The roof laid with plastic sheets was emitting a lot of heat inside the compost room. As advised by the expert, we sprinkled a few buckets of extra water on the bed, shut it with the lids.
However, right after watering (we might have even over-watered it!), one of the staff members unknowingly shut the valve and took away the bucket placed in the sump for some other work. This tap was meant to be kept open to collect the vermi-wash (vermi tea). Excess water remained inside the tank overnight which went unnoticed. A night later, the whole thing was a hell of stinking mess. The worms were floating in the water-logged tank by the next morning and could not crawl out because of the fine mesh.
Our BBMP contractor was kind enough to save us from this tragedy and took away all of it in his truck. The samples sent for testing to GKVK revealed that very high moisture content did all the damage. According to Entomologist Dr Govind Raju of GKVK, worms may die just within one hour if the moisture content is high. Another reason could also be high acidity level present in the cooked food and other items like citrus peels which may have entered the bed along with uncooked food.
Bug-fixing in vain
To bring down the acidity levels, Prof. Raju advised us to sprinkle a slurry of gram flour and jaggery mixed thoroughly in water. But it was too late.
Never play around with food waste for a large-scale vermicompost experiment. You lose control over what goes in despite hawk-eyed monitoring. Better stick to only dry garden leaf litter.
Large-scale experiment, large-scale failure
When you are trying to achieve something on a large-scale, most often it’s your mistakes that gain popularity and not your everyday struggles. What goes unappreciated is the enormity of the task at hand, of managing waste from a 202-unit complex, and of putting up with “minor errors” from every household which eventually run into 200+ mistakes. Sometimes your enthusiasm to go green with no prior practical experience and to achieve what nobody had even thought of begins to look like a deep-seated desire to be a big fish in a small pond. Everybody talks about “the bigger picture” but only those involved in a task right from the word go know what it actually took to conceptualise it in the first place.
In short, you have to drag all this negativity with you even as you revisit your research notes, pester the experts with all sorts of questions and get back to the empty tanks mocking silently at your failed efforts.
For the rest of the GOING ORGANIC series of articles, please visit ‘Endlessly Green’ category.