In what can be termed a highly disappointing turn of events, the views of SWM Joint Commissioner Sarfaraz Khan on composting have hit the green activists hard. Going by the buzz in various WhatsApp groups created to share tips and experiences on composting amongst green activists as well as enthusiasts from various walks of life across the city, the joint commissioner’s take on the same that appeared in today’s Bangalore Mirror has left them bewildered.
Let’s attend to his statements, one by one:
“One needs to take time off to maintain the compost bins.”
Yes, initially. Until one gets a hang of it. Just like it happens when a novice is flipping a dosa or an omelette for the first time. We have highly standardised solutions these days and all you need to do is pick what suits you the best and proceed. In most cases, it calls for layering the kitchen waste with a cocopeat-based inoculant or rotating a rotary drum. Instead of putting the waste directly into the waste bin, you are transferring it into a compost bin or a drum. How time-consuming can this get? One or two minutes more each day?
“If they are not maintained well and it leaks, it would attract worms.”
Absolutely! They have to be maintained well just like everything else in our homes, gardens, cars and parking lots. But unlike what the JC says, a well-maintained compost bin does not leak or overflow with worms unless the process has gone wrong. Process is the key word here. Composting is just like cooking. You can’t expect a perfectly tuned-out meal unless you follow the process down to every goddamn detail. In a country which is known to have perfected extremely difficult and process-driven cuisines, it’s indeed sad that dealing with leftovers from the same kitchen is trumpeted out to be some rocket science.
“I have compost bins in my house. I have put coco peat in it. We were out for a couple of days and we saw the worms crawling down when we returned… The worms can attract frogs, rats and also snakes. Hence, one needs to keep an eye on compost bins every day.”
These are what we call “a rookie mistake”. Moreover, we don’t just put cocopeat in it but a cocopeat-based inoculant which is enriched with essential micro-organisms to speed up the process. If you put too much of waste and disproportionate amount of inoculant, if you overload your composter beyond its capacity, then things do go wrong. Unless one gives two hoots to these fundamentals, it’s difficult to get the processes right. If at all you are assigning the job to your maids, cooks, housekeepers, etc., then it does call for a 10-minute training first. But if the owner of the house pooh-poohs it right from the word go, we can only expect disasters. Not miracles.
“Many people live independently and work at odd hours. Hence it wouldn’t be possible for them to figure out how to manage the bins even if they have enough space to keep them.”
Does that mean those who are already doing it, despite all the constraints as explained by the JC, are jobless? It simply shows unwillingness to understand exactly what it takes to compost.
“We have organised so many composting santhes? Why they have not been successful?”
This begs the question as to how the JC reached the conclusion that these santhes have indeed been unsuccessful! Has there been any study conducted to collect data on how many took to or rejected composting after attending these santhes? Leave that as it may, can any BBMP official tell us offhand how many homes are composting in-situ across the city currently? Without official statistics to fall back on, isn’t it an erroneous statement from the JC to dismiss these santhes altogether? Throwing the baby with the bathwater? No, this was least expected.
Going by the conversations among green activists from across India, Bangalore is the city which has shown the way for the rest of the country in home and community composting. But the scorching irony here is BBMP somehow finds time and funds to go on landfill-hunting expeditions that ruin fertile lands and lives of those residing close by. Lack of official will also leaves behind countless blackspots and make lives miserable in an otherwise beautiful city. But all of that now sounds like a non-issue vis-a-vis a presumably overloaded composting bin that attracted worms. Leave aside those who don’t have space, but a majority of Bangaloreans don’t miss a chance to proudly showcase their plants, thereby living up to its “Garden City” epithet. All we are asking is to add just a couple more bins and feed your plants with this nutritious manure.
Unfortunately, with such official statements, it can get hard to convince fence-sitters to take to composting. In other words, a wonderful opportunity to lead by example has been lost.