Mahatmas 150th birthday inspires rural tech use for local benefits

Bapu’s dream of self reliant villages is being relived through rural entrepreneurship, vermi composting, smart rag pickers, low cost bamboo houses and eco-friendly toilets in district Wardha in Maharashtra.  It is the same district where the father of the nation inaugurated a museum for rural innovations way back in 1938. A local organization in the village of Duttapur in the district is harnessing innovative technologies for the benefit of local people.

Centre of Science for Villages (CSV), S&T NGO, a core support organization of SEED Division, Department of Science & Technology (DST), is empowering rural people with technologies for low cost earthquake resistant houses, low cost eco-friendly toilets and training rag pickers for more efficient, hygienic and scientific collection of rags.

Rag pickers with a difference

The confident rag pickers are proud of their transformation.

“The training has changed our lives in many ways. We do not have to collect rags from the dump yards any more. We collect it from homes and the waste is already segregated before it is handed over to us. For the first time our work is being recognized as an occupation and we received respectful treatment from a section of society and have made us more efficient,” said Sheela Jadhav who received training as part of programme.    

A group of 50 female rag pickers been taught to manage their business in a scientific manner. They were also trained in appropriate methodology and technology of separating different solid waste at a point of its origin. In addition to this, easy methods of converting organic waste to bio-manure (Composting) was introduced amongst them.

They have approached several residential colonies (Magan Wadi and MHADA Colony) and asked its residents to segregate solid waste into degradable and non-degradable components. The response is slow but positive. They also use hand gloves if rag is to be picked from the routine dumping ground. Besides, compost units are made by the municipal committee to convert organic biomass into manure.

Durable cost effective bamboo houses

A range of techniques have been developed to make bamboo Houses cost effective, durable and safe to live in and students from engineering and architecture colleges have been trained on these techniques.

210 students from three different architecture colleges have made three live models of bamboo houses, 200 plans and drawings are being made as per the requirement of rural families. “We got practical knowledge of making cost effective Bamboo house and we will make 150 designs of houses for tribal families so that they can select a design of their choice as per their requirement,” said Ms. Sneha Dhotre of D. Y Patil School of Architect, Pune.

Bamboo walls were made by interweaving bamboo splits vertically in between two columns. Walls were plastered from outside using stabilized plaster of sand and cement on chicken mesh. Inner plaster was made with stabilized mud.

Eco-friendly toilets

Low cost, low water usage and clean toilets with local technology have brought widespread relief from the health hazard and shame of open defecation. “As we have toilet in proximity to our home, there is no need to go out for defecation and it is very safe during rainy season. The occurrence of gastric problems have reduced considerably in the whole village”, said Kalpana Maraskolhe a beneficiary who got a toilet made.

The ‘Wardha Model’ of toilet is a unique example of application of local technology developed keeping conditions of the place in mind. It requires minimum amount of water to clean a pan and also for the person to clean himself.

Besides, the toilets are low cost because it has no septic tanks (leach pits of faro-cement are used), seat is simple and cost effective. The pan has greater slop (45 Degree). There is no water seal in “Wardha Model” toilets because even the smallest water seal is of 15 mm and to clean it about 10 litres of water is required. Thus to save water flap seal has been introduced. Because of introduction of flap seal, flies do not enter the toilet and it does not smell. The gas generated in the pit escapes from the vent pipe. From the pan night soil moves directly in the leach pit. This feature saves lot of water. Water moves in the adjoining soil from the leach pit and night soil decomposes in to nutrient rich manure. The pathogenic microbes present in the night soil are not able to move more than one meter distance hence all the water bodies (Open well, tube well etc.), located 10 meters away from the toilet remain unaffected.

Organic waste to compost in tune with nature
Two techniques of converting biodegradable biomass into compost have been transferred to the rag pickers and to residents of the city through awareness & training.

The Two Pit vermi compost method is made for houses where enough space for keeping the unit is available. In this unit organic waste is decomposed for earth worms to feed and the final product is vermi compost. The Compost Basket (Microbial Decomposition) are given in houses where the open space is a limiting factor. People put organic waste in the basket which gets converted in to manure in a span of three to four weeks

Non degradable items like plastic, paper, metal and glass are recycled through routine channel. Many establishments and government offices send their paper waste to CSV for recycling it in its handmade paper unit for making value added products like pads and envelopes.

Targeting rural entrepreneurship

Keeping in mind Mahatma Gandhi’s emphasis on encouraging rural entrepreneurship to boost the local economy, villagers from Sodlagondi village of Goregaon Block of Gondia district were trained on Non Timber Forest Product (NTFP), food processing, organic farming, organic farming of  Cotton (Gossipium herbacium), Tuar (Cajanus cajan), Soy Bean (Glycine max) and Turmeric (Curcuma longa). Farmers also learned methods of nutrient management, pest management and plantation pattern through workshops organised.

The team has placed their products and technologies at a Souvenir shop in Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP), Boriwali under Vandhan programme of Maharashtra Forest Department.  Proliferation of the movement to rejuvenate the rural economy and build confidence among the villagers can go a long way to fulfill Gandhiji’s vision on his 150th birthday.