Hailed as the ‘Garden’ city, Karnataka’s capital Bengaluru has drawn many international companies and people from across the country in the last few decades. This has resulted in unchecked waste generation.
As per a Central Pollution Control Board report, garbage in the city has increased by 17 times since 2000. By 2031, the generation is likely to be more than 13,000 metric tonnes from the present 4,000 metric tonnes.
Envisaging the burden on landfills way before the authorities started raising concerns on the garbage crisis, the then technician from the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), Purushothaman came with up a simple solution – to segregate waste – in 1996.
While he was cutting down waste he generated, it dawned upon him that with the right knowledge he could minimise his overall consumption and reduce carbon footprints. So, he ventured into other projects like tree plantation and Rain Water Harvesting (RWH).
Today, from the water he saves through RWH and the manure he generates from composting, Purushothaman plants trees not only in his house but in the entire colony. Thus, inspiring fellow residents to adopt a greener lifestyle.
Like every other journey, Purushothaman’s journey was also filled with ups and downs. The only difference was that he didn’t give up.
How it all started
In 1996, when Purushothaman moved to Bengaluru’s Ramamurthy Nagar, he saw how families recklessly dumped their garbage on the roads, attracting insects and rodents.
Recalling the plight of the city’s streets in the 90s, Purushothaman tells The Better India, “Lack of managing waste has always been a serious problem, but with the rise in consumerism, the issue has magnified. Concerned by that and the garbage overflowing on roads, I first decided to prevent my garbage from entering the trenching ground.”
Since the use of the internet was not yet widely prevalent at the time, he resorted to experimenting with composting. Within a few days of research and trials, he started managing the wet waste generated in his own house.
The word quickly got around. Neighbours visited him during the weekend to learn a thing or two about waste management. Some even started handing their waste to the ex-DRDO serviceman.
Before he knew it, he was handling waste from nearly 4,000 households in his area.
He hired slum dwellers to collect the garbage from these households. The collected waste would be given to farmers for developing manure or be composted. To sustain his collection model, he charged a user-fee from every household and paid the slum dwellers up to Rs 1,000 every month.
But the model had to be discontinued after the Bangalore Mahanagara Palike was replaced by Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike in 2007.
“The collection process became more formalised after several areas in the city were added under the Municipal Corporation’s jurisdiction. So, we were not allowed to collect the garbage,” he says.
However, that didn’t discourage Purushothaman from continuing his crusade for a safe environment. In fact, it encouraged him to take multiple steps for a cleaner and greener future.
5 Steps Purushothaman takes for a sustainable lifestyle
He prevents approximately 30 kilos of wet garbage per month from going to the landfill by converting it into manure every 45 days. He deposits the wet waste into the composting drums in his house.
The generated manure comes handy as a natural and rich fertiliser for plants.
2) Rain Water Harvesting
When Purushothaman moved to his new house in 2011 in the same colony, he installed two RWH systems to save and reuse water.
Water crisis is something that everyone is aware of but no one doing much to avert it. RWH is the simplest means to store water and reuse it, says the 69-year-old.
So far, he has saved 60,000 litres of water through RWH!
This has not only helped him conserve water but also reduce his water bills significantly. Every month, he pays only Rs 100 for his consumption.
The conserved water is used to clean utensils, mop, and water the plants inside and outside his house.
Besides developing a garden at his home, Purushothaman is also instrumental in planting trees in his locality. With help from homemade manure and stored water, he has planted more than 6,000 trees so far.
Explaining the reason behind watering trees outside his house, he says, “From my experience, I have noticed that people are excited about planting trees, but when it comes to its maintenance, they often back out. So, I assure them that I will water their trees regularly.”
4) Fighting Disposable Plastic Cutlery:
With help from his team members from K R Puram Rising, an organisation dedicated to social activities, Purushothaman lends steel cutlery to citizens of Bengaluru. The aim behind this initiative is to discourage single-use plastic cutlery which takes hundreds of years to decompose.
Started in 2017, the cutlery project has prevented the use of approximately 25,000 one-time plastic items.
“We have 300 steel glasses, 100 snack plates and 60 large plates that we give to the residents for free in good faith. There has not been a single incident where the residents have not returned the cutlery,” Padma Naveen, an IT professional and member of K R Puram Rising, tells The Better India.
Sharing how Purushothaman inspired her to be more conscious about her lifestyle, she says,
Everyone talks about how they want to save the environment, but only a few can turn it into reality. Mr Purushothaman is one of them. He has inspired me to take small steps in my life towards the betterment of our future.
5) Awareness Workshops
From his experience in the field of waste management, Purushothaman undertakes awareness workshops and classes, where he teaches people from all age groups to manage their waste. In addition, he also encourages them to plant trees and save water through RWH.
However, he thinks that merely imparting knowledge is not enough. “People might forget what they learned within the few days if they do not practice it. The entire purpose of the workshop is thus defeated,” he says.
As a solution, he keeps several resources like manure, saplings, bio-enzymes at home so that people can easily find the means to practice a sustainable lifestyle.
It was during one of these awareness workshops when he came in contact with Praveen, a city-based IT professional. Having a similar interest for the cause, the two got along immediately.
“I have always been passionate about planting more trees in the city. However, convincing others to do the same is always challenging. With help from Purushothaman, we are now encouraging people. I am highly impressed by his work and hope to continue working with him for as long as I can,” says Praveen.
5 Tips from Purushothaman to lead a sustainable life
- Segregate waste. This will solve 50 per cent of your garbage problems, and even help you generate revenue.
- Treat your wet waste. Purchase a low-cost composting unit and process your kitchen waste at home. Use the manure for your plants.
- Give up single-use plastic items. Look for alternatives to plastic cutlery. Hint: Take notes from the older generation.
- Plant saplings in your house or your locality. In most cases, you do not require any permission to plant trees on the roads.
- Install a Rain Water Harvesting Unit and cut down your water bills. If you do not have space, focus on reducing water wastage.
When asked what inspired him to continue his journey for so long, Purushothaman says,
It is all in the mind. In the beginning, there might be hurdles, but once you make it a habit, the process becomes easier. I have not taken any extraordinary measures or spent a lot to adopt a green lifestyle.
“If I can, you can too,” he signs off.