In our nation, hygiene and cleanliness are major issues that even governments, NGOs, and social change makers cannot tackle together. Because of lack of sanitation, there are many diseases that are affecting thousands of people. Water logging and dirt accumulation is leading to rotting of waste in the heart of cities let alone outskirts. This was noticed by Nikhil Gampa, a 26-year-old enthusiast, who is determined to remove waste from temples and thus remove diseases caused by it.
Nikhil creates incense sticks from the waste temple flowers from north-eastern suburbs of Mumbai. He has started an endeavor Green Wave to clean area by reusing floral waste and thus generating jobs for poor women who collect flowers from Chembur and Trombay and use the waste to manufacture incense sticks.
Nikhil, a masters student in social entrepreneurship from Tata Institute of Social Sciences, came up with the idea after he was severely hit with malaria for a month. This happened when he went to Madhya Pradesh during his rural practicum trips. He spent a night in a temple in Jhabua, which was one of the places in the village that was equipped with electricity.
“The incident triggered my interest in clean technologies and waste management practices and I began to consult various scientists and researchers I had worked with earlier to find a suitable solution to make temples cleaner,” says Gampa.
He realized during this period that the temple flowers are considered holy and are never disposed along with the other waste products. Instead, the temples are thrown in water bodies.
“Because of the carbon structure of flowers, their biodegradation takes a very long time. The soil can be poisoned and the pollution cycle renewed,” points out Gampa, a graduate in biotechnology engineering from the National Institute of Technology, Durgapur.
After testing the temple water in Kanpur, where his brother was pursuing his degree in Indian Institute of Technology, Nikhil came up with the idea of taking this endeavor to Mumbai. He has tied up with various temples where he has put special dustbins where the flowers are collected. These flowers are emptied in every two days by women working with Green Wave.
The flowers are segregated and dried. After that they are powdered and mixed with binding powder and saw dust and then rolled over bamboo sticks to make the final product. Gampa envisions producing incense sticks on a daily basis. Apart from tying up with temples and online platforms to sell the sticks, Nikhil has also taken this initiative to teach women how to sell the product under Green Wave.
Today, Green wave converts almost 300 kg to 400 kg of flowers every week into 100 kg to 150 kg of incense sticks giving livelihood to nearly 50-60 women in Mumbai, Warangal, Hyderabad and Kanpur. The incense sticks are sold with the brand name, ‘Nirmalya’. This enables livelihood to women who earn Rs 150-200 for every three four hours of work they put in.
“In a religion-centric society like ours, there are a lot of places of worship where tonnes of flowers are collected and offered to god, with no existing proper system of their use after this process is over. These flowers later on contribute in the ever-increasing waste piles of our cities proving to be a bane for the already deteriorating waste management system of our municipal bodies. This venture will enable women as environmental change makers and also earn income respectfully,” says Nikhil.
He believes that fate can be turned around by sheer determination and the ability to have faith in one’s belief. He is not only producing incense sticks but also gave birth to jobs for several women across Mumbai thus earning their blessings.