In the Service of the Environment and Man

Iris C F Gomes

Once a naval officer, Captain Joseph Lobo now has a keen inclination towards protecting the environment and is clearly fervent in taking this mission further. Speaking at Sensible Earth, The Center for Sustainability, at Porvorim, he explained how to approach composting, rainwater harvesting and the recovery of polluted water bodies, expounding his own experiences in these areas.

Composting: In Bombay, Capt Lobo did composting on the pavement to prove that it could be done in any space. He built a brick wall and added meshing to keep out rats, crows, etc and hired a group of women to take care of it. The neighbourhood’s wet waste was thus collected and turned into compost without creating an inconvenience to the people around. For about six months, this strategy worked well, until a student hostel was asked to add wet waste. This was because the quantity of the waste was far too much to process. To make matters worse the meshing was stolen by drug addicts which allowed free entry to rats. Attempting to solve the problem using chili powder led to more chaos with blinded rats scurrying all over the place. Though the project was unfortunately brought to a halt, one interesting innovation that grew out of the experience was the introduction of grit (stone dust) to the compost which rendered it unappetising to the rats and other scavengers.

Speaking of his association with Green Goa Works, Capt Lobo says he became involved in the project undertaken by Goa Foundation regarding Sonsoddo. As the manager of the project, Capt Lobo began investigating the sources of waste at Sonsoddo. Vegetable waste (25, 000 kilos) was the highest in quantity followed by meat (includes dead animals) and fish. The household wet waste was astonishingly smaller in quantity than expected when segregated.

Different areas were allocated for the vegetable waste and the fish waste while the meat waste was buried to be harvested after a month or so. The plastic waste, which was separated from the household waste, was packed and sold along with other recyclable items.

There was a need to find a method of continuing the composting without difficulty after Green Goa Works was no longer part of the project. Capt Lobo hit upon the idea of using bokashi, which is nothing but sawdust treated with stopped EM (Effective Micro-organisms). This was added to the waste and put in sealed drums to be removed after a month. This sawdust would absorb the moisture from the waste and become a CFU (Colony Forming Unit) continuously contributing bacteria to the organic waste. ‘After a month’s time every day I was creating 2500 kilos of vegetable waste, 1500 kilos of fish waste, and I was about to harvest the meat waste when it was burnt down,’ says Capt Lobo. The vegetable waste was sold to farmers at Rs 1 and the fish waste was sold at Rs 1.5 or 2.5 because of its immense value as a fertiliser.

‘You have to treat your household waste with respect,’ says Capt Lobo, reminding people that the unclean wrapping, plastic, etc that they discard will eventually be handled by someone and out of empathy and concern for that individual one should make sure the waste is as clean as possible.

With wet waste, you need to make smaller portions of whatever you are composting to allow the process to take place faster. Capt Lobo gives us the example of two independent rotatable bins that can be used for this. The bins in use need to be rotated from time to time to mix up the waste. It takes about one month for one bin to fill up for an average family of four. When one bin is full you can move to the next bin. If water leaks into the bin you can add bokashi and give it a mix to absorb the moisture and avoid any foul smell. Dry leaves are a good source of carbon that will nullify the nitrogen and aerate the compost.

Dry litter (leaves, twigs etc) can also be used as compost material placing it in a bin open on two ends wetting it in the summer and spraying diluted extended EM on it. Harvest the ready compost from the bottom after a month.

Vermicompost is superior to compost because earthworms add organic matter that is rich in nutrients for the soil. You can introduce earthworms and cow dung to ordinary compost for this purpose. Vermicompost water, which is exceptionally beneficial to plants, can be made by adding more water to the compost and collecting the water that drains from a bin that is kept on a stand to allow drainage to take place.

Transforming Polluted Water Bodies: When there is excessive organic waste in the water, all the oxygen is utilised and you have an unpleasant odour emitted due to the presence of pathogens. Capt Lobo has worked on a venturi aerator which forces water through an extremely small aperture and allows it to expand. The aerator permits a larger volume of air and water to mix. By attaching a blower, he has been able to increase the amount of oxygen to aerate the water, leading the way to a proliferation of aquatic life in a once dead water body again. This system can applied to stagnating water bodies in an individual capacity in the vicinity or an appeal can be made to the Panchayat to make use of this system to revive water bodies. The aeration system can be purchased from Capt Lobo at a little over a lakh or alternatively it can be rented for a fee.

Water Harvesting: Speaking from his own experience, Capt Lobo tells of his farm in Raigad district in Maharashtra. The farm had been emptied of its trees by the previous owners and therefore the temperatures ranged from 40 degrees Celsius to 45 degrees Celsius in the summer. The bore wells were of no use as the rain water would simply flow down the slope in the direction of Bombay.

With the intent of water conservation, the water channels during the monsoon were checked. These ten or twelve water channels were dammed at various places and the stream became one river. Eventually leafy litter stuck to the check dams made of rubble and blocked the water flow, making the dams more stable. Then fruits trees and trees endemic to the region were planted. These aided in the cooling of the environment.

There is plenty of rain water to harvest for domestic usage. Instead of expensive water tanks to catch this water, Capt Lobo advocates a cleaning of the roofs of houses because this is where we get the purest water. This water can be directed to the main water tank or into a well. When it goes into a well, the water flushes the underground springs, rejuvenating them. This water will be available throughout the year.

The water that comes into the compound can be directed through drains lined with fine filtering rocks into another smaller well. This water can be used to flush toilets, wash the car, water the garden, etc. The cleaner you keep your surroundings, the cleaner and more usable this water will be.

‘Trees let you take some of their water during the monsoon,’ says Capt Lobo. A well or bore well can be dug to harvest this water from the built-up water table.

After speaking extensively on three significant topics, Capt Lobo left his audience far more knowledgeable than when they had arrived.

For more information regarding these topics, you can contact Capt Lobo through his business manager Sonny Thomas.

Phone number: +91 9930524717

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