In 2017, when the heavy rainfall led to the collapse of a wall and severe flooding in the parking area of a building in Thane’s Vijay Garden society, the residents decided that they had had enough.
The incessant rains would wreak some form of havoc in the ‘rain ready’ region year after year, but this time, instead of waiting for the civic authorities to clean the area, some residents took matters into their own hands.
Led by Reny Varghese, they collected the leftover mud and started transferring them into empty paint buckets. An hour later, close to 150 buckets were full of mud and their building compound went back to what it was.
But did they stop there? No. They transported the buckets (each weighing 40 kilos) to their terrace via a lift with the idea of sowing organic seeds.
“Our building had just been renovated and there were many empty paint buckets. We made our own compost from dry cow dung, soil and organic pellets and planted seeds of tomatoes, brinjals, leafy greens, spinach and ladyfingers. The project was started by four residents and it has now become like a collective gardening hobby for us,” Nelson D’Mello, the Secretary of the building, informs The Better India.
Impressed already? Wait, there’s another ambitious resident-led project that you must know of.
“We harness solar power and sell it to the Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Company Limited (MSEDCL). This initiative has helped the society save up to 40,000 per month that amounts to almost five lakh every year on the electricity bill,” he adds.
How Residents Are Reaping Collective Efforts
While it is not imperative for everyone to set up an organic vegetable–and fruit–garden, the ones who are even mildly interested may hesitate because of the lack of space, time, and information about doing so, without any chemicals.
But here is a group of individuals proudly growing vegetables in 150 odd pots and every four days, the garden gives them one vegetable or another. This includes broccoli, cluster beans, turmeric, drumsticks, muskmelon, tulsi, potato, beetroot, cauliflower, chillies, neem, etc.
Though the members have their respective professional commitments, they spend an hour daily for maintenance and watering.
“We never expected our hobby to give us such benefits. Right from taste to colour, the vegetables are so healthy and nutritious. We have divided the work like sowing, watering, compost among us. The yield is enough for one family so we take the harvest on a rotational basis and even share with other society members,” Reny tells The Better India.
As for the solar power plant that has a capacity of 30 kilowatts, it required an investment of Rs 20 lakh but interestingly none of the members paid a single penny.
Nelson struck a rather innovative deal with the solar plant supplier (SKS GLOCHEM) according to which the plant would be installed for free. The company will own the plant for seven years till they recover the cost and then hand it over to the building. Per day, the plant gives up to 140 units that are sold to the MSEDCL.
“Our main aim was to bring awareness regarding solar installation and its advantages. We want people to know the concept of net metering, the return on investment and government subsidy on solar plant installation and get rid of the misconception that long term solutions need heavy investment. The solar plant installation brings down the common area electricity bill to zero. The investment and ROI depend upon the size of the generation plant,” Gopalakrishnan Iyer, the co-founder of SKS GLOCHEM tells The Better India.
The plant was installed in 2017 and from 2024, all the units generated will go to the society.
Who would have thought a garden would flourish in the midst of the city’s concrete jungle? But, with these amazing initiatives, this Thane society is proving that this is indeed possible, and a little effort by the citizens can go a long way in bringing a long-term difference.
You can get in touch with SKS GLOCHEM at: [email protected]
(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)