GREEN GEARS Club of Engineering students led by Rajesh Singuru, Assistant Professor from Raghu Engineering College, Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh works for a sustainable solution for the social issue. As Ganesha Festival is coming, Green Gears have come up with an eco-friendly Ganesha idol that is made up of stubble and agro-residue that usually farmers burn in their farms causing air pollution. These eco-friendly Ganesha idols while immersed in water do not have any side effects on the environment unlike the ones made from Plaster of Paris.
This sustainable solution is addressing two environmental issues: On One hand no harmful toxins are added to water, on the other hand, the problem of Agri residue, which is often burnt by the farmers causing the problem of air pollution, will also be solved.
The club started in 2016 by Rajesh Singuru in which he along with his students work for sustainability. Rajesh said, "Every year, in both north and south India, farmers growing wheat, rice, jute, sugarcane, banana, etc. end up burning the residue that is left in the farm after harvesting. Even though the government has imposed fines on the same, farmers find it easier to light a matchstick rather than look for alternatives."
He further said, "It has no economic value and no nutritional value to use as fodder. The farmer has to clear the farm to grow the next crop. This burning of residue often results in air pollution causing some harmful diseases like chronic lungs, bronchitis, coronel, blindness and surely air pollution. It also kills friendly micro-organisms which maintain fertility."
India celebrates the festival of Lord Ganesha with great zeal for ten days. "On the tenth day of the festival, the idols of Ganesha are immersed in the water. However, as most of the idols are made up of Plaster of Paris, therefore the water bodies get contaminated after the immersion and the aquatic-ecosystem gets disturbed”, says Rajesh.
Rajesh found a beautiful way to manage both the hazardous issues. He along with his team developed a process, which produces eco-friendly Ganesha idols using the agro - residue that the farmers are eager to get rid off. He said, "These stubble Ganesha idols are purely natural and get decomposed when buried. If we keep these idols in the soil it gets decomposed. We have added some herbal plant seeds in this Ganesha Idol while moulding, which helps in growing into a plant after it goes into nimarjan in soil (i.e. buried in soil). If this Ganesha idol is immersed in water bodies it makes some algae and provides food for the aquatic animals."
As Rajesh belonged to a farmer's family and understands their problems very well, therefore he decided to come up with a solution that can help the agrarian community. He told that his ancestors (forefathers) made some utensils with tamarind seeds and old newspapers. Talking about the procedure, Rajesh informs that he follows a “zero - waste generating method”. He said, "First, the paddy stubble is chopped into smaller pieces and washed thoroughly with water. The clean paddy is then treated using a natural solvent under high pressure and temperature. This grass is grinded in a machine to obtain pulp. The pulp is strained to drain excess liquid. The pulp is finally moulded into different shapes. Thereafter, it is kept under sunlight for two to three days for drying. Even a conventional dryer can be used for this process."
Rajesh added “As government banned single-use plastic on eve of Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birthday. Green gears also make cutlery plates and cups for replacing the single-use plastic, eco panels for acoustic walls and room insulation, packing support for online products, boxes, eggs and vegetable trays, etc. “
Rajesh informed that the solution obtained during the process has a pH varying between 7-8 viz. completely safe for disposal. He said, "It can also be used as manure. 1 kg of pulp makes 35-40 plates/bowls and the shelf life is more than a year when stored in a dry and dark place. The plates and other cutlery items are partially water and oil resistant although green gears are working to make it 100 per cent water and oil proof."
Rajesh with his initiative Green Gears focuses on his goals to educate about the effects of burning the residue and bringing it down, promoting effective residue management, aiding the farmers financially by setting a profit margin to sell the residue. He also mentioned that installing small-scale industry near a village, employing local villagers, researching more for new products and other alternatives with paddy straw and encouraging organic farming can generate better results for both farmers and environment.
“Our Green Gears received appreciation from Ministry of Science and Technology, Government of India with "Nav Bharat Nirman Award-2019" at Indian International Science Festival -2019 at Kolkata. We want to go further in finding more sustainable products and also spread awareness about our little startup. We want to keep helping those who are working in the acres- the farmers”, proudly said Rajesh Singuru.
Written By: Kosha Naik