Fishing for Green Solutions to Climate Change in Goa

Greenhouse gases are a top contributing cause of climate change. Parag Modi’s locally rooted composting initiative is saving thousands of kilos of waste from going into landfills and generating methane.

A common sight at North Goa’s busy Mapusa market is piles of feathers, entrails, scales, fins and shells at the entrance. Goans love their meat and fish and the cuisine is known for internationally popular dishes like the spicy pork vindaloo and the aromatic mackerel curry. But what happens to the wastes generated in these markets? “I observed that Goa’s [organic] waste is largely untreated and dumped in the landfill. So I wanted to see if this could be used productively,” says Parag Modi of Deer Tree Technologies. Modi has studied waste management solutions in detail and moved to Goa five years back to use his knowledge to set up a composting and biogas plant in Margao.

Today the plant, where all the machines are designed and made locally, processes up to 800 kilogrammes of vegetable waste and 600 kilogrammes of fish waste daily with the occasional addition of up to 600 kilogrammes of chicken waste. The biogas thus produced is supplied to restaurants and the compost, rich in soil nutrients because of the presence of fish, is sold to farmers at very affordable rates. Modi adds, “In other plants of this kind, the machinery is imported. It doesn’t benefit us as the profits go to foreign countries.”

Both biogas and organic compost have far-reaching cost and environmental benefits over mined liquid petroleum gas and inorganic fertilisers. But apart from this, these also contribute greatly in slowing down climate change. Organic waste in landfills, as they decompose, release methane--a greenhouse gas that is 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Research shows that up to 18% of global methane production, amounting to about 70 metric tonnes per year, is due to decay of municipal waste in landfills. Composting in a controlled environment leads to negligible, if any, methane emissions. Modi mixes the paste of discarded fish bits with wood dust sourced from logging factories. The aerobic method of composting generates a lot of heat fully using up the wood dust and yielding a mineral and protein rich fertiliser which is sold at five to ten rupees a kilogramme, depending on the quantity bought.

Apart from the environmental benefits, Deer Tree Technology also gives permanent employment to several former informal waste pickers. With protective work gear and a hygienic workplace along with a share of the profits from the sale of the products, their lives have certainly changed for the better. Geetanjali Kamble, one of the employees takes obvious pride in her work as she shows Video Volunteers Community Correspondent Devidas Gaonkar around the plant. She describes the entire process in detail. “After segregating the waste we feed it to the crusher. From there it goes to a tank and water is pumped so that it is mixed into a slurry. It is then transferred to an adjacent tank. The biogas gets stored in a balloon, separate from the slurry,” Kamble explains.

As governments drag their feet on action to arrest accelerating climate change, and some heads of states outright deny the authenticity of a global environmental crisis, it falls to individuals to create effective decentralised solutions. We hope that Parag Modi’s initiative inspires more people and collectives across the country to take up the cudgels on behalf of our planet.

Article by Madhura Chakraborty

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