This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Earth Day Network India. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Transforming A Cesspool Into A Garden: Reusing Waste Water

More from Earth Day Network India

WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

This article was originally published by Earth Day Network – India in its eBook ‘Pathways to Green India: Innovative Ideas From Students, Volume 1′.

The NGO Sankalp Sanskritik Samiti has as its focus state, Chhattisgarh. Its officials are regularly invited to government schools there to teach students about hygiene. Often during their visits, they would notice the detestable conditions around the school’s hand pumps. A floating mess of food and other particles, the result of washing hands and utensils, combined with water that leaked out every time the hand pump was cranked, formed nauseating cesspools around the pump.

The NGO team decided that something had to be done to ensure that the hand pump areas were not slushy, nor infested with flies and mosquitoes. A thought struck them. Could this run off of waste water be diverted to grow things? An out-of-the-box idea but there was no harm in trying it out, the team thought. Students could be taught to grow things on the irrigated plots. They could also learn about the nutritional value of each of these, and, best of all, have the pleasure of enjoying fresh, naturally cultivated fruit, vegetables and herbs. All this, in addition to clean surroundings!

The Sankalp Sanskritik Samiti team approached the administrator of the Rajeshwari Karuna Higher Secondary School at Rajnandgaon, who agreed to give the experiment a try. He invited the team to address the students and explain to them how implementing the idea would have so many benefits. “There would be no filth around the hand pump area, nor would the students have to hold their noses to block out the usual stench. Breeding of disease-carrying vectors would reduce. And imagine, a garden in place of a cesspool, and fresh produce available for free,” the team explained. The students were convinced.

Now came the catch. The NGO and the school’s administration were certain about one thing: the students had to take full responsibility and do everything themselves from start to finish. It would have been easy for the Sankalp Sanskritik Samiti team to provide a little seed capital and do the initial work. But no! The onus would be on the students to work toward raising funds; digging and cementing the flow channels from the pumps to the designated plots; arranging for saplings; learning how to choose healthy plants; understanding when best to plant; working out water, compost, and fertilizer requirements; recognizing the best time to pluck; and studying the nutritional value of each of the produce. It had to be totally their effort.

Image from Sankalp Sanskritik Samiti Facebook Page

The collection of funds was the first step and this took time. ₹1 per month was all each student could spare as the majority of them came from lesser-privileged sections of society. Next came the task of procuring saplings. The students took the help of the team from Sankalp Sanskritik Samiti to shortlist government forests and horticultural departments that gave away free saplings during the Van Mahotsav (forest festival). They then began the process of visiting these offices. Often the students had to sacrifice their playtime and instead trudge down to the offices to request for the saplings. Not all saplings came from this source. Some were bought. It was a learning experience for the students to recognize what made for a healthy plant. The students also had to know which species to choose and what was the best time to plant each.

As word spread, parents and neighbors readily came forward to lend the students implements such as spades and rakes. Students happily went about preparing the soil, and then planting and caring for the saplings. For them, it was great to be outdoors instead of being cooped up in their classrooms. Compost pits were also created so natural fertilizer was readily available for use.

By now, the first few harvests have been reaped. Senior students who have been working on the project for a number of years are now instructors for the juniors. The area is transformed today. Fruit trees and vegetables are seen on patches that were once cesspools. Students are now aware of ways to make the best use of waste water to grow things, a knowledge they can put to good use when they go back to their villages. Mosquitoes and flies have been forced to vacate the space. Students from other schools come to see this innovative process of turning a cesspool into a garden and get inspired to do the same in their schools as well. A truly environment-friendly effort that is green and clean simultaneously!

You must be to comment.

More from Earth Day Network India

Similar Posts

By Sawan

By Saumya Rastogi

By Charkha features

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below