Published: 23rd August 2019
This trio is using 'trashed' plastic bottles to create greenhouses in Ladakh to grow crops all year
Plastic waste left by tourists, mostly bikers, is a major problem people of the valley are struggling to solve. Now, it can be put to good use for farmers in the region
With all the tourists trooping through Ladakh in the past couple of decades, it's safe to say that their plastic problem has grown into piles and piles of landfills. There's also the other problem of farmers not being able to grow stuff all year around because of the biting cold. Jigmet Singge, a native of the village of Chemday, in Ladakh, joined hands with architect Nischita Bysani from Bengaluru and Akshata Pradhan from Shillong to form Agrow — to solve the problem of vegetation all-year-round in Ladakh by putting the plastic waste to some use.
The team has built a greenhouse at half the cost but with eco-bricks — which use the plastic in a positive way. "An eco-brick is nothing but a plastic bottle stuffed – as tightly as possible – with plastic, sand or fodder,” explained Akshata. “This will be insulating, tough and serve as the perfect greenhouse,” she added. Jigmet who was born in Leh and has spent all his life in Ladakh feels that the farmers here can be more self-sufficient if they can produce crops that are enough for consumption throughout the year.
These three Naropa Fellows have now been picked up to go to IIT Mandi to carry on their work. Naropa Fellowship, founded in 2018 is a one-year, fully residential, post-graduate, academic programme by His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche and Dr Pramath Raj Sinha, the founding dean of the Indian School of Business (ISB), Hyderabad intends to focus on creating and nurturing agents of change who will work towards building a sustainable socio-economic environment in Ladakh and the greater Himalayas. The fellowship is designed to address the issues of unemployment, lack of professional skills, and gradual cultural erosion in Ladakhi and the Himalayan societies. The current Naropa campus is located at Hemis, a village 45 kms away from Leh.
Using these bricks it costs around Rs 20,000 to set up an Agrow greenhouse. “We have spoken to the people around us and they are willing to pay us the amount provided we deliver as promised,” he said."The only problem is that it takes an hour to fill a bottle and they need 8000 for one greenhouse," said Nischita. But they are confident it would take only another month to wrap up the construction and start off for IIT Mandi.
Like the rest of the world, plastic waste has plagued Ladakh as well. "We did not have plastic wastes to start with. As the region was gradually opened to tourism we were introduced to the modern world of Maggi and Coke and along with that came the evils of plastic bottles and wrappers," said Jigmet. The locals either burn the wastes or throw it in the dustbin. But tourists are the ones they blame for just throwing away wastes along their way.
Over the years, the locals seem to have understood the importance of keeping their surroundings clean. Hotels provide trekkers with bags to throw their waste in as do the taxis. "Choglamsar, near Leh, has a recycle plant but they have restricted capacity," said Nischita. "What we are trying to do use this waste to find out a solution to our affordable greenhouse. That way it helps us sort out two problems at a time," she added.