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Creating livelihoods from waste generated by Ganesh festival

As part of the rituals surrounding Ganesh Chaturthi it is customary to collect the offerrings made to the idol and immerse them along with the idol at the end of the festival. This comes from the belief that these offerrings contain the blessings of the ritual. In Maharashtra these offerrings are called 'Nirmalya' - that which is pure and free of taint.

Amongst the offerrings one can see flowers, garlands, thermocole decorations, cloth pieces, camphor boxes, cocnuts, fruits, kumkum etc

In effect when all of this material, normally collected in a plastic bag, is immersed along with the idol it results in a large amount of water clogging and pollution. In cities where the rivers do not have a minimum flow of water this further aggravates the situation.

Since 2007 eCoexist has been working along with an NGO called Swach in Pune, which is a cooperative of ragpickers to address the environmental issues created by nirmalya and also to explore livelihood opportunities for the ragpicker women through the seggregation , collection and recycling of nirmalya.

Waste collection and seggregation : Ragpicker community

The first pilot project involved segregating the waste into compostable, recyclable and non recyclable items. The public was educated about seperating the items in their nirmalya and dropping them into seperate containers. Materials that could be recycled were then collected by the ragpickers and sold off to larger recycler 'raddiwallahs'.

In 2007 this project covered 2 ghats and in 2010  women were posted at all 16 ghats in Pune. This project has been consistently sponsored by Emcure Pharmaceuticals for the past four years.


The ragpicker women earn a daily wage for standing at the ghats as well as earn from the material they collect and recycle.

To know more details you can contact Swach at 9765999492


Recycling flowers to make natural Holi colour: Women Prisoners at Yerawada Prison

Several tonnes of waste flowers are collected as part of the nirmalya during this festival. These flowers can be segregated, the petals plucked out and dried and then powdered to create completely natural colour powder.

From 2007 to 2010 eCoexist transported the flowers collected at the ghats to the Yerwada Central Prison to create a livelihood project for the women prisoners. They were taught the process and the dried flowers that were collected were then sent to Karnataka to be added to our natural Holi colours.

This was a beautifully therapeutic project for the prisoners too as the prison workshop was covered with flowers that had been blessed by the Ganesh festival.


Composting flowers and garlands to make compost : Physically and mentally challenged youth

In 2010, as the volume of the flowers collected from the ghats increased, it was decided that a portion of it would be converted to compost. For this we invited institutions working with disability to participate. The flowers were delivered to several such organisations who were taught how to convert it into compost either for use in their own gardens or eventually to sell to their networks and earn out of it.

In 2010 the following groups participated in this project

  • Blind Boys School, Pune
  • Blind Girls School, Pune
  • Dilasa Foundation, Pune
  • Bal Kalyan Sanstha, Pune



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