SHILLONG, July 11, 2017: While elsewhere the name Merry Maidens is associated with the sad tale of 19 girls turned into stone for dancing on the Sabbath during the Neolithic era, in Meghalaya the name Merry Maidens has altogether a different narrative to it which starts from rags and heads towards riches.
The Merry maidens of Shillong are not the high and mighty and no, they don’t belong to the world of glamour or music. They are a group of twenty eight women rag pickers from the landfill area of the city who were selected, trained and allowed to secure a future not just for themselves but for generations to come. And their area of operations is anybody’s guess- Marten in Shillong.
Turning garbage into gold are these women converting organic waste to sellable composites at the dumping site under the Swaach Bharat Mission, technical support from Bethany society, funding from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and supervision of the Shillong Municipal Board (SMB).
The Merry Maidens segregate the organic wastes and turn it into composites through the usage of garbage to gold granules micro-organisms that helps in the fermentation process, hastens the process of composite and turns the foul odor bearable when mixed with the organic waste which is kept inside a pit.
The marketing aspect of it is being handled by the state government and the Raj Bhawan or the Governor’s house is all in to use the waste turned resource in its garden while the Indian Council of Agriculture Research, Umiam are testing the end products.
Talking about the initiative and the Merry Maidens, Executive Director of Bethany Society, Carmo Noronha said, “The 28 ragpickers now known as Merry Maidens of Shillong were trained by Bethany Society and since they were a cheerful lot always smiling and laughing and working towards safeguarding the environment, we named them the Merry Maidens”.
Shillong city has been encountering a lot of trouble when it comes to waste management and the dumping zone Martin was overflowing with waste from the city.
“Although we live in the 21st century yet we are inefficient when it comes to waste management and the only way to do is segregate our waste and turn it into resources,” said Naronha adding, “Resources have value”.
Currently working on the landfill, the Merry Maidens are all set to make a profit of Rs 8 from the composites to be sold at Rs 10 deducting the conversion cost of Rs 2.
Stating that the aim of the project is to do away with the system of landfill which is a sign of environmental racism, Naronha said, “My aim is to make Shillong the cleanest city in the World by 2024 under CLEAN- Community Lead Environment Action Network”.
“If all localities adopt this technique of segregating organic waste and turning waste into resources and selling it, half the battle against environment degradation is won and the road towards cleaner Shillong is laid,” Naronha added.