In conversation with environmental activist Amarjyoti Kashyap
On June 5 last, the entire world got together to celebrate World Environment Day. Enlightened citizens from different walks of life, all over the world, got together to celebrate this annual day dedicated to our environment and took a pledge for its conservation and to save it from further degradation. We are sure that you, our readers, must also have contributed towards the cause of conservation of our environment if your own unique way. If, in any case, you have been left out, then we request you to pause for a moment and think about it for a moment because our planet really needs your care and support at this juncture.
As the need for conservation of our environment remains fresh in our memories and mind-sets, in this issue of melange we would like to highlight the efforts of one particular environmental warrior in our midst; a man who has been tirelessly spearheading a campaign to conserve nature and to harness our environment to make optimum utilization of our natural resources. A highly dynamic environmental scientist and innovator, he has conceived and developed a number of brilliant innovations which has opened new vistas in the recycling of solid waste management.
We are talking about prominent environmental crusader, activist and innovator Amarjyoti Kashyap. The chief functionary of ENVIRON – a NGO dedicated towards the cause of Environmental Management and Sustainable Development, he has been tirelessly working towards finding new sustainable and innovative approaches towards managing and conserving our environment. A Post-Graduate degree holder in Environmental Science, he has developed and invented some simplified ways and technology for successful Solid Waste Management practice, like’Household Plastic Craft’: to utilize plastic waste at source; ‘Waste Assimilator’: for the management of biodegradable solid waste at source and ‘Money Earning Litterbin’: for the source segregation of plastic waste, ‘SeujBahan’ for door-to-door collection of segregated plastic waste, etc.
It may be mentioned here that AmarjyotiKashyaphad spent 10 long and fruitful years in the teaching profession before he got fully involved as an environmental activist. He worked in the Department of Environmental Science under GauhatiUnivarsity for 10 years, completed his Ph.D. research work in Environmental Science (Solid Waste Management) from the same university and participated in different seminars and workshops where he presented and published numerous scientific papers – to be precise, seven (7) in National Seminars and three (3) in International Seminars. Dr.Kashyap has also given editorial support on the ‘STATE OF ENVIRONMENT REPORT’ published by the Assam Science Technology and Environment Council (ASTECT) and has also published different articles on environmental management at regular intervals.
In view of his path-breaking innovation in the field of environmental management, he also received the prestigious Millennium Alliance National Innovation Award (Round-4) under the segment of Water and Sanitation.ENVIRON has also received the national Level ‘3R Excellence Award’ from the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, Govt. of India for exemplary work in the area of Waste Management through 3R (Reduce, Reuse and Recycle) in the 8th Regional 3R Forum in Asia and the Pacific earlier this year.
Kashyap is regularly invited as an expert on environmental management by various organizations like the Department of Administrative Reforms & Public Grievances, Govt. of India; Public Health Engineering Department, Govt. of Assam; Assam Science Society, Assam; Assam Engineering College, Guwahati, Assam; Assam Institute of Management, Guwahati, Assam; World Bank Project (Solid &Liquid Waste Management), Bosco Integrated Development Society (BIDS), Shillong, Meghalaya; ADITHI, Danapur, Patna etc.
In an absorbing discussion with melange, AmarjyotiKashyap spoke about his childhood and his activities towards management and conservation of our environment. Following are excerpts.
Q. Please give us a brief summary about your innovations till date, beginning with the Waste Assimilator, and the activities of Environ.
Ans: The present scenario of mixing plastic waste along with biodegradable solid waste has ruined entire solid waste management efforts and has led to development of huge wastelands and toxic lands in the country. The Waste Assimilator was conceived as a tool to manage all household-generated biodegradable solid waste within the residential campus. The invention is generating the concept of producing ‘bio-pest repellant’ and ‘organic manure’ in the form of ‘Micronutrients’, ‘Vermiwash’ and finally ‘Vermicompost’ at household level from daily generated biodegradable solid waste. This is also inspiring people to embrace the concept of organic farming.Up to 80% of the domestic solid waste problem can be solved through this assimilator. On the other hand, bigger size community Waste Assimilators can manage the entire community’s or market-generated biodegradable solid waste at source.
Secondly, we have also introduced domestic ‘Organic Green Tea Gardening’ to generate individual interest in solid waste management. Due to pest infestation which normally occurs in our tea gardens, the ‘tea’ grown in Assam is becoming toxic.To overcome this problem, ENVIRON has developed a simplified technology for producing ‘Organic Green Tea’ at the household level. As the soil and climatic condition of Assam is suitable for growing the tea plant, every household can plant it for their health and economic benefits which will in return also develop a beautiful green garden.
We also started a campaign for door-to-door collection of segregated plastic waste in Goalpara district of Assam. We have observed that until and unless people receive some benefit, they never accept any additional burden in their lifestyle and generally refrain from participating in source segregation of non-biodegradable solid waste. Therefore, for successful segregation of waste material and efficient solid waste management, ENVIRON has introduced an innovative approach of door-to-door collection of non-biodegradable solid waste, chiefly plastic waste,in lieu ofginger and garlic through a specially designed van named as ‘SeujBahan’.
ENVIRON is also promoting different handicraft products produced from light-weight plastic waste like plastic carry bags, different plastic pouches, gift wrappers, etc. A variety of garlands, table mats, table top containers, chair backs and mattresses, along with different decorative and useful household items, are now produced under the aegis of Environ. ENVIRON is also promoting the concept of ‘Money Earning Litterbin’ for efficient source segregation of plastic waste.
Q. Please tell us about your childhood and how you became interested in the field of environment management?
Ans: I was born and brought up in Happyvilla area of Uzanbazar of Guwahati. I am the youngest of four brothers and sisters, with my sister being the eldest. I began my educational journey from HappyvillaParthamikVidyalaya and completed my schooling from Lal Singh Academy. I then studied my HS from Cotton Collegiate and graduated from Cotton College. After completing my Masters in Environmental Science from GauhatiUnversity, I applied for the P.hd degree from the same department which I completed successfully. I initially joined the teaching sector as a professor in LalitChandra Bharali College and then as a guest faculty in GauhatiUniversiry.In 2004, I finally decided to quit the teaching profession and set up the non-governmental organization, Environ.
Q. How did you develop an interest in environmental management?
Ans: I guess my interest in environmental management grew when I joined Lalita Chandra Bharali College in 1999. I had joined the college as a faculty of environmental science and it was during this period that I got interested in the field of environment management. I began to think a bit deeply about our conservation methods and found some loopholes in our thinking process. The inherent desire to plug those loopholes led me to start Environ, which is a combination of a think-tank body and a non-governmental organization.
Q. Please tell us a bit about Environ.
Ans: Each one of us wants to work for the betterment of society but most of don’t know how to. Environ is a collective of people who want to harness our natural resources and environment for our socio-economic development. We have embraced people from all walks of life – be it students or trained professionals – and have laid special emphasis on teaching and supporting our womenfolk about various environmental management measures.
Nowadays we hear a lot of people talk about environmental conservation. But we believe that we will be able to achieve our desired results only when we study about our environment more deeply and work towards harnessing it for greater socio-economic benefit. Everyone talks about conservation of DeeporBeel and as a result, it has become marked as a secluded zone which is on the brink of extinction. Instead of marking it as a wildlife sanctuary, we should have laid more emphasis on the cultivation and trade of Dal Makhana, which is found in the water body. If we had done so, DeeporBeel would have been a flourishing market by now.
Q. Please tell us a bit about your family.
Ans: My family comprises of my wife Dr.RuliBorthakur, who is currently working as anAssociate Professor in Arya Vidyapeeth College. We have a son, AbhigyanKashyap, who is studying engineering in Vellore.
Q. World Environment Day was celebrated with much fanfare recently. This time it was heartening to see the widespread participation of the new generation which had come all out for the conservation of our environment. Do you have any message for our upcoming generation?
Ans: Our new generation has a major role to play in the conservation and management of our environment. They have shown a very positive mindset and I really appreciate their good intentions. However, I appeal to them to think more deeply about a subject before getting fully involved init – be it in the field of afforestation, waste management or anything else in their lives.