Ganges River, Hindi Ganga, great river of the plains of the northern Indian subcontinent. Although officially as well as popularly called the Ganga in Hindi and in other Indian languages, internationally it is known by its conventional name, the Ganges. From time immemorial it has been the holy river of Hinduism. For most of its course it is a wide and sluggish stream, flowing through one of the most fertile and densely populated regions in the world. People think Ganga can take care of my sins, can take care of anything, and they forget that while Ganga can take care of our sins it cannot take care of our waste, of our pollution. We are always fed with the notion that industries are polluting our rivers and most of the times we end up feeling 'nothing can be done about it' or 'the government should take some action' etc. But rarely do we think of flowers as a source of pollution.
Flowers are a part of both festive and solemn occasions. Flowers play an integral role in weddings and often are the focal piece in a weddings design. The flowers which are offered by devotees in the temples, churches, gurudwaras, mosques etc, left unused flowers cannot be dumped into the garbage once they wilted as because many religious beliefs that the flower which are offered during prayers are sacrosanct. Sadly, these sacred flowers rot in rivers killing fishes creating havoc in the fragile eco sphere of the water body and cause enormous pollution. The pesticides and chemical fertilizers used to grow flowers mixes with the river water making it highly toxic. Thus it generates flower waste and impact on environmental pollution.
India has about 6,38,000 villages, 5000 towns and 400 big cities. A Tamil proverb says DON’T LIVE IN A TOWN WHERE THERE IS NO TEMPLE. A Sanskrit proverb says SEEING A TEMPLE TOWER GIVES YOU A 10 MILLION GOOD THINGS.
The number of Hindu temples in India is a real puzzle. The Government data shows that we have a readily available list of 1,08,000 temples. But our estimate is that we have at least 6,00,000 temples. WE always tend to blame the industrial waste but never give a think to FLOWER POLLUTION. Imagine the amount of flower being used at these temples and then being sent to water bodies for disposal!.
It is a common sight in India to see heaps of garlands and flowers that adorned a deity lying dumped outside many places of worship, trampled by humans, animals and swamped with flies. Some throw the flowers in rivers and stagnant water bodies contaminating and choking them. In order to overcome all these situations Phool came up with the idea to prevent flower pollution.
Phool was started solely to preserve the country’s rivers by ‘flower cycling’ the waste from places of worship into bio-fertilisers and lifestyle products.
We are preserving River Ganges from becoming a religious sewer by flower cycling the waste from temples and mosques into patented lifestyle products providing livelihoods to 1200 rural families.
Every year 80,00,000 metric tonnes of waste flowers are dumped into river Ganges. Toxic Arsenic, Lead and Cadmium from the harmful farm-runoff, pesticides and insecticides used to grow flowers mixes with the river water making it highly poisonous (PH 6-8.5). These major pollutants affect lives of 400 Million people -linked to contracting dysentery, cholera, hepatitis and severe diarrhoea – which are the leading causes of child mortality across India and Bangladesh.
At Phool we collect floral waste from temples in parts of Uttar Pradesh. India thus preventing 7,600kgs waste flowers and 97kgs toxic chemicals from getting into river daily. We found that our venture could also help provide employment to women in nearby villages. To give employment to women, Phool set up Self Help Groups (SHGs) so that they could engage with women in the locality who were in need of a job. Rural women have been able to help earn their living and fighting the societal dogmas. Children of the rural women Self help group have been able to get jobs with our weekly vocational training as Carpenters, Masons, Electricians. The waste is handcrafted by the rural women self help groups into patented organic fertilizers and incense sticks.
Traditionally, incense sticks are made from charcoal and a fragrance is added to it before they are packed and sold. In order to tackle this, We decided to come out with a 100 percent natural product and used powders from dried flowers to make the incense sticks. The project is selfsustaining and brings a hope to revive Ganges.
With more than 420million people who rely on it for food, water, bathing, and agriculture and not to mention the Millions of pilgrims who venture to India’s most holy of rivers each year to bathe and worship-Saving the Ganges is crucial.
River pollution, especially by religious activities can be reduced if flower offerings are collected before they get into the river and converting them into high return products. Phool make sure that Devotion does not turn into Pollution.