–BY Manasa P
Travellers will tell you that there’s no sight like the Taj Mahal gleaming on a full moon night. Every year, thousands of tourists from all over the world arrive in Agra to behold — and photograph — the Mughal marvel. But along with historical monuments, there is another icon in the city.
The petha is Agra’s most famous sweet, produced and sold in thousands across the city every day. Pethas are soft, translucent candies made from winter melons, also known as ash gourd. Historical records, and the people of Agra, mention that some of the earliest instances of pethas were found in the royal kitchens during the reign of Shah Jahan. Today, hundreds of stores sprinkled across Agra offer the original pethas and their many flavoured iterations. Delicious as they are however, pethas are one of the largest sources of waste in the city.
The team at Go Get Garbage, an Agra-based waste management initiative, has taken it upon themselves to clean the mess while keeping the heritage of the petha intact.
Agra is a city of contrast, dominated by a global tourism on one hand and by low civic standards on the other, says Rahul Jain, IIT-Roorkee alumni and founder of Go Get Garbage. Along with hospitality and leather manufacturing, the petha business comprises one of the city’s key industries with staggering production — and waste — estimates.
With the number of operational petha units in the city, the quantity of petha waste generated each day is estimated at 200 tonnes.As they gained in positive response in the city, the Go Get Garbage team transformed into a full-fledged initiative, intent on providing solutions.
It is also easier to manage petha waste than one might imagine. Being made from winter melons, the waste is bio-degradable. If stored separately and kept clean, the remains of these fruits make for excellent fertilizers that replenish the soil and remove toxicity. The team have engaged with Agra’s petha manufacturing associations to convert petha waste into compost.
The team is now setting up plans for a waste treatment facility with the aim to produce upto 250 tonnes of compost or fertilizers from petha waste.
The success of the project in Agra will pave the way for similar projects in other areas.