Tens of millions of devotees gather on the banks of the Ganga to participate in the Kumbh Mela, the largest religious congregation of people in the world.
The 55-day affair, which draws devotees not just from India, but across the world, has its management skills put to test. Besides crowd management, the tons of waste generated at the congregation is a task that has kept Mela authorities on their toes.
On just one day – Mauni Amavasya, the most auspicious bathing day at the Kumbh – over 700 tons of waste piled up along the banks of the Ganga, according to a report by NDTV.
The report quotes Anand Singh, one of 400 doctors who supervise the clean-up drive as saying, “We get the trash picked up from everywhere; it is loaded in trucks and driven away to a waste plant.”
But there is a positive side to the large amount of waste generated.
The waste transported out of the Mela lands at the waste management plant located 15 kilometers away. Managed by the Allahabad Waste Processing Company, the waste is sorted out into bio-degradable and non-bio degradable, which is then recycled into either manure or plastic pellets which is used to make products such as sandals and tiles, reports Time World. The rest which cannot be recycled goes to a landfill.
According to the magazine, the 2013 Kumbh generates an estimated 200 tons of waste daily, and over 100,000 people have been employed to manage the Mela. But the amount of waste generated on a daily basis has been increasing by 30%. But along with the waste, what also increases is the number of recycled products.
Not just waste. What also poses a problem is the large amount of leftover food. According to a report in The Hindu, around 10,000 Mehtars of the Bhangi Scheduled Caste, traditionally restricted to sweeping and manual scavenging, gather leftover food from across the mela and sun-dry it.
At the end of the 55-day Mela, the food will be taken back to their villages and will serve as fodder to cattle, ensuring that food does not go waste and the Mela is kept clean.
“Everyone hates the garbage around us,” Anil Srivastava, a manager at AWP told Time. “They don’t understand that it’s also money.”