WEST BENGAL PROJECTS
The DD project within the peri-urban wetland community of the East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW) who saw wastewater as a nutrient – something to be preserved as it enhanced their livelihood opportunities – and worked to meticulously use wastewater through an elaborate set of management practices that perpetuated their livelihood security. At the same time, they had a very unique, albeit rustic sense of aesthetics which expressed itself in their overall work of recovering resources from wastewater through pisciculture and vegetable farming. Over time and with learning from experience, they evolved a rich body of traditional knowledge which they preserved through their management practices. They had an experiential understanding of the scientific issues involved in this form of sewage-fed world of food growing. Late ecologist Dhrubajyoti Ghosh called this story of these wetlands an instance of living creatively with nature.
Unaware of EKW relevance and potential to sustain the wetland community and Kolkata in future, people don’t realize it’s growing crisis and urgency of the situation. DD objective is combining pedagogy and innovation to raise awareness as well as build a constituency among the youth and community for conservation of these unique wastewater wetlands. It also seeks to evolve new alternatives of utilising local waste and developing a new language of artistic engagements and interactions through a series of installations.
A SUSTAINABLE DIALOGUE: ENGAGEMENT WITH THE YOUTH
In September 2019, we organized an exhibition at the Kolkata Centre for Creativity - prominent exhibition space. The event was successful in creating a moment that bridged previously unconnected parts and discourses of Kolkata. The exhibition was inaugurated by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany, Kolkata, along with our partnering organizations- SCOPE, SAVE, EDN, SOCEO, ACTS, WOW, KCC etc. The collaborative works within the exhibition successfully engaged visitors into participatory dialogues fostering exchange between the city and its periphery. With collaterals as guided walk through, film show, talks and school presentation the exhibition created interests and awareness around art activism for social change and environmental conversation across generations. Through the Youth Forum we wanted to generated motivation for collective environmental action. Our previous experiences has foregrounded a group of extremely passionate, motivated youth amongst both the EKW and the city youth- who are keen and committed to safeguard the environment. We thus hope that the youth can take up the role of ambassadors for positive social change. This is imagined in the form of a collaborative platform of action and interaction amongst the city and the EKW community youth to interact, innovate and present solutions based on the observations and learnings from their surrounding environments and the EKW.
Read from the e-newspaper version of the above article here.
EAST KOLKATA WETLANDS ECOSYSTEM
The East Kolkata Wetlands, spread over 12,500 hectares on the eastern fringe of Kolkata, are the largest stretch of sewage-fed wetlands in the world. They treat our city’s sewage through natural biological methods, recovering the nutrients of domestic sewage through successive practices of growing fish, vegetables and paddy.
They save sewage treatment costs for the city. They also help recycle our solid waste. Wise use and re-use of waste earned these wetlands the recognition of a Ramsar site, a Wetland of International Importance.
The wetland community attached to these wetlands possesses a unique knowledge not found anywhere else in the world. These wetlands perform the threefold functions of producing food, treating sewage and helping in drainage.
COLLABORATIONS WITH EAST KOLKATA WETLANDS GOVERNMENT SCHOOLS
Rather than taking a developmentalist approach and focusing on needs, the collaborative process was structured to build on existing and emergent community assets including skills, local knowledge, cultural practices, history and heritage, natural resources and networks.
In collaboration with local government schools Kheyadah High School, Bamanghata High School, along with Nayabad High School and Choubhaga High School we hope to empower the community and youth to take pride in the EKW and stop it from disappearing.
The youth of these communities who also happen to be first generation learners have no means of using their newly acquired knowledge in a way that is compatible with their culture, in order to develop something substantial for sustaining their livelihoods and communities. The project has been about exploring new dialogues, opening newer dimensions hoping to empower the community youth.
Our approach was to evolve a new pedagogy involving ecological learning that serves to better connect with the ecosystem in which the youth reside. So the idea was to take stock of local environmental challenges and convert them into opportunities of livelihood-based learning for the youth.
To promote the story of wastewater – DD collaborated with patachitrakar Mamoni and Samir Chitrakar from Pingla village, W.B to weave the importance of the sewage canals, their wise use by the community and their degrading conditions due to dangers of abuse faced by EKW and their catchment areas – which are either being encroached or indiscriminately dumped with the city’s solid waste.
KNOW WASTE WORKSHOPS
KNOW WASTE under Disappearing Dialogues Collective aims to facilitate environmental awareness and conservation of East Kolkata Wetlands (EKW), along with promoting waste management and waste reduction through a series of interactive workshops, engaging the wetland community youth through art, innovation and performance.
There were a series of workshops with the school children on how to deal with organic waste and inorganic waste like handmade paper making from waste banana stem; herbal gardens from waste plastic bottles; making musical instruments using waste materials; art and nature explorer workshops.