Friday, May 22, 2009

Preparing for the Monsoons

The monsoons should arrive soon. Clinton Vaz suggests a few pre-monsoon tips to keeping your compost and recycling going through this monsoon season

Yesterday morning, as I woke up and stepped out to get the papers, I felt some tiny drops on me, and then the smell of wet earth. The unmistakable smell of the arriving monsoon. Now this is a typical Goa smell that one can smell only at the start of the monsoons, especially in the villages.

At this time of the year, everybody is busy preparing for the monsoons, a season of rainfall that could last for the next 4-5 months. Heavy rainfall can be paralyzing. The heaviest showers could be worse than standing under a shower, as the size and speed of the rain drops are sure enough to wet you to the bone in 10 second’s flat! But life in Goa still goes on, people get to work on time (mostly), houses leak a little, people still visit friends and the only change around is the raincoats and umbrellas that everybody carries.

But right now, in May, everybody’s busy getting roofs waterproofed, clay tiles replaced, and roofs ‘stitched’. Clothes lines are being restrung within homes and car wipers being fixed for the arriving rain. Similarly, you need to get a few things done for your composting and recycling too.

Harvest your Compost
Its harvest season folks! Try and harvest all the compost that you can over the next weekend! Drying compost in the monsoon is tricky, so dig deep and extract all the ready compost that you can from your composting unit. This freshly removed compost needs to be sun-dried before it’s sieved, so use the last few sunny days for that. Compost that’s sieved may be kept out in the rain, but a lot of its nutrient value would get leached away with the rain. Therefore, placing a plastic sheet over and under the pile would be a good idea. However, packing up your compost in sacks and storing it in a shaded area would be a better idea if you have the space.

Preparing for Monsoon Composting!
Composting in the monsoon is slightly different, especially in the peak of the monsoons, because of the high moisture content in the air. Too much moisture is not desirable as it extends the time required for composting to occur. Make sure that your compost bin has a waterproof roof above it. If that’s not possible, you could place a lid over the bin to reduce the direct impact of rain. You might also need side walls installed if your composting station exists in an open area. Look out for the direction in witch the rain comes from and place your anti-rain defenses in that way. The pre-monsoon showers would test your defenses, and you could make minor adjustments before the actual monsoons arrive.

Within the actual compost bin, you need a constant supply of dry absorbent material like leaves, or saw-dust to absorb the liquid matter from kitchen wet waste. This also helps balance the CN ratio. Since it is difficult to find dry leaves in the monsoons, you could stockpile dry leaves for the monsoons (for at least a couple of months) in a dry storage area. Pack your leaves in a gunny sack and then use it for the monsoons. In case you can’t do this, replace your leaves with bits of waste paper as your dry absorbent material during the monsoon season.

Make sure that your compost bin has good drainage. Excess moisture has to be drained away, so test this by pouring a bucketful of water and make the necessary adjustments. If your bin has a lower leachate collection unit, then make sure that the openings are not blocked and that you remember to empty the excess liquid at more frequent intervals once the rains arrive.

Recycling & the Monsoons
Make sure that your current stockpile of recycled materials is emptied at the recyclers. Unless you have waterproof containers, make sure that you move all your recycling bins to a dry area. Recyclable waste categories like paper, and cardboard tend to absorb moisture and gain weight. This means that these items simply weigh more than their actual weight. To compensate for this extra weight, recyclers often offer lower than usual rates for these items in the monsoons.

Plastic, Metal and Glass containers, and rubber tyres that are kept facing upwards collect rainwater and then encourage mosquitoes to breed, thereby increasing the chances for spread of vector borne diseases. To avoid this from happening, it would be a good idea to walk around your house, and around your garden and collect all your recyclable waste and place it in one area and make sure it gets recycled before the rains arrive.

Once you have done all this, you can grab and armchair, and put up your feet and enjoy the rain… or the afternoon breeze with a mancurad mango, until the rains arrive!

Clinton Vaz, 28 lives in Benaulim and works on environment and wildlife issues in Goa. He can be contacted at or +91 9890936828 This article appeared on Gomantak Times, 22nd May 2009


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