Gandhiji once said to Baba Amte, ‘The Indian village like a woman carries the whole nation in its womb’. Water is the lifeline of any village and even a single check dam, which can be easily constructed from local materials, skill and technology, can serve as a blessing to any such Indian village.
Whatever is cast off and rejected by society is treasured in Anandwan. So also is the case with Plastic, the man made monster. Being non-biodegradable, plastic, upon creation continues to remain on the face of the earth for at least 2000 years causing environmental harm. Check Dams are a unique attempt at recycling such plastic.
The first of their kind in the world, Check Dams are constructed from vehicle tires, sand, stones, cement, bamboos and plastic microconcrete.
Plastic waste in the form of saline bottles, packaging material, X-Ray films etc is cleaned and linearly shredded and blended with conventional mortar. The inherent tenacity of plastic, imparts physical strength (micro reinforcement) to the cement concrete combine. The modified mortar and tyres are held together using bamboo treated with used mobil oil. The oil helps in warding off pests like termites. The internal steel rims of the tyres also serve as strong foundation.
It has been experimentally verified with the help of VNIT, Regional Engineering College, Nagpur that the waste material that goes into construction of check dams, does not release any kind of toxic material into the flowing water that it is used to obstruct. This water can be safely used even for consumption by cattle.
Such use of tyres and plastics on such a large scale, makes it possible to bury all unwanted plastic in the process of construction which otherwise lies useless on the roads and becomes an environmental hazard.
The pioneer behind this mission Dr. Vikas Amte, calls this unique technology ‘one up’. He proudly praises his land army of cured leprosy patients and the deaf – mute who have made this vision a reality by constructing 7 check dams on the Anandwan landscape. These check dams have now become a special attraction of Anandwan.
He says that the technology has a multiplier effect. If maimed leprosy patients can do it, Vikas says, anyone can do it!
Testimony of the immense utility of check dams is the story of a dry land farmer from Surla, a village, 5 kilometers from Anandwan. A check dam, was constructed on an experimental basis across a nallah (small canal) near his farm in 2004. Originally he was hardly able to cultivate paddy. However, today, thanks to the check dam, he is able to grow three crops annually. So much so that while his sons did not have constructive work in the past and used to wile away their time in frivolous activities, after the check dam, there is so much agricultural activity that even they have begun contributing their share of labour. Even this does not seem enough as of late, more agricultural labor is required to be hired from the rest of the village for his farm.
This is just one of the scores of such success stories!