Vermiculture: A Down-to-Earth Mission

IndiaThe Hindu
Online edition of India’s National Newspaper
Thursday, June 07, 2001

“EARTHWORMS ARE friends of the farmers” – this common scientific truth taught to school children can no longer be confined to science books. Dr. Sultan Ahmed Ismail, Director, Institute of Research in Soil Biology and Biotechnology, has been successfully campaigning for natural methods of vermi-composting. An avid promoter of vermiculture, Dr. Ismail is a familiar figure in city schools. His motto is – “Catch them young”. He aims to create awareness among school children on the need to utilise agro-waste through natural composting methods and bio-friendly ways to enrich the soil. This, he feels, would make Chennai greener.

Dr. Ismail started his career as an academician in the Department of Zoology, at the New College, Chennai. He happened to stumble into research to help a student prepare for a seminar held by the Ethological Society of India, Aligarh. His interest in research grew so much that he started to study the behavioural pattern of earthworms, their relationship with the soil and their biological and physiological features.

Vermiculture, he says, is a simple procedure of maintaining and culturing earthworms which eat, defecate and multiply on wastes. The bio-wastes could be recycled through vermitech. This can solve the problem of non-utilisation of agro-wastes and also help in manufacturing compost. This simple procedure of manufacturing compost was commercialised by a Pune company.

Ismail is much sought after for his advice and suggestions on land reclamation. In a technology-dominated world, he has used modern ways to perfect the methods of breeding and composting. This effective soil preservation method can be done in both small and large areas – from pots to plots. In a city like Chennai, where four-fifths of the population live in a cluttered atmosphere, this can be a boon.

Lack of motivation among the conservancy staff, he feels is the reason for the improper utilisation of bio-degradable waste.

Solid waste management should enable both generation of energy and vermi composting, he adds.

An active member of the Exnora International, Dr. Ismail has been tirelessly spreading the message of eco-friendliness and environment cleansing. At present, he is trying to recycle domestic sewage, discharged from bathrooms and has taken up this project in the Ramakrishna Mutt, Mylapore.

The need of the hour is to educate people about effective conservation and utilisation of rain water in the city. So, where should one begin? Begin at the beginning. Hence, Dr. Ismail visits schools to seek the support of young citizens in creating a pollution-free society.