Which church was built by British in Mumbai?

One of Mumbai’s oldest and most iconic church has made headline by announcing plans to become a recycle hub. Let us find out more about it.

St. Michael Church commonly known as Mahim Church – is one of Mumbai’s oldest and most iconic places of worship. Built in 1534, when the city was under the control of the Portuguese, the church now serves about 10,000 people in the Mahim area.

St. Michael’s is more than a sacred place for Catholics. Its special prayer services every Wednesday, called ‘novenas,’ draw people of various faiths who come to seek favours from the divine (e.g. cure for a sick relative, a good job, etc.) Many of the novena devotees bring floral garlands, candles, or other offerings. The candle wax and flowers are recycled.

The church, in fact, has become a recycling hub for a wide variety of wastes: plastic, tetra pak containers, electronics and other items. The Green Cell of the church, in partnership with other local organizations, helps with the recycling. In 2021, St. Michael Church made headlines by announcing plans to become the first place of worship to achieve carbon neutrality in two years. Of considerable importance is the 2 cubic-meter biogas unit set up on the terrace of the church building that is run on flower waste. This is the only biogas unit run on flower waste in the city. Mumbai produces an estimated 200 tons of this waste, most of which winds up in landfills. The church’s weekly feed of 35-50 kg of flowers into the biogas unit is tiny compared to the waste in the city, but it has shown the path for adding value to waste recycling.

Fertiliser production

The biogas that the unit produces is equivalent to three LPG cylinders per year (worth Rs 4.500). However, the real value to the church is not the gas, but the liquid slurry that oozes out of the biogas unit. The slurry arry is used to fertilise over a hundred plants in the church compound.

“We receive a lot of flowers as offerings. Especially on Wednesdays, when around 50,000 people come for novena prayers. Earlier, the flowers used to go to the trash cans and get added to the waste piles in landfills,” says a church spokesman. “We thought of doing something in which the flower wastes could be used to help the environment and so we decided to install a biogas plant,” he adds.

Good example

The Mahim Church’s good example could be followed by other places of worship. Collectively, they can provide an excellent platform for effecting a change in thinking and followed up by action among the millions of devotees. For example, the Sri Venkateswara Swamy temple in Tirupati Andhra Pradesh generates about seven tones of floral waste, 30-50 tones of food waste, and three tonnes of animal waste from the goshala, daily. It has been estimated that if all of these organic wastes are converted into compressed biogas, this could power some 100 local buses that carry devotees from Tirupati to Tirumala, where the temple is located, a distance of 18 kilometers. The temple authorities have begun to turn cow dung and food wastes into biogas and compost as a first step. In future, they might be able to turn biogas into compressed gas for motor vehicles.

ITC Limited, one of India’s corporate giants headquartered in Kolkata, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Tamil Nadu government to provide technical assistance to temples in waste management. As part of its ‘Green Temple Initiative’, ITC is helping 182 temples in the state to turn their flower waste into organic manure. Additionally, around 400 kg of cow dung from goshalas are turned into biogas to fuel the kitchens that prepare prasadam. This also helps the temples remain clean. A management team from ITC visited the Mahim Church to study its waste management system.

Hopefully, other corporate houses will start similar initiatives, as part of their corporate social responsibility, to assist other places of worship in addressing the challenge of managing the growing waste in the country.

Picture: credit Google

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