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Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Worms Make the Earth Good

By Nabamita Mitra

Calcuttan of the Week

Name: Amales Misra

Who is he? Earthworm specialist

What does he do? He is officer-in-charge, general non-chordata section, Zoological Survey of India.  For him, earthworms are not just a species of Phylum Annelida, but a medium to help farmers.

Initial days: Misra, born and brought up in Sagardeep, joined the non-chordata (organisms without vertebrae) section at the Zoological Survey of India in 1972. “Working in this section aroused my interest in earthworms,” he says.

Worm garden: He has worked intensively on earthworms and believes that an abundance in the soil of these worms, also known as megadriles, is beneficial to the farmer or gardener.

Misra has identified how different species of the worm can be helpful in different ways. During his stay in Golf Green he set up an “earthworm garden” (kencho bagan) to process compost. He convinced the neighbours to participate.

“Instead of throwing away the daily waste into roadside bins, we convinced them to give it to us,” he says with a twinkle in his eyes.

Earthworms turned the waste into good-quality fertilisers that were used in gardening. The process was called “waste exchange programme”. Not that it caught on very much. “The response wasn’t satisfactory,” rues Misra.

At present: He went to Newcastle to study coastal management, but continued his research on earthworms. Now he is working on a project in Sagardeep in South 24-Parganas. The project, Misra’s brainchild, which he refers to as “Amar Gram”, is supported by United Nations Development Programme.

Fifteen villages are involved in the project that teaches farmers to utilise local resources. Earthworms play a vital role. They are used in the compost to make a fertiliser from bio-degradable waste, which is free from chemicals and also affordable.

“We have started 21 self-help groups that include women,” says the scientist.

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