Exnora International is a wide spread environmental movement founded in 1989, focusing on mobilizing and empowering communities to participate in preserving nature and preventing environmental degradation, thereby improving the quality of life of the common man.
Founded in Chennai by renowned social activist and "master motivator of masses" Mr. M B Nirmal, Exnora International is a Non-Profit, Non-Political, Secular, Non-Governmental, Environmental Service Organisation. It was formed with the aim to realize a cleaner, greener and more enviro-friendly world. Within the 16 years of its existence it has grown into a wide spread movement covering many parts of India. Today Exnora International is a force to reckon with.
A decade and a half ago, in September 1988, Mr. M.B. Nirmal, a bank officer who also wrote about the positive experiences he had during his visits abroad in popular magazines motivated his close friends and others. They were concerned about accumulating municipal garbage in the streets with out being cleared and came to the conclusion that the solution rested with the involvement and participation of those who generated the garbage and not entirely with those who are in charge of collection and dumping (E.G. Local Body). The concept gave rise to the formation of EXNORA, a non-government organization meant to formulate and practice EXcellent, NOvel and RAdical ideas in solving problems of society involving the same people who are the sources or originators of the problems.
Till the turn of the century, issues of environmental protection and management was much the preserve of specialized environmental groups, scientists and administrators, though very often the cause of its degradation was all humanity and its impact was on every one. Exnora's fundamental philosophy is that no environmental protection or management is meaningful unless it becomes the conscious choice of all or substantially all the population.
Exnora since the start has seen that mismanagement of waste was the most important cause of environmental degradation, and that this affected the poor more than the rich. The inability of the local bodies to manage the waste was due to the sheer volume that was generated and lack of resources. This problem needed a solution that involved the participation of people who after all are generating the waste. Exnora's success was in its ability to motivate people and involve them in the sanitation of their area. This became possible by bringing them together through neighbourhood communities called Civic Exnora's. Over the past decade and a half, Exnora has been able to motivate and form thousands of Community Based Organisations (CBOs) named "Civic Exnora" across India, who took "Civic pride" in their locality, managed their waste in an environment friendly way and in part were able to participate in the governance of their locality
The focus has been on waste to wealth programs. Exnora firmly believes it is quite possible to develop different kinds of replicable models to suit different places and situations. The various prototypes developed by Exnora are indeed replicated everywhere today. The vision has been to promote sustainable human settlements, through the promotion of waste management as an income generating opportunity. Practices today by Civic Exnora's include Solid Waste Management, Liquid Waste Management, Rain Water Harvesting and Recycling among others. Participation by Civic Exnora's has been seen in all income groups. This is because member's contribution to financial expenses can be kept minimal. The extra income generated through sale of compost and recyclables will even cover the maintenance costs of the Civic Exnora.
The concept of CIVIC EXNORA was introduced first in Adyar area of Chennai in October 1988. The residents who generated garbage got together to collectively solve the problem of solid waste accumulation, by removing and relocating it, in an identified dumping place. A street beautifier was employed and given a tri-cycle to collect waste from door-to-door, all of which were funded by small subscriptions from the members in the community.
There are about 5,000 such Civic Exnoras in Chennai city and in the various Districts of Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala and a few other states of the country, covering about 30,000 streets and settlements
Each Civic Exnora functions with an expenditure of around Rs. 1500 per month- inclusive of wages to street beautifier and maintenance charges for the project. The Chennai City alone having 2000 Civic Exnoras would translate this Waste Management into a Rs. 30,00,000 turnover in the informal Solid Waste Management Sector per month and this would amount to a turnover of Rs. 3.6 Crores per annum.
The Waste Management of an area is under the purview of the local authority. Exnora has brought about the enactment of Municipal Solid Waste (Management and Handling) Rules 2000 through the Public Interest Litigation filed by Exnora in the Supreme Court. This has provided guidelines for municipal authorities to follow in waste management. Exnora has helped local authorities through consultation as well as partnership to manage Zero Waste Centers.
Exnora through its hierarchies go to streets and initiate them into Civic Exnoras, Civic Exnoras have certainly made a difference to the quality of human settlements and the living environment to the people present within its coverage. All these places are practicing composting, Solid Waste Management, Liquid Waste Management, Home Farming, Tree Planting, Energy Conservation, Waste Minimization, Rain Water Harvesting and Alternate Non Conventional Energy Sources.
Since the start, these practices have been replicated and implemented in many places. The replication and sustainability of the practices was ensured because
1. Communities were motivated first, their involvement was enlisted and they were encouraged to high levels of self-involvement.
2. Since the monetary contribution from communities could be ensured to be minimal, and on the contrary it was shown that a high level of waste management was indeed resource management, model households have generated incomes at the household level through recycling and reusing.
3. Conceptualization has helped in spreading the message and helping the communities to easily introduce major Zero Waste Management Concepts like
SoSoWaMSource Solid Waste Management
DeSoWaMDeCentralised Solid Waste Management
CeSoWaMCentralised Solid Waste Management
Various Innovative Composting Processes