Two promising green efforts

Published May 27, 2014, 9:05 am IST
Updated Jan 10, 2016, 8:38 am IST
Two people working on a common goal to make the environment cleaner and greener
Nihar Nitin Parulekar and Sidhant Pai  (Photo: DC)
 Nihar Nitin Parulekar and Sidhant Pai (Photo: DC)

One has partnered with AP Forest Department to make zoos safer for animals, while the other has joined hands with rag-pickers to rid India of plastic waste and to make 3D printers affordable

Jungle gets a new Keeper: The citation reads: “Has rendered exemplary services for conservation and sustainable use of biological resources.”  
The recipient, Nihar Nitin Parulekar,  has worked for the welfare of wildlife for over three years and that’s why the AP State Biodiversity Board felicitated him on the International Day of Biological Diversity on  May 22.


Talking about how it all began, Nihar recalls, that what started in 2011 as a “club” is now a full-fledged organisation. Animal Rehabilitation and Protection Front (ARPF) has spread its wings across the country and is helping many zoos. “Back in 2011, I just wanted to start a club where students could  help increase awareness for wildlife,” says Nihar.

During that time, he had found  people vandalising and littering  the zoo. So he started looking for NGOs that volunteer for the zoo, so that he could help too. “But sadly, I couldn’t find any NGO. That’s when I got in touch with IFS officer Raghuveer Ponangi, the director for the AP Forest Academy. He put me in touch with the director of the zoo, Mallikarjun Rao.”

After their meeting, Nihar and his team of 18 volunteers started  patrolling the zoo, spreading animal awareness, giving people guided tours and now even rescuing wildlife. One year after  establishing their organisation, Nihar and his team branched out. “We went to Indore first, since the zoo was small, we started a small group there. After that we formed groups in Aurangabad, Pune and Odisha,” says Nihar, whose group has also started the NEST (Networking of Sparrow Conservation Teams) project.

3D printing’s lijjat papad moment: Protoprint, run by father-son duo Jayant and Sidhant Pai, is a 3D printing company that manufactures a particular filament that’s a crucial raw component used in 3D printing. In fact, this material sells for $40 in the market, putting 3D printers on a higher market shelf for everyday users — a cost Protoprint wants to do away with.

“We are hoping to make 3D printing machines as common as photocopiers. But if the raw material itself sells for that high a price, there’s no point,” says the elder Pai. And that’s when son Sidhant, now at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, had a brainwave.

India, every year, dumps a collosal 1.5 million tonnes of plastic waste. Rag-pickers then search through these dumpsites attempting to hoard enough usable waste in a bid to earn Rs 15 a day. Sidhant’s idea saw a massive cash gap in that entire operation. If a 3D printing raw material costs $40 in the market why were rag-pickers in India making just under 25 cents?

“Shampoo bottles are made of a particular type of plastic that’s good for 3D printing,” explains Jayant.
Protoprint then teamed up with co-op SWaCH — India’s first  “cooperative of self-employed waste pickers or waste collectors” — in their mission to both clean up India and make 3D printing affordable.

“Things immediately fell into place. We would make the filament and the rag-pickers would benefit by supplying the raw materials. As Protoprint grows, we’re hoping to eliminate the word ‘ragpicker’, maybe waste entrepreneur sounds better,” hopes Jayant, for a business model similar to the Lijjat papad moment.