An average of 90kgs of flowers are offered up at the Siddhivinayak Temple, every day. But have you ever wondered where all these flowers go?

“I collect them and turn them into gold at my farm in Andheri,” says Prakash Dandekar. Gold!

You ask incredulously. The 60-year-old then stretches his arms out and presents what he calls the ATM box — his invention to convert wet waste into organic manure. “ATM stands for Air, Temperature and Moisture control for earthworms, the creatures that help me make rich compost.”

But before you drop the newspaper in squirmish disgust, did you know that Cleopatra was known to have declared earthworms sacred after she realised their value…in 50BC?

“I want Mumbaikars to realise the importance of these creatures. My vermiculture farms in Andheri and Mahim depend on them,” says Dandekar, holding a few worms in his hand.

The city produces 8,500 metric tonnes of garbage every day, and as Mumbai’s four dumping grounds slowly reach saturation point, the BMC’s wet and dry garbage segregation initiative has attracted the attention of housing societies.

The BMC also gives an award to the best-maintained building, and garbage separation is one of the must-haves in order to even participate.

Vermiculture, and its wriggly powerhouses, aren’t just meant for farms either; you could start one right in your home. According to Renu Jagasia, who works at an organic farm in New Jersey, USA, composting is a trend in many homes across Europe and North America. “They call it green gold in the US, because it makes people rich,” she says.

The process, which takes three months to complete, is simple and doesn’t require too much effort. “Instead of paying the BMC Rs200 per month for collection of their wet garbage, many organisations prefer recycling,” says Dandekar.

But Dandekar is worried. He claims that the rapid urbanisation of the city has led to a decline in the population of rain worms.

And although a campaign to Save the Earthworm doesn’t seem to be on the horizon, citizens would do well to start looking into the merits of vermiculture, after all, there could be a pot of gold waiting for you at the end.

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