- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

BOMBAY — Municipal authorities in New Delhi have devised a plan to profit from thousands of stray cattle that roam the streets of the Indian capital: They have decided to export cow dung and urine to the United States for use in farming.

The dung will be processed into compost, and the urine will be converted into a pesticide, a senior officer of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi said.

“If we can round up all of the 35,000 stray cattle from the streets of Delhi, they can produce enough dung and urine to yield 160 tons of vermicompost and 70,000 liters of biopesticide daily,” said the official, who requested anonymity.

“We have already chalked out the detailed plan to process the dung and urine, and also to export them” to the United States. Officials, however, refused to reveal details of the deal or the identities of the prospective U.S. buyers.

The civic agency is in the process of purchasing customized hydraulic trucks to catch stray cattle on the streets and transport them to shelters in and around Delhi, Municipal Commissioner Rakesh Mehta said.

“The unique initiative is intended not only to earn money, but also to address the problem of the stray cattle. Streets will become cattle-free, and the shelterless cattle will also have their own place where they will be taken care of well,” Mr. Mehta said.

The city has sought the expertise of the Morarka Foundation, a nongovernmental group specializing in the use of urban waste.

“While there is no dearth of cows in the U.S., the demand for vermicompost made from Indian cow dung there is quite high,” said Vardhman Bapna, chairman of the Morarka Foundation, which is planning to set up India’s largest vermiculture unit soon.

He said the Indian cow dung has been found superior because the American dung has a high chemical content. “Not surprisingly, we have received numerous inquiries from the U.S.,” he said.

Sanjeev Kumar, an activist supporting the project, said it would cost about $21 to produce a ton of vermicompost in India and that it would sell at $1,500 in the United States.

To maintain each of the cows, the city would spend no more than 60 cents a day, he said.

Mr. Bapna said the response from the U.S. market has been overwhelming and that the city, in fact, might find it difficult to meet the demand.

“We have already received a monthly demand of 6,000 tons [of vermicompost] from the U.S. But with 35,000 cows, at best we can produce 4,800 tons a month,” he said.

Last year, India’s Gau Seva Sangh, or Cow Protection Commission, failed in an attempt to get movie stars to endorse a line of cosmetics made from cow urine and herbs. The commission said the products, under the label “Gifts of the Gods,” would improve skin texture and reverse aging.

For generations, cow dung and urine have been used in Indian households, but their benefits have only recently been studied scientifically. Last year, Indian scientists were granted a U.S. patent to use cow urine as a fungicide.

Hindus consider the cow sacred, and cow slaughter is banned in most states in India.

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