On the Litter Free India Movement, by Ripu Daman Bevli
Do you observe the horrific images during festivals, carnivals, in bazaars, public places etc.? Yes I am talking about all the trash around. Littering is a habit to throwing blatantly one’s trash on the roads, public places, any place irrespective of whether it is a trash bin or not. The menace has been compounded with the advent of plastic which is non-biodegradable and remains in the environment for thousands of years.
It is interesting to see how the daily door-to-door garbage collection does not help the issue. It needs social campaign akin to ‘Swachh Bharat’ at ground level where good habits and practices are awarded and offenders are punished suitably. There has to be empowered social governance to make Litter Free India a reality.
Let’s look at the example of how most of the travelling in Delhi metro do not litter; but the same people might not feel the same responsibility at railway stations. The plausible solution lies in a public-private-Government partnership -raising awareness in public, getting responsible corporates to join hands and innovate and the Government to put strict laws and ensuring they get executed on ground. Take the example of spitting. Now that people have realized that it could be fatal during the pandemic, the Government has put a blanket ban on it. We all know littering is harmful for us, animals and the environment. Do we really need another crisis before we stop this menace?
Education, monitoring and proliferation of installed garbage cans is the three-pronged approach that can just begin to address the mind-set change of nearly 1.4 billion population. There is a need for a hard push to change the behaviour pattern. Also we need to set examples for people to follow. In 2019, I ran and cleaned up across 50 cities in as many days with thousands joining us in every city. By the end of that campaign, we had cleaned up more than 3000 KGs of litter across the country. Such public driven movements along with fines and suitable incentivisation by the Government may just do the trick.
According to a study by the Central Pollution Control Board across 60 cities, India generated 26000 tonnes of plastic waste everyday out of which 40% never gets collected. You can imagine the state of affairs in village and small towns. We are already dealing with a major crisis and our habit of littering makes it worse.
The other critical step is to set the right examples for our kids. For this we need structural changes in the curriculum to add more practical environment related studies. One of things I do, is to take Trash Workout workshops with schools across the country tackling the mind-set of littering with a holistic fitness activity. The motto of these workshops is, ‘ When you bend down to pick up somebody else’s litter, you will not litter again’
We also give them Plastic Upvaas pledge motivating them to start by shunning one single use item from their lives. As the habit grows on them, they can make more sustainable choices.
The entire fight against littering is becoming more relevant as today society has started grappling with discarded masks and gloves, with no regard whatsoever about the street animals, dwellers and marine life. I want to remind everyone that everything on the Earth is connected and Corona is the best example. The virus was in a couple of species of animals for ages and today, the same virus is threatening the existence of the entire human race. It it time we realize our choices can harm us more than anyone and start living sustainably in harmony with the nature.