Thursday, October 2, 2008

Laxman Jhula Divine Mega-Clean Up

Last Sunday we had a very successful public clean up event. We called it the Laxman Jhula Divine Mega-Clean Up Day. Our local reporter on the site (also the author of 99.9% of this blog) Ms. C Telfer, did a write up to submit to the English press here in India. The title is a response to the fact that there is a certain way of thinking where people

 here feel it is fine to throw plastic into the Ganges or generaly polute the local environment because "Ganga will take care of it.." or "God will take care of it.."  Hmm..:

Giving God a Helping Hand

Are you worried about how the Ganga is being desecrated and the environment destroyed by the unrestricted disposal of all kinds of waste direct into i

ts waters? Would you like to be part of the solution? Do you think it’s time to do something about this situation? Well, you are not alone.

As part of the global campaign ‘Clean up the World’, Clean Himalaya, a Rishikesh-based solid waste management NGO, organised their ‘Divine Mega Clean Up Day’ last Sunday.

The garbage on the banks of the Ganga in the Rishikesh area has reached crisis point. Not only does this disfigure this holy and beautiful place, but is a cause of pollution and disease. This has largely been caused by thoughtless and unrestricted dumping of household and business waste in the streets or directly down the slopes of the nearest ravine in thereby directly into the water.

Clean Himalaya addressed the practical issue of garbage removal on Sunday, from both the banks of the Ganga and the streets in the Laksmanjhula area. But more importantly, their main aim was to involve the local citizens and fire their enthusiasm to help protect and maintain the sanctity of their own area by keeping it clean. A variety of people took part - all volunteers. From the rafting companies who donated staff and rafts to clean sites that were inaccessible by any means other than from the Ganga itself, to the school children who gave up their free time to clear the beaches and streets. It was impossible not to be inspired.

Many people expressed their delight and support of the Clean Himalaya ‘Divine Mega Clean Up Day’ and also their regular waste management programme. Several companies did this in practical terms by signing up on the spot for Clean Himalaya’s daily garbage collections.

Clean Himalaya’s goals are to continue to expand its operation in the Ganga and Himalaya region, to develop public awareness of the importance of protecting the sacred environment and to provide an example of working together to serve the unity of all life and its future. No one is suggesting that one ‘Mega Clean Up Day’ will solve this huge problem, but in Rishikesh, at least it is a start. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Feels Like I Have Never Been Away....(Or, Only in India!)

I flew back to Delhi on 17 September - nearly 2 months to the day after returning to London. It was as if I had never been away from India!

Marc met me at the airport and we spent the day fairly quietly in Delhi, catching up and passing time before catching the sleeper train back to Rishikesh that night.

All the Indian quirkiness was still there - the press of the crowds on the pavements and the road, the noise, the smell, the filth... Now add to this a torrential rain storm (the monsoon should have been over 8 weeks ago...) and nightfall coming earlier and just as we were trying to get to the station. We were drenched before we found a taxi... but out of the rain and with plenty of time to catch the train (ha! We are getting the hang of this India thing... leave loads of time when travelling, everything always takes longer than you think it will...) we sat back and relaxed (well, as much as you can in an Indian taxi) while our intrepid driver headed off into the dark of storm, peering through fitfully-working wipers.

About half way to Old Delhi Station, while in a higgeldy-piggeldy queue at traffic lights, a traffic cop stopped and tapped on the taxi window. What had we done? Was he checking for road tax, insurance, MOT? As if these things exist in India!?! The roads would be a lot quieter if they did!!!! No, the cop wanted a lift - so he just hopped into the front seat and off we went! We had not gone very far on our journey when we passed one of the ramshackle public buses. The cop wound down his window and flagged down the bus. He then left us, got into the stationary bus and continued his journey home.... I was trying to imagine the same scenario happening in London - a PC stopping an already occupied black cab, joining the current occupants on their journey until he passes the 73 bendy bus to Seven Sisters. Leaning out of the window, he waves down the no. 73 between stops, leaves the cab without paying, jumps on the bus and heads home. Unbelievable!

Rishikesh has not changed either! Home is still Green Valley Cottage - but there is a new addition to the family! Marc has been looking after an abandoned puppy, named Bunti, for the last few weeks. But more of her later.

Still on the subject of 'only in India.....' . The first morning, while on the way to breakfast, there is a terrible smell with a trail of fetid water running away down the hill. A blocked drain - Yuk! Is Dynarod available? - no one needs them! Do it yourself plumbing is the order of the day!

The fun and games on the roads remain unchanged... It's disorganised chaos as a bewildering selection of rusting, delapidated cars, motor bikes, buses, tuk tuks, hand carts, tractors, lorries, bicyles all jostle to be first into a blind bend or a tiny space on the road through the town. The results can be nerve-wracking, either as a pedestrian or as a passenger and are also usually ear-splitting (an unimaginable cacophony of horns and bells accompany the revving engines). Occasionally, the results can be horrific. This is a bus, just visible through the jungle, which came off the road in the early hours of one morning this week. It ended up at the bottom of the ravine by the foot of the slope leading to the Clean Himalaya workshop.

Not suprisingly, some people were seriously injured - but we did not hear of any fatalities, thank goodness!