Punekar’s Mega Clean up drive on 28th December
In the midst of Christmas celebrations, preparing for New Year and a general festive mood of Punekars, I am sure tomorrow’s newspapers will have extensive coverage of the Plogathon 2020 mega event.
Plogging is an activity which combines jogging and collecting trash along the way. A plogathon is a plogging marathon.
Enthusiastic and festive Punekars participated in the drive organized by PMC, and many NGOs were part of it. The PMC had invited Jeevitnadi too to participate in the plogathon.
Like every Saturday, Jeevitnadi’s River Warrior team arrived at the scheduled time at the beautiful heritage site “Waghacha ghat”, near Rajiv Gandhi Bridge in Aundh. Cleaning activities are not a one-time event for us, but the urge to be with our Rivers and take care of them brings us to their banks every weekend. The last weekend of the year saw a small team as many of our volunteers are out of town for vacations.
We were welcomed by the site of street dogs meddling in the garbage, crows feasting on one garbage heap, and another big heap on the ramp near the river.
We started our usual clean-up. We had four new members today — Labheshri, Abhishek and two research students of Modern College. That was all. Neither the PMC staff nor the Adar Poonawala staff turned up today. Everyone was busy in the Plogathon, cleaning already cleaned roads and taking selfies. Sadly, the plogathon was focussed on roads and the River was not on anyone’s agenda in the so-called pristine area of Aundh. Most people have forgotten her current state, a gift from us Punekars. That is the irony of such events. Where are responsible Punekars who want to keep the city clean? Why do clean-up drives in the city not include river banks too? “Swachh Pune”, created by the PMC, could have been planned as a series of events to create awareness.
We are here because Rivers exist. It is high time that everyone understands this responsibility. Jeevitnadi’s bunch of river warriors are left with a lingering question every weekend. How long can we continue cleaning river banks? We haven’t even been able to think about cleaning the river itself, that will be another tremendous task by itself.
How long will Punekars remain irresponsible? Are we going to wait till every child in every house suffers from some chronic disease, till all senior citizens die with infections, and till all hospitals are exhausted with patients of water borne diseases? When some new epidemic takes a toll of innocent lives? Is that what we are waiting for? When are we going to wake up?
It is time for us to wake up now. Here are some actions that we can take:
1. The PMC must come up with a concrete executable plan for tracking and treating every piece of garbage, and instituting heavy fines for polluters.
2. Punekars must pay taxes or collection charges in proportion to the garbage they create; there must be a heavy tax for every piece of garbage we create. Most importantly, we must separate garbage at home.
3. Corporators must not favor their vote banks and get favored citizens exempted from fines.
4. Every piece of wet garbage must get treated at source. If we can accommodate a fridge and a washing machine in our homes, we must learn to compost and accommodate the wet garbage that we create. We must also recycle every piece of dry garbage.
5. Restaurant and hotel owners, vegetable markets, supermarkets, roadside eateries, and vegetable and fruit vendors must be fined heavily for littering in public areas. They must be part of a vigilant system, on radar. The media must publish photos and names of polluters.
6. Systems must be created for rituals like death, and also for festival celebrations.
If Indore city can put a system and citizens can obey it, if our small town neighbour Lonavla, which gets garbage from us because we go there and dirty the town, can manage it, why are so-called cultured and intellectual citizens of Pune lagging behind? Who is stopping us from being responsible for our own creation — “Garbage”?
To add to the garbage woes, we have observed a decrease in the number of migrant winter birds. The IUCN has entered the painted stork in the “near threatened” category, which is a concern for ornithologists and nature lovers.
I appeal to you, go to the nearest Riverbank. You will see your own reflection. Don’t only write Facebook posts and click selfies. Wake up, be responsible and act.
Shailaja, Jeevitnadi river warrior