Although urban civilization has brought with it modern comforts and luxuries, it also has an ugly side. Along with urbanization has come a huge quantity of ever accumulating waste. Uncovered drains with filthy smell, plastics and trash are found scattered on the roadside. This is as much a product of people’s ignorance as it is of habit. Although dumping sites and dustbins have been provided, are we making use of it?
Realizing the importance of keeping their cities clean, a humble initiative was started by the citizens of Estonia in 2008, involving all members of the society. The cleaning drive involved active participation of citizens, local authorities, private firms, cleaning operators, public figures and mass-media, who came out in bulk to clean the waste and make citizens take a more responsible stand towards keeping the environment clean. The Estionian success inspired other countries to take up a series of clean-ups in their own city. Let’s do it, as the movement is called, has now become a civic movement, touching all continents and bringing together millions of people to help make the world a much cleaner place in live in.
Let’s do it is a voluntary movement. As part of its cleaning spree, from March 24, 2012 to September 25 this year, a series of clean-up programme will be taken up across the globe, touching all continents and bringing together millions of people to clean their homes. World Cleanup 2012, is a joint volunteer action, led by the grassroot movement Let’s Do It! The aim of the movement is to connect local leaders, who are willing to engage their communities and societies to solve pressing issues through direct action and cooperation.
The movement is bringing together more than 80 countries in a World Cleanup 2012 action this year, by activating a global network of civic leaders, scientists and experts to gather the most efficient and sustainable solutions for waste handling, production and product design, applicable for communities and enterprises worldwide.
According to one of the founders of the movement, Rainer Nõlvak, “Cleaning up the waste and raising the awareness of local communities is the first step, but it's certainly not enough.” In his opinion, current global efforts have been too inefficient and too slow. “United Nations has been the platform for dealing with global waste. After 20 years, after all the climate talks, we emit globally 38 per cent more carbon-dioxide than in 1990.”
The movement leaders are now searching and discussing approaches that would integrate education, awareness raising, more efficient and sustainable waste handling models for communities, sustainable production and design into a united global bottom-up effort.
For a growing city like Guwahati, waste management has become a major problem. Open drains, trash littered on the roadside is giving the city a dismal look. The city needs a make-over. The odour of the garbage dumped on the streets owing to peoples’ negligence makes life difficult for passers-by. While it may be called ignorance of the people, an initiative like Lets do it would help to groom the city into a much better place to live in.
And the campaign has already started in Assam. Let’s Do it! Udalguri , initiated by Alexis Society- Udalguri Chapter and Sigouguri Students Council had held a day-long programme at Udalguri town on August 12, to sensitize people on the importance of keeping the town clean. The purpose of the campaign was to clean the entire Udalguri Township. Young, passionate, dedicated and highly motivated boys and girls, numbering nearly two thousand joined hands in the clean-up drive. Udalguri is the first district in the Northeast where this campaign was taken up. Before this, the campaign was successfully carried out in Lucknow, Patna, Delhi, Thanjuvar, Dhanbad and Pune.
The Udalguri initiative was based on the lines of Lets Do it! India, which sought to increase awareness and educate public, therefore improving better waste management. The clean up drive sought to:
1. Appeal people to become responsible citizens by keeping their surroundings clean and cultivating the habit of disposing the wastes at right places.
2. Help the Municipalities.
The Udalguri campaign was supported by 1,800 students volunteers from 18 educational institutions. Lt. Col Jesus Furtado of 159 Field Regiment inaugurated the cleanup campaign while Udalguri district administration along with several other organizations namely – Udalguri District Administration, Udalguri Town Committee, Udalguri Chamber’s of Commerec, NDFB(P), PHED, NRHM, Dist. Health Society, Mighty Fine Gunners 159 Field Regiment, Epitome, etc participated in the campaign. Col.DK Bose, Commanding Officer, 159 Field Regiment under Red Horns Division addressed all the participants at the open session held at Bishnu Rabha Kristi Sangha. Maihursa Boro, Regional Governor, Alexis Society NE India supervised the whole campaign.
The Lets do it! Udalguri was a result of untiring effort by Maihursa Boro, Regional governor for Alexis Society. He shared his thoughts with us in the following interview.
Q: What is your take on cleanliness and such campaigns?
Maihursa: I feel the cleanliness campaign is not only a cleanup drive; it’s something more than that. It gives real satisfaction to be a part of such campaigns. There are 100 million tons of garbage lying scattered all over the world. Waste is everywhere - in our surroundings, apartments, localities, wards, towns, cities, beaches, oceans, forests, and public places. We need to be more accountable to the society and the environment and so we took up this where all the stakeholders could come together to bring a real change in the world.
Q: The campaign was a great success in Estonia and then it was adopted in other countries. How has the outcome been so far in India?
Maihursa: Let’s do It! India was started on Let’s do it! World model, having its roots in Estonia, whose goal was to make this planet clean and healthy again! The movement started in the year 2008 where 50,000 people came together to clean up 10,000 tons of garbage in just 5 hours. This campaign was initiated and managed in India by Alexis Society, an International not-profit and non-political organization in 2008. Since then, the campaign has already been kick started in cities like New Delhi, Hyderabad, Chennai, Bengaluru, Patna, Lucknow, Pune, Thanjavur, Dhanbad, Noida, Mumbai, Patiala and Udalguri. Let’s Do It! Guwahati is on the pipeline. Apart from these cities, we are also planning more clean-up drives in various new cities across India for the year 2012.
Q: Do you feel that most people in urban cites (India) lack sincerity in keeping their cities clean?
Maihursa: Yes, I do feel that most people in urban cities hardly bother about keeping our surroundings clean.
Q: Keeping the city clean is a collective responsibility. How do you mobilize people in the Let’s do it campaign?
Maihursa: Absolutely right, keeping our planet clean is a collective responsibility because this is where we live in; our future is here. We are responsible for our litter, we are accountable for it. Let’s do it! is a completely a voluntary campaign. We invite people to join voluntarily. We look for people with an attitude to work for a cause and who wish do something good for ‘PLANET’.
Q: What solutions do you propose for a city like Guwahati?
Maihursa: When I think of my city “Guwahati”, I feel something is wrong. People are fed up with false commitments from the administration. The system needs to change first. Guwahati is calling for action and real change. The only way to do this is through dialogue, training, education and by creating awareness among people that they need to fight against the issue. So, Let’s do it! Guwahati!
Q: Alexis Society has taken up the initiative for promoting the campaign in India. As a regional governor for Northeast, what are your plans for its promotion in the region?
Maihursa: As a Regional Governor of Alexis Society, Northeast India, I feel that, to start with such type of campaigns, first of all, we need a group of motivated, friendly and some active volunteers who can work together as a team. So, my first step is to reach to those good and caring people and talk to them on the issues and then initiate it as a team in various parts of Northeast India. Let’s Do It! Udalguri was our first initiative in Northeast.
Q: How was the response of the campaign in Udalguri?
Maihursa: The response of the people in Udalguri was positive. More than 1,800 student volunteers from 16 different schools and colleges participated in the campaign. Besides, we also had the support of Government bodies like Udalguri District Administration, Udalguri Town Committee, Udalguri Chambers of Commerce, Udalguri District Health Society, NRHM, Red Horns Arty Brde, Udalguri and other professional institutions
Q: Tell us how it works.
Maihursa: For different places, we frame different strategies as per the need of the place. First of all, we invite people and build a team of some like-minded people, share their ideas and brainstorm on it. We formulate plans and then divide the lines of action among the team members. The next step is to fix the big goal that is whether the clean-up programme will be a one-day event or a series of smaller cleanup activities and finalize the cleanup date. It is very obvious that we can’t do it alone, so we also invite for prospective partners and volunteers. A partner doesn’t only mean sponsoring the event, giving money and putting their logo on our flyers; partners are the organizations who share our dreams and can join hands with us in our activity. The ultimate goal of our campaign is a clean and green planet.