India truly is a festive country. She loves to celebrate her rich history and culture, and her diverse and secular nature means that there are many different days and ways to celebrate.
These different festivals, however, all share one common vice -- and that is -- waste. The beautiful act of people coming together to celebrate age-old traditions comes with it modern problems, the likes of which we must all be conscientious of.
SWaCH, a Pune-based collective of self-employed waste-pickers that provides waste collection and management services, has been devoted to the issue of waste for over a decade. Over these years, they have worked hard to mitigate the waste generated from households, neighbourhoods, and congregations, the likes of which occur during our many festivals.
Case in point, every Ganapati Visarjan, tonnes of paper, plastic, thermocol, flowers, coconuts, fruits, and cloth accompany thousands of Ganesh idols into rivers in different cities. But for the past 10 years, SWaCH waste-pickers, with the help of citizen volunteers, have been recovering organic and inorganic waste and ensuring it enters the recycling stream.
Covering 20 locations in Pune, 200+ volunteers worked with 150 SWaCH waste-pickers and 60 SWaCH staff to divert 138 tonnes of waste away from the river, most of which comes in the form of flowers and fruit known as ‘nirmalya’, which was taken for composting. Over 32 tonnes of dry waste was diverted away for recycling and processing, and 46,525 idols were immersed into the tanks provided by the PMC and PCMC.
This year, there has been a coordinated effort with several other organisations including, eCoexist, Jeevitnadi, Reach, and The Story Station. Apart from waste-pickers, staff, and volunteers, SWaCH had the privilege of working alongside the 5 ‘Manache Ganpati’ of Pune and ensuring that the nirmalya from these revered mandals was processed in a project at P.L Deshpande Garden with the Rotary club and PMC.
Each year, SWaCH has seen an increase in the number of people voluntarily giving their nirmalya to waste-pickers, rather than immersing it in the rivers. This year, SWaCH coordinated the activity for two days: 31 August and 5 September, 2017.
The infographic below depicts the various locations and the total amount of waste collected at each ghat.
As with any citizen-driven activity, it’s important to SWaCH to gather feedback from those who volunteered, so as to refine and adapt their methods for the coming years. The response was positive, with all of the volunteers expressing an interest in participating again – while the task at hand is indeed daunting, people recognised the need for more hands on deck.
Shweta Karandikar of Jeevitnadi said, “Swach is doing such noble work. People these days are aware about conservation of environment. Almost 90% of families agreed to immerse the idol in the tank and almost everyone handed over the nirmalya to us. My daughter and I were on the Pune Central bridge near Garware College and loved the experience."
Rotarian Tushar Munshi said, “This year around too, we felt refreshed and blessed volunteering in the nirmalya collection campaign at Katraj ghat. As always the arrangement and coordination from SWaCH was impeccable and we congratulate them and their team for that. This time, we had our kids with us, and what we observed was people were more receptive to the kids in giving nirmalya and allowing them to touch the nirmalya on the idols. The enthusiasm of the kids and their inherent charm surprised people. I would suggest to encourage volunteering among schools and children. Moreover, the activity also brings awareness among this young generation.”
SWaCH thanks those who volunteered and urges citizens to participate the next time as well. Please contact +91 97659 99500 or visit www.swachcoop.com for more information.
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SWaCH Pune Seva Sahakari Sanstha Ltd. is a collective of self-employed waste-pickers that provides waste collection and management services. It is authorised by the Pune Municipal Corporation.
Banner Illustration by Anuja Pitre
Data Visualisation by Reach