Saturday, July 18, 2009

Operation raincoat

A group of youngsters from an NGO are renting out raincoats to tourists and devotees trekking up to Yamunotri in the Himalayas in an effort to stop pollution from plastics at the source of the Yamuna river.
Every year between the months of April and September, lakhs of devotees and tourists trek up to Yamunotri, which falls in Uttarakhand and is considered sacred by Hindus. But the huge quantity of cheap plastic raincoats that get dumped in the river by them is a huge source of environmental pollution.
Sunny Verma of Swecha, a Delhi-based environmental NGO, said: During this period, the area between Jankichatti and Yamunotri receives rainfall almost everyday. Because of this, people visiting the place buy cheap quality raincoats that are easily available in shops.”
The raincoats may be cheap, worth Rs.20-25, but of such bad quality that they don’t even last a second wash! Therefore, after the trip, people simply dump the raincoats, polluting the river, Verma told IANS.
In an effort to bring this to a halt, we have set up counters near the bus stop where the pilgrims and others get off and start their trek and distribute better quality, rubber raincoats on a rental basis. Since we are doing this with the help of local people, it’s a venture that is earning them profit too, he added.
According to Swecha, at the moment 500-700 pilgrims and tourists are trekking to Yamunotri everyday. But this could go up to 1,000-1,500 per day by the month end.
We have enough supplies and since we rent out these raincoats at just Rs.10, the venture has kicked off well. To make this a long term venture, we approached the district magistrate who wrote to police officials as well as the zila panchayat to help us implement the same, Verma said.
Realising that local involvement is most crucial for the venture to work, the volunteers have trained boys from nearby villages in carrying on the work even after the NGO leaves.
It’s sad that despite a ban on plastics in Uttarakhand, it is not well implemented. Ultimately we would want to replace the plastic raincoats with eco-friendly material. We have written to the environment ministry as well as the state government regarding this matter, he added.
#Chennai - Another cloudy day with high winds.