Residents of Yamunotri are set to launch a green campaign that aims to keep the catchment area of the Yamuna River free of plastics, say campaign organisers.
The launch of the campaign will coincide with the reopening of the holy portals of the Yamunotri shrine on May 9, says Pawan Kumar Uniyal, vice chairman of the Yamunotri Temple Committee that will be spearheading the green drive.
The campaign aims to free the Yamuna River – one of the main tributaries of the Ganga, which flows through the Yamuna valley – free of plastics, he says.
“As part of the campaign, residents will discourage pilgrims and tourists visiting the shrine from using plastics by providing them with an eco-friendly alternative.”
Pilgrims and tourists will be encouraged to use carry bags made from the fiber of rambans – a plant species that survives in an environment with little water and abundantly found in the hill state–mixed with jute, he says.
“The campaign…is a sustained initiative that aims at raising awareness about the vulnerability of the Himalayan ecosystem, by encouraging pilgrims and tourists to adopt responsible practices towards reducing the impact of plastics on the fragile environment.”
Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists from across the country, who visit the state during the annual Chardham pilgrimage to the four holy shrines of Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri, leave behind heaps of plastic bottles, pouches and polythene bags that have badly scarred the religious circuit’s highly sensitive ecology.
The entire Yamuna valley has been scarred by the litter left behind by pilgrims and tourists, he says.
“This mounting plastic litter has inflicted an irreparable damage to the ecosystem of the Yamuna River as it flows into the Ganga with the first flush of rain.”
He says that even a blanket ban on the use of plastics in Yamnotri and the other Chardham shrines, has failed to curb the “plastic menace”.
Concerned over the impact of plastics on the environment, the temple committee approached three non-governmental organisations–the Sunya International, Sewa International and Women’s Development Organisation– to give shape to the initiative, he says.
“The NGO’s took care of funds and arranged for facilities to train women in the valley to make the eco-friendly bags.”
Until now, one woman each from 10 villages in the valley has been trained to make the eco-friendly carry bags, conference bags, and decorative items. The campaign also aims to give a boost to residents’ income, say activists.
“The bags will be sold to local shopkeepers so that pilgrims and tourists can purchase them and use them to carry prasad (religious offering) and for other use,” says Krishna Kanta Sharma of Women Development Organisation.
Bina Sharma of Sunya International that is funding the campaign says: “The initiative will not only discourage the use of plastic bags but will also give the much-needed boost to residents’ income.”