Kanwariya camps in Delhi-NCR junk plastic for steel

The annual pilgrimage of the devotees of Lord Shiva now has a new mantra: beat the plastic pollution. Some of the big shivirs (camps) have taken exemplary steps: from using only steel utensils to distributing saplings.

delhi Updated: Aug 08, 2018 11:15 IST
Naina Arora
Naina Arora
Hindustan Times
Gurugram,Kanwar,Kanwar Yatra
Food distribution underway at Jai Shanker Seva Samiti’s Kanwar Shivir at Dhaula Kuan, Delhi. (HT Photo )

Kanwar yatra, the annual pilgrimage undertaken by the devotees of Lord Shiva, will conclude on Shravan Shivratri tomorrow (August 9). Like every year, 2018 also saw groups of kanwariyas passing through the city and resting at the shivirs (camps) set up for them by residents. This year, with the no-plastic sentiment sweeping across the country — several state governments are taking various measures — some of the big shivirs are showing the rest of Delhi-NCR a way out of the plastic mess.

At these shivirs, the organisers have shunned all plastic plates and containers, choosing steel ones instead. Some of them are also distributing saplings to the kanwariyas, to take back after the yatra, or plant them before leaving the capital. This is akin to sending out a prayer for the environment. At some shivirs, local people distributed bags made of cloth for packing belongings, further cutting down on plastic.

Kanwariyas eat in stainless steel utensils in Gurugram. (HT Photo )

“Little drops of water make a mighty ocean,” says Raj Kumar Saini, a corporate professional and environmental enthusiast, who has been organising a shivir in Sector 5, Gurugram, for the past 11 years. He decided to shun plastic completely this time while serving food to the kanwariyas and also do a plantation drive with them. “Every day, one reads so much about the harm done by plastic and its detrimental effects on our surroundings. But the thought of discarding plastic completely didn’t occur to me just by reading those reports,” says Saini. “I was planting saplings in Gurugram — but everywhere I went, I saw plastic more than mud. Also, each year, during the festivities, tonnes of plastic plates are used for community feasts, and they eventually end up in the landfill. So, I decided to use stainless steel utensils only and not use disposable Styrofoam utensils. The kanwariyas also appreciate our efforts; some said it’s more comfortable to eat off stainless steel bartans (utensils) as well.”

Kanwariyas plant saplings near a Kanwar Shivir in Gurugram. (HT Photo )

One shivir at Dhaula Kuan, run by Jai Shankar Seva Samiti, is also following a zero-plastic policy. Manish Garg, one of the organisers, says, “We haven’t used anything plastic at all. Day and night, we serve food and refreshments in steel utensils. Everything is prepared fresh. Each year, we try to work on the shortcomings and hope to be as environment friendly as possible... Hum 29 years se shivir laga rahe hain (We’ve been organising camps for 29 years now). When the kanwariyas come, we also encourage them to plant saplings. Because these kanwariyas travel far and wide, they could be the best messengers (for green practices). Some tell us that they’ll go back and spread awareness in their home towns and villages.”

Madanlal Mangla, organiser of Delhi’s 18th Vishal Kanwar Seva Shivir at Dhaula Kuan, cites how the shivir has exchanged short-term convenience for the long-term health of the environment. He says, “Earlier, when we didn’t have people to wash glasses, we’d use plastic glasses. But we’ve stopped doing that now. Our steel utensils are cleaned day and night at the camp. Tea, water, and food are served in steel glasses and plates only. We aren’t even using any plastic spoons. This is being appreciated a lot. Some kanwariyas tell us that this is more comfortable than plastic plates; some say they’ve seen this happening at a few other shivirs. But what really felt like a reward was when this group of friends, who’re taking kanwariyas to their village, said that they’d tell their people how disposable utensils harm our environment. One of them said that people in his village don’t know how harmful plastic plates are.”

Abhishek Yadav, a kanwariya from Gurugram, lauds these efforts. “Steel ke bartan se gandagi nahin phail rahi aur khana bhi asan hai inn bartan mei (Steel utensils don’t add to the garbage, and it’s easier to eat off steel plates). Plastic ke bartan phir jalaya jata hai, isse pollution bhi nahin hoga (Plastic utensils are finally burnt, polluting the air; but this won’t cause any pollution). I’m happy to see this change. Even during my stay at the ISBT shivir, we were served water and milk in steel glasses,” he says, appearing ready to spread the word further.

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First Published: Aug 08, 2018 11:12 IST