Last week, in the city of Faridabad in India’s Haryana state, a pregnant cow died on a busy road. Upon evaluation, it was revealed that the cow had grazed on 71 kilograms of garbage – with the plastic, iron nails, and glass pieces it had consumed injuring it internally. The sad case highlighted how unsorted waste is choking India.
Meet Vivek Gurav who lives in Pune city in Maharashtra and is famous by the name of “PlogMan” on social media. At 25 years of age, Gurav is a software engineer by profession, but before and after his nine-to-five job, the young techie jogs or walks around Pune, cleaning its streets and disposing off garbage littering the roads.
Talking to Sputnik, the public speaker revealed that he, along with a bunch of his friends, has “adopted” a small river named Indrayani to keep its water and banks from getting strangled with garbage. The Indrayani River flows just 4.2 kilometres before joining into a larger water body, and not too long ago, like Delhi’s Yamuna River, Indrayani also began to froth with toxins on its banks.
“The river Indrayani near my college was a place where I went for a daily walk with my friends in the evening. We observed people who carelessly dumped a lot of trash and plastic in the river body as well as surrounding areas. Me and my friends initially blamed the local body and government for all these actions. But I personally felt it was the moral duty of citizens including me to follow cleanliness norms and keep the city clean. That was the moment I felt a very close belonging to nature”, Gurav said while recollecting how dead fish were seen floating in the water as stray animals consumed them as well as the polluted water.
Gurav believes that it takes a sudden epiphany for youngsters to decide for a lifetime of giving back to nature and the environment.
“I appealed to my friends to join me in cleaning Indrayani. Initially some were quite resistant, some people even ridiculed the idea, completely dismissing it, but I took up this challenge and started the cleanup journey solo four years ago. In some time, a few of my friends started supporting me and we adopted River Indrayani for a mega cleanup mission”, the engineer and environmental enthusiast added.
The efforts of Gurav and his friends have been going on for seven years now and on a routine basis they clean the river region and areas around it in Pune. The river is healthier and safer for animals now, the techie adds.
“After my college days we took up the charge to not only clean rivers but all the public spaces in the city. For the last seven years, I have been waking up at five in the morning, and randomly taking on a jogging route, on which I pick-up trash as well for around 45 minutes. The realisation of knowing that you’ve done your little bit to benefit the air around you and survival resources for the stray animals – sleep comes sooner and deeper”, Gurav said with a shy smile.
Recently, a rather touching video from the Himalayan valley of Jammu and Kashmir in India created a buzz around environmental conservation on social media. The video showed some foreigners collecting roadside trash in the market area of Lalchowk in Srinagar city.
Locals who shared the footage on their social media handles acknowledged that the video testified to how their own negligence towards maintaining cleanliness in public spaces has ruined the beauty of their city.
Foreign tourists collect trash lying at roadside in Lalchowk, Srinagar. We may call it a beautiful city since our standards have gone down since years due to our own insensitivity towards cleanliness and because of official apathy. #Kashmir @SMC_Srinagar @srinagaradmin pic.twitter.com/V2P0exutS8
— Mohammad Dawood (@dawoodreports) March 10, 2021
Quite sad that we need outsiders to teach us how to keep our streets clean. Our homes are so clean but we give no hoots about our streets. House flies and diseases scale walls people!!! Plus jannat ko jannat rehne dijiyea https://t.co/cpdbnvDweG
— Mahrukh Inayet (@mahrukhinayet) March 11, 2021
In recent years, the roadside garbage situation in cities in India has been overshadowed by ignorance despite numerous incidents like the death of stray animals crying for immediate attention.
In 2017, a survey, co-researched by Chintan, the Delhi Environment Department and German NGO GIZ, claimed that India’s capital Delhi, inhabited by over 30 million residents, generates over 9,100 metric tonnes of garbage on average each year. The report also said that nearly 76 percent Delhiites wrongly believe that glass and metal are biodegradable, dump it on the roadside, and need more education on the subject.
While several individuals like Gurav, NGOs, and government programmes like the Swachh Bharat (clean India) mission are working on cleaning India, the new trend of “plogging” is seemingly picking up pace in the country. The term “plogging” was coined in Sweden in 2016 and defines the activity of “picking trash while jogging”.
“Youngsters are getting more sensitive about environment conservation in India, for sure. I am the founder of a community called Pune Ploggers, which is a group of individuals like me who all pick-up trash while jogging or walking. We have more than 4,000 ploggers across India and we are now setting up city-wise communities. Collection of more than 250 tonnes of waste in the last one year is a remarkable achievement due to the efforts of this community. With over 280 plogging drives across 22 cities in India, our community of environment enthusiasts has grown exponentially”, Gurav said.
The PlogMan from Pune has appealed to all potential climate activists in India to work every day towards passing on a greener and cleaner planet to the generations to come.
“Go zero-waste, avoid littering, manage household waste, use green alternatives for all the daily essentials, and buy only what we really need could be some simple changes we can add to all our lifestyles”, Gurav added.
The climate enthusiast noted that while India is emerging as a leader in sustainable practices like solar and electric ways of producing energy, Indians are far from fixing the real problem – accepting the crisis.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), ambient air pollution causes 4.2 million deaths every year. 91% of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds the WHO guidelines’ limits.
Bangladesh, Pakistan, Mongolia, Afghanistan, and India make for the world’s five most polluted countries, according to a report by the World Population Review.