Nishtha’s clean village project was started in May 2012 in Rakkar village with the aim to make people aware of how to manage their household waste. The project was inspired by Mohinder Kumar our project manager who has worked for the last 10 years with the local youth and school children conducting regular of clean up days in the area, monsoon tree plantation and vermicompost workshops. He has also been very active in holding meetings with groups of youth and women and has built a good relationship with the community.
Over the years Nishtha has set up about 10 garbage collection bins in the village in an effort to keep the village clean. However people were putting their waste into the bins without segregating it so it was a challenge to manage it. An incinerator was built for the medical and dirty waste which is still in use for our clinic waste. It was clear that a new approach focusing on educating the community how to manage their waste was needed.
In March 2012 Nishtha employed two young boys from the village Raju and Vijay and in May we started mobilization for the new project. Our village has 267 households in a one Km radius. Initially we targeted the 100 households in the upper part of the village. Maps of the village were created dividing the whole spread out village into 5 manageable areas. Hand outs were distributed and each house was visited with the aim of talking to the women and girls because they are the ones who are dealing with the house hold waste every day.
Our talks explained the problems with allowing waste plastic in particular to accumulate in the streams and fields and the damage it does to the environment and the people and animals living here. This is a relatively new and growing problem in India because 20 years ago there was very little plastic packaging and everything was wrapped in more natural materials that easily degraded when it was thrown. Therefore people don’t know what to do with their waste and either throw it or collect it and burn it which gives off dioxin which is very dangerous to health.
We encourage people to clean and collect their waste plastic from their household in bags which can then be picked up by our green-workers and brought down to the Nishtha collection point. The plastic should be kept clean and separate from food waste which can be fed to animals or composted and recyclable waste such as glass and tin which is collected by the rag pickers. The collected plastic is taken by jeep to the Public Works Department in Dharamshala who have a machine by which they can process the plastic into material to use in road construction.
After one month of intense mobilization a local young boy Arun was trained to run the programme. Arun visited each marked session every fifteen days and collected the clean plastic in a bigger bag and brought it to the Nishtha collection store. In one month we collected about 80 kg of plastic. He also talked to people regularly, encouraging them to collect the waste and assuring them that he will come and pick it up. It took time to get people to start, but after regularly visiting the finally people began to understand the benefits and kept their plastic waste aside. The effect on the village is very obvious. The project continues with our current employees and volunteers when available.