10,000 kids keep guard against littering in Himalayas

October 29th, 2010 - 12:38 pm ICT by IANS  

By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, Oct 29 (IANS) They may be young, but don’t get caught littering in front of them. Over 10,000 schoolchildren are virtually on the prowl in the hills of Himachal Pradesh, ready to teach a lesson or two on non-biodegradable waste.

These children, designated as “eco-monitors”, keep an eye on areas around their school to catch people who dump polythene bags, sachets, empty liquor bottles and clothes in the open.

“We have initially selected 76 schools - both private and government - where teams of students from Class 5-12 have been constituted. The teams visit the localities twice a week after school to check littering, especially of non-biodegradable items,” Madhu Soni, senior project consultant with the state pollution control board, told IANS.

Each team fans out to spread awareness on proper disposal of non-biodegradable waste.

“In case somebody is repeatedly found strewing waste in the open, the students even embarrass the violator. They have been trained to virtually force the violator to retrieve the waste and dump it at a proper place,” she said.

“If the violation continues, then the students inform their school principal. The principal further informs the deputy commissioner for penal action against defaulters,” Soni added.

All the identified schools are located in areas under 12 urban local agencies, including Shimla, Solan, Dharamsala, Una, Mandi and Nahan, where the problem of littering of non-biodegradable waste is acute.

These places are frequented by a large number of tourists, who are among the major polluters.

Ravi Sharma of the state council for science, technology and environment said the schools were roped in under phase three of the “Polythene Hatao, Paryavaran Bachao” (remove polythene, save environment) campaign of the government launched Sep 25.

He said the basic purpose of the campaign was to educate local people, vendors and tourists about the scientific disposal of waste.

“Since the launch of the campaign, people have developed a proper waste disposal sense,” he added.

Even in other government schools, students are being sensitised through eco-clubs on the need for environment protection and proper disposal of plastic waste.

On Oct 2, 2009, Himachal Pradesh banned the production, storage, use, sale and distribution of all types of polythene bags made of non-biodegradable material.

Neha Aggarwal, an “eco-monitor” in Shimla, said: “Our state is rich in nature, but sadly the people, especially the tourists, are destroying it by spreading trash. We will not allow it to happen.”

To make the campaign a success, the government has decided to award a Green Trophy to every eco-monitor. “The best performing school would be given a cash prize of Rs.25,000,” Soni said.

“The second and the third best performers would get a prize of Rs.15,000 and Rs.10,000 respectively. These would be given annually.”

In the first two stages of the campaign, 138,100 kg of plastic waste was collected from 1,757 “hotspots” in the state.

Waste plastic, including carry bags, disposable cups, laminated plastics like pouches of chips, pan masala, aluminium foil and packaging material used for biscuits, chocolates, milk and grocery items is being used in road construction.

Chief Minister Prem Kumar Dhumal, who also holds the environment portfolio, said initially people were persuaded to check the disposal of plastic waste in the open. Now the government has authorised its enforcing agencies to impose fines on offenders.

“Our aim is to make the state plastic-free and carbon neutral (removing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is put in),” he told IANS.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

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