A landmark citizen-led cleanup of the iconic River Ganges is to be launched by the Earth Day Network as part of worldwide plans to mark the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.
The initiative, which got underway on April 13 as part of Earth Day 2019, began on Vaisakhi—the Hindu New Year for many in India —high in the Himalayan mountains at Devaprayag where two glacier-fed streams meet to form India’s most famous and sacred river.
This first phase will evolve over the next 15 months to encompass 100 cities and towns close to the Ganges—known as the Ganga in India– as it meanders to the famous Sunderbans Delta.
A Global Clean Up Movement
The launch of the first phase coordinated by Earth Day India and NGO partner Lok Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan (LPSS), comes as major cleanups are planned during the month of April in countries across the globe including the United States, where more than 2,000 cleanups are taking place from American Samoa and Asheville North Carolina to Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Portland, Seattle and Honolulu.
Many of these are expected to join the even bigger 50th anniversary Great Global Cleanup planned for 2020.
Kathleen Rogers, President of Earth Day Network, said: “The project on the Ganges will serve as a lightning rod for many more countries and communities to get involved worldwide. As we transition into Earth Day 2020, we will mark the anniversary with a myriad of events including what we are calling the Great Global Cleanup—so watch this space”.
“For millions of people, cleanups foster a sense of practical pride in their local environment while serving as an entry point and a springboard for many people—young and old—to become environmentally engaged and delve deeper into what is happening to our world, its nature, and its environment,” she added.
Anil Arora, Director of Partnerships, Earth Day Network added: ‘’This is a people’s movement that will help those at the grassroots level understand better that keeping the Holy Ganges clean is beneficial to them. It will make them a part of the movement to keep it clean. While on the policy level, the government has several schemes in place to clean the Ganges, this will be a bottom-up approach in support of the government initiatives.’’
Karuna Singh, Earth Day Network’s Regional Director Asia and Country Director in India, added: “Clean up of the Ganges has a potentially significant role to play. Take plastics as just one barometer – according to the World Economic Forum, ninety percent of plastic pollution in the ocean comes from ten rivers, eight of which are in Asia and two in India – including the Ganges.”
Ganges Clean Up 2019
The first phase of the project, which will be inaugurated by the celebrated Indian environmentalist Dr. Anil Prakash Joshi, popularly known as “The Mountain Man,” will involve hundreds of mendicants that inhabit the areas as well as students, village women, and other concerned citizens collecting garbage.
It has been agreed that the collected waste will be handed over to the municipal corporations for proper disposal. The launch will also see the involvement of several Ashrams or Indian monasteries or temples, with senior monks pledging their support, given the Ganges’s powerful religious connections.
This first phase will cover an estimated 105 kilometers, ending in Haridwar. Throughout the journey, volunteers with LPSS will hold public events to build awareness on the impact on the environment, human health, and wildlife of non-biodegradable waste such as plastic while leaving a legacy of action among local people on the benefits of better waste management.
India’s Plans for the Great Global Clean Up into 2020
The second, more extensive phase, is planned to launch later in the year and run into 2020 and will include the most populous cities of India such as Varanas, Patna, and Kolkata, before ending in the Sunderbans, a UNESCO World heritage site and major reserve for the endangered Bengal tiger noted for its internationally-important mangroves.
Aside from cleanups, campaigns to protect endangered species and increase the green cover will also form part of the initiative.