This Man’s Initiative Has Cleaned Up 4,00,000 Kg Of Waste From The Himalayas In Four Years

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Healing Himalayas Foundation organises trekking expeditions to obscure Himalayan summits. However, to join them you have to keep gloves and jute sacks ready – to collect non-biodegradable garbage from these trek routes and protect the mountains. Founder Pradeep Sangwan believes that with Bollywood movies like Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani, Highway, 3 Idiots portraying the magical thrill of mountaineering, more and more youngsters are setting out on trekking trails in the Himalayas. Trekking clubs and travel agencies are mushrooming everywhere, luring the enthusiastic explorers with panoramic sunset points or foggy waterfalls.

The reality, however, is a far cry from the calendar photographs, with heaps of plastic waste cluttering the pristine Himalayas.

33-year-old Sangwan narrates how irresponsible tourism is devastating the serenity of the Himalayas, and how he embarked on a  mission to keep the mountains clean from 2014.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

“I had to lose everything to start Healing Himalayas Foundation”

Born and brought up in a strict disciplinarian family, Sangwan was expected to follow his father’s suit and join the army. During his college days, he started trekking as a hobby and before long, he found his calling in the mountains.

After graduating, much to the disapproval of his family, he permanently shifted to Manali to live his passion for trekking. To support himself, he started a homestay business in Manali.

Within the first few years, Sangwan started to notice that with the growing popularity of mountain tourism, plastic waste has also started piling up in the pristine valleys, beside the mountain roads and in the picturesque lakes. “At one point, it became the unsaid norm to indicate the direction of a trekking route by asking one to follow the garbage trail. That deeply affected me,” shares Sangwan. He shares, “If you look at the local shepherds; they are mostly uneducated, but they live in such a sustainable way. They treat the mountains as their God. Unlike us urban people, these villagers lead a life full of immense hardships. They go beyond limits to protect every bit of the environment. I was determined to make their mountains beautiful again.”

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In 2014, Pradeep Sangwan started as a lone crusader on his cleanliness campaign. Whenever he went trekking, he would come back with the garbage he collected on the way. The locals encouraged him by offering some discounts on transporting the waste to recycling plants. But, other than that, he got no exposure or support from the outside world. “In fact, my own family questioned the point of spending on my education if I was going to be a ragpicker in the end,” he recalls.

Pradeep Sangwan has been cleaning the mountains since 2014

For two years he carried on this work entirely on his own which shifted his focus from his business. Dwelling in dilemma for months, he finally made up his mind to completely dedicate his life towards restoring the natural environment of the mountains. He had to sell off his profitable homestay business in Manali, his mountain jeep and pledge his valuable assets to continue his efforts. Yet, he did not shy even an inch from his aim.

In 2016, he launched The Healing Himalayas Foundation, hoping to find like-minded individuals to join hands in his noble endeavour.

Healing Himalayas: collect, recycle and restore

The Healing Himalayas community comprises volunteers who join Pradeep and his core team on their expeditions to Kheerganga, Chandrataal, Manimahesh, Srikhand Mahadev, Jogini Falls, Hampta Pass and other popular trekking and religious routes.

 

Volunteers carrying bags of waste on the Kheerganga trek route

 

In Chandrataal, the team coordinated with the local camp owners, urging them to prohibit environmentally harmful tourist activities. Fast forward two years, strict restrictions have been imposed on making campfires, using diesel generators, playing loud music or fixing more than 15 camps at a particular area. Instead, they use of solar panels is being promoted.

In villages like Nakthan and many others, Healing Himalayas has integrated the women groups (Mahila Mandal) to spread awareness among incoming seasonal tourists as well as the villagers.

Spreading awareness among the villagers

“Now we pay occasional visits to these areas to ensure the regulations are maintained and that the awareness drives are in full swing,” he explains.

Self-sufficiency is the key to cleaner mountains

“Today people are flocking to the mountains in hordes but leaving behind a huge mess. Instead of inhaling the fresh mountain air, they want to drink, smoke and have chicken biriyani while playing loud music around a bonfire,” Sangwan narrates. He added that the popular pilgrimage routes like Kheerganga or Manimahesh are the worst polluted as most of the pilgrims are least eco-sensitive. “Pilgrimage routes demand more serious attention than the trekking routes.”

Amount of waste collected after a single cleaning drive on the Kheerganga pilgrimage route

“In Kheerganga, we highlighted this menace to the authorities. Now the High Court, Forest Department and NGT have come together to ban permanent camps in this route. Now you have to carry your own tent, cook your own food, have the night’s rest and leave the spot clean the next day,” he shares proudly.

He emphasises that unless the tourists learn to love the mountains, they would not understand the importance of cleanliness.

“This year we have started cleanliness drives in Shimla city twice a month. We also continue to educate the villagers about sustainable energy, rainwater harvesting and other eco-friendly measures. We are also planning to come up with two plastic processing units that would electrify more villages and create garments and daily supplies out of recycled plastic,” Pradeep Sangwan enlists the future plans of Healing Himalayas.

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‘Happy Fridge’: The Key To Bridge Food Wastage And Hunger Problem In India

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Rahul Khera and Gautam Jindal, volunteers (aka hunger heroes) at Feeding India, were among the many Delhi NCR residents accustomed to seeing hungry children pick up half-eaten burgers or stale sandwiches from the dustbin and savour those with the brightest smiles. Like many others, they also had the will to promote equitable food distribution but was perplexed about the approach, until they learnt about the community fridge initiative which has gained unprecedented success in Saudi Arabia and few other European countries. Meanwhile, community fridges were already being installed outside restaurants or in public places in a handful of cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, Kolkata, Coimbatore and Kochi.

Say Goodbye To Throwing Away Excess Food Because Now You Can Donate The Food To The Needy – Happy Fridge

Thank you for overwhelming response for the Happy Fridge concept. We need more funds from you to install more fridges like this across India. With the limited funds avaialble Feeding India was able to install three fridges only. Kindly donate here http://bit.ly/happyfridge

Posted by The Logical Indian on Saturday, October 27, 2018

Needless to mention, with a shocking 103rd rank in the Global Hunger Index and a food wastage estimate of around Rs 58,000 crore – India was perhaps the best country to implement such an initiative. With Gautam’s help, an enthusiastic Rahul invested his own savings to install a ‘Happy Fridge’ outside his residence at Sun City, Sector 54 in Gurgaon. Set up in 2017 by these Feeding India volunteers, the fridge in Gurgaon has inspired the NGO to scale up the project across India.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

‘Happy Fridge’ fostered many smiles

It didn’t take long for the local residents to learn about this laudable endeavour. They welcomed it, as wastage of excess food was a recurring problem in almost every household. “Intimating the localities was no mammoth task, thanks to social media. However, it was difficult to spread the word among those who actually needed the food,” shares Rahul, who went from auto stands to slums, inviting rickshaw pullers, ragpickers or roadside vendors to avail the community fridge any time they feel hungry. “The security guards of our residential complex played a huge role in explaining how the fridge works to the beneficiaries,” he adds.

The operational and maintenance costs of the ‘ happy fridge ‘ are being maintained diligently by the community members.

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Making memories, sprouting awareness

“I remember one young man who had arrived from a village looking for some menial day job. Somehow he had run out of his paltry savings and had no money to buy one decent meal a day. For about a month, our happy fridge was his solace, till he earned his first salary from a housekeeping job,” shares a jubilant Rahul.

In another incident, a truck driver returning in the wee hours of midnight was starving after a whole day’s hard work. He had run out of cooking fuel at his home, so our fridge was at his rescue.

“The residents keep all sorts of palatable dishes in the happy fridge, ranging from dry snacks, fruits to cooked meals. Sometimes, they even keep raw vegetables, to ensure not a single bit of good food ends up in their trash while other people go hungry to bed,” reveals Rahul.

On an average, each happy fridge supplies around 10-15 meals in a day. The gratitude and pure smiles of the hungry souls after a fulfilling meal are more than enough to continue to motivate Rahul and his neighbours. In fact, inspired by him, many other communities in the Delhi-NCR region set up community fridges in their areas.

Feeding India will set up 500 Happy Fridges

Since the past few years, Feeding India has been a prominent organisation working in the forefront to solve the hunger problem in India. Primarily, they were involved in redistributing leftover food from weddings and parties among the underprivileged people in different cities of India. Their volunteers, better known as “Hunger Heroes of India”, worked actively to bridge the gap between food wastage and food crisis.

“We used to get a lot of calls from individual households to collect their excess food. However, unfortunately, we lacked the manpower and planning to launch our programme on a door to door basis. We were desperately looking for an alternative when we learnt about the community fridges,” shares Srishti Jain, co-founder of Feeding India.

After interacting with Rahul Khera and other campaigners of community fridges, Feeding India decided to amplify this extraordinary project throughout the length and breadth of India. Presently, they have launched the #FightFoodWaste campaign to install 500 community fridges – nicknamed ‘ Happy Fridge ’. So any passer-by – be it a kid going to school without a lunchbox, or a labourer returning home late at night with no promise of a dinner – can now grab a pack of biscuits or a bowl of ‘dal-chawal’ (rice & lentil soup) to satiate their hunger. Click here to contribute for ‘ Happy Fridge ‘ and ensure India never sleeps hungry again.

Feeding India also urges everyone to make a promise to stop wasting food and instead consider donating it to those in need.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
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