5 Hours, 12 People & A Conscious Kid: That’s All It Took To Clean Up A Lake Choking With Plastic Waste

Image Credits: Bivas Gupta/Facebook

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A small, unkempt water body adjoining a bustling railway station failed to catch the attention of the passers-by as well as local residents. The tiny lake next to Sheoraphuli railway station in West Bengal was officially the property of Government Railway Police (GRP), but over the years it had turned into a garbage dump, thanks to negligence from the authorities and localites alike.
It could have stayed like that until plastic completely choked it up, had it not been for a group of local youths, who decided to dedicate only five hours on a Sunday morning to clean it up. Now, the lake is greeting everyone with its newfound grace, adorned with seasonal blooms of water lily and lotus.

That’s what it all took – a group of barely 11-12 people and five hours of a single day.

No one has ever become poor by giving
– Anne Frank

How did the lake turn into a dumping zone

Talking to Efforts For Good, Bivas Gupta, one of the volunteers in the cleaning drive, shares, “Even a year ago, the lake was comparatively cleaner. It would be covered with water lily throughout the year. You could even spot fish playing in the clear water. But, once people started throwing plastic, it did not take long for it to turn into a foul-smelling, dirty eyesore in the middle of the town.”

The rushing crowd of commuters, to and from the railway station, would not mind throwing their share of plastic packets and bottles into the lake. In the evenings, the area around the lake became an adda zone for the local youth, who would unabashedly continue dumping plastic, food packets, cigarette stubs etc. into it.

Nobody seemed bothered about the worsening condition of the lake, as they were accustomed to seeing such clogged up water bodies all around.

Taking responsibility in their own hands

“Our repeated appeals to the authorities went unheard. So, we decided to take the responsibility upon ourselves. My friend Tandril gathered some volunteers from neighbouring areas, and we set to work at around 5 AM on a Sunday morning,” Bivas shares.

The group used some fishing nets and also handpicked the plastic waste from the lake, before disposing it of in the municipal garbage vans. Alongside the grown-ups, 7-year-old Rumjan, who calls the railway platform his home, also lent his helping hand tirelessly for four and a half hours.

By 9:30 AM, the lake was spick and span, with its clean water glistening on the surface. To the delight of the volunteers, within a week, water lilies came back to the lake and fish were spotted again.

To prevent future inaction

The group has also submitted a mass appeal to the concerned railway authorities requesting proper management of the lake henceforth. They have also put up posters all around the lake, prohibiting the public from dumping plastic into it.

“We were astonished by the outcome. We would love to continue our work with other water bodies in our area. If young people everywhere can take some time out of their PUBG matches and sharing memes, we can do so much for our environment,” Bivas asserts with an earnest appeal to everyone.

Efforts For Good take

From Bengaluru to Kolkata, every major Indian city which was once dotted with lakes, ponds and pools is now dealing with the problem of dying water bodies due to human negligence. It begins with a single plastic cup or plate, and it ends with choking up the lifelines of a city.

The volunteers at Sheoraphuli has set a blazing example of how a little bit of effort from a few conscious citizens can do wonders in no time. Efforts For Good urges all their readers to devote just a few hours of their free time and clean up a dying water body near them.

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote

Goonj Is Working With 1000’s Of Volunteers & Partner NGOs To Provide Covid-19 Relief In 18 States

Image Credits: Bivas Gupta/Facebook

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With the extension of the lockdown the crisis of migrant labourers and daily wagers has just grown bigger due to uncertainty and fear of future. In the migrant colonies, slums and for people in the villages hunger and desperation is building up day by day. This is high time we step up our efforts to support our people who are in dire need of food and hygiene essentials to survive the pandemic, Covid-19.

After the India-wide lockdown, a lot of jobless migrant workers are stuck in cities with hardly any resources while many started retreating back to their villages. With the loss of livelihoods, a large number of them are now struggling to support their families.

Goonj activated its pan India teams and a pan India network of partner organizations and volunteers in urban and rural India. This network, built over the last two decades, helps them learn from the ground, reach material quickly and review and adapt strategy periodically. Intensifying this network has helped Goonj reach and start work across 17produced states/UT in the last three weeks.

Goonj’s focus: 

Majority of the Covid-19 relief work by non profits right now is in the metros and cities but Goonj is the only non profit that is also simultaneously focusing on the people in the villages and the ones stuck on highways or somewhere.

Goonj is targeting daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups, who even traditionally are left out like the disabled, sex workers, LGBTQ community.

“COVID-19 is a crisis, yes…But, it’s also an opportunity for us to build the society anew. Not ‘for’ the people…but, ‘with’ the people. And in the process, we will build ourselves too.” – Anshu Gupta, Founder-Director, Goonj.

Direct Monetary and Material Transfer

Wherever Goonj got the permission to open their centres for packing and disbursement of relief material kits, they are creating a kit consisting of 20-30 kgs material including dry rations, masks, sanitary pads and other hygiene material and reaching them to people, as per needs and as per regulations with all safety precautions. This kit will help a family survive for 30 days.

Information till 10th April 2020:

  • Distributed 15,100 ration kits reaching thousands of people
  • Reached 17,700 families
  • Supporting 12 community kitchen across India with 16,600kgs of ration
  • 77,800 food packets provided to migrant laborers and daily wagers walking on the roads across the country.
  • Provided direct financial support to 32 organisations
  • Made 42,800 cloth face masks
  • 24,900 cloth sanitary napkins produced
  • Produced 1500 litres of organic sanitiser

In Goonj’s processing centers its trained team of women are making cloth face masks and cloth sanitary pads (MY-Pads), keeping all the precautions and with the permission and cooperation of the local authorities.

In this lock-down phase if you are facing any difficulty getting sanitary pads or you are running out of stock, here’s a detailed but very simple process of making Cloth Pads at home created by Goonj. “This is how we make Goonj MY Pads.” This is how our mothers and grandmothers turned their spare cloth into pads.

This disaster, unlike any other, is unprecedented in its scale and impact and that’s why we all must do our bit with Goonj to continue its relief work for millions of people in this still unfolding long-tailed disaster.

The need is huge.. We are there.. Need You too !!

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It's not how much we give
but how much love we put into giving.
- Mother Theresa Quote
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