By Jagannath Poddar
To revive the sanctity of the pilgrimage town of Vrindavan Friends of Vridnavan began its Clean Vrindavan Programme in 1997. Since then it has accomplished several projects successfully. It cleaned every corner of the town over a decade long time. Though slowly but steadily the locals started to feel ownership on the programme and fully participating in it. It provided an opportunity to the residents to have immediate services and not to depend on the old styled municipal system. From the religious leaderships to the common public everyone is involved.
A pilot project called Vrindavan Kuda Prabandhan Pariyojna (Vrindavan garbage management initiative) was conceptualized in 2005 to initiate a pilot project on waste management. The UNDP GEF Small Grants Programme, Sir Ratan Tata Trust and the GTZ ASEM have financially supported to initiate the pilot project on privatized sanitation service in which the local people can be fully involved. The complete sanitation ward no 3 has been adopted for street / drain cleaning in October 2005. Vrindavan is divided in eight sanitation wards for the management of the sanitation services. Many prominent temples and shrines are located in this ward. Radha Damodar, Radha Raman, Radha Shyam Sundar, Shah ji temple, Meera Bai temple, Nidhi Van, Seva Kunj, Imli tala, Cheer Ghat and other places of religious importance are benefited under this programme.
The streets and drains are cleaned twice a day. The segregated wastes generated in the house holds are collected at the doorstep every morning to catch the garbage at the source and later the waste is processed accordingly. The big community garbage bins are also put where ever it was felt necessary. The huge amount of floral waste from the temples and the left over vegetables from vegetable market, the left over from the bhandaras (feasts) are separately collected and recycled into high quality vermin compost manure. The source collection of the ritual and other waste is helping to minimize the garbage dumped in Yamuna.
In two years the programme has been made self sustainable with community support. This project is managed by a steering committee consisting of many spiritual & community leaders. The temples, traders and the residents financially contribute for the cleaning programme.
The success model of this programme has been replicated in Raman Reti area. The Krishna Balaram temple (Iskcon), the shopkeepers, ashrams and the households of the area are also contributing monthly for the cleaning programme. The garbage loading and transportation system has been modernized by introducing the garbage ramps. The garbage is directly loaded into the trolley through the ramp and later transported to the main landfill site.
The project is providing the livelihood for 40 families. The vermi-compost manure made from the organic waste is sold to Delhi and other places and the income from it helps to pay the wages of the workers employed under this programme. The used plastic carry bags are also recycled into beautiful crafty baskets, bowls, dust bins etc. by the women from the rag pickers-community engaged in Clean Vrindavan Programme. The sale of these products also helps the sustainability of the programme. Soon a hand made paper unit will also be installed for enhancing the livelihood opportunity for the people.
More support is needed from the philanthropic individuals, agencies to scale up the programme in the major part of this temple town. The initiative of FoV has encouraged other agencies to clean the town and now it can be claimed that Vrindavan is far cleaner than the adjoining towns and is cleaner than what it was few years back.
The project is also supported by the celebrities like Lata Mangeshkar and Hema Malini. The unique example of the community action will be experimented in the other projects like water, healthcare, rain water harvesting, conservation of the groves etc.
Director Friends of Vrindavan