The Great Global Cleanup

Cleanup removes 10,000 kilograms of waste from River Ganga

This post was originally published in Youth Ki Awaaz and has been edited to fit style guidelines for Earth Day Network.

As part of Earth Day Network’s Great Global Cleanup campaign, a citizen-led initiative was launched to clean the River Ganga.

At approximately 2525 kilometers (1568 miles), the Ganga is one of the largest rivers in the world. Unfortunately, though this river is considered holy by many Indians, today it is heavily polluted with waste and chemicals.

For millions, the river and its tributaries or distributaries are sources of both livelihood and survival. But pollution is killing many fish and aquatic life and damaging crops grown with irrigation from the river. India’s Central Pollution Control Board reports that the use of chemicals affects anyone who uses water from the Ganga for drinking, bathing or cooking.

Earth Day Network–India launched the landmark citizen-led cleanup of the river Ganga as part of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. The Great Global Cleanup in Devprayag began on April 13, 2019, on the occasion of Vaisakhi — the Indian New Year.

In Devprayag, the rivers Alaknanda and Bhagirathi merge to form the River Ganga. Led by Earth Day Network-India and its partner organization, the Lok Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan (LPSS), the campaign included a nine-day rally that ended at Haridwar. The rally concluded with a speech by the renowned environmentalist, Padma Shri Dr Anil Joshi.

Thousands of students, villagers, ashram members and community groups raised awareness among both tourists and locals about the dangers of plastic waste on the riverbanks. Across multiple cleanup drives, volunteers collected more than 10,000 kilograms (22,000 pounds) of plastic waste and sent it to the Municipal Corporation for scientific disposal.

On October 2, 2019, Earth Day Network-India held a 28-kilometer padayatra (foot march) from Rishikesh to Haridwar to remind people of the need to end plastic pollution. Awareness campaigns reached 5,000 students and teachers.

In addition, volunteers planted 10,000 trees along the banks of the river to increase the green cover and distributed 10,000 cloth bags as an alternative to single-use plastic bags. The team predicts a reduction of around 250,000 single-use plastic bags.

Varanasi, Patna and the river’s delta in the Sunderbans have also held clean-up drives. Eleven thousand volunteers across 25 initiatives have cleaned up the banks of the river’s distributary – the Hooghly – as it passes by Kolkata.

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day in April 2020, more cleanups will occur around the world. Record your efforts at the Great Global Cleanup webpage to inspire others. The site also provides information on cleanups in several places that you can join.