Written by ALEX BINOY & ARTI CHOUHAN
The Pune wastepickers cooperative — SWaCH — has geared up to bid a green adieu to Lord Ganesh. Members of SWaCH, along with trained volunteers, are manning 18 ghats to help divert immersion of nirmalyas from the river into special containers designated for them. On Monday, SWaCH volunteers collected over 31 tonnes of wet waste, 9 tonnes of dry waste and collection of over 10,000 idols.
“Every year for the past 7-8 years, we have been deploying SWaCH members to clean up the rivers. The initiative was started as a devotional act but now, we are doing it every year,” said Suchismta Pai, Outreach Function Head of SWaCH.
This year, they are focusing on 18 ghats where the wastepickers are assigned for two days — on the fifth day of the festival and the last day of the festival. “Along with the volunteers and coordinator, there will be at least 140 waste-pickers at the 18 ghats,” said Pai. Talking about the awareness among the public, Pai said, “People are becoming more aware about the waste being dumped into rivers. The number of volunteers we are getting is increasing each year. A lot of people are doing the visarjan at home, and are handing over the Nirmalya —including flowers and leaves — to SWaCH and not dumping it into the river.”
“Our initiative is becoming more popular with each year. People are accepting eco-friendly ways. Last year, the five Manache Ganapatis handed over their Nirmalya to us for composting,” said Pai. Over the years, SWaCH has tied up with different organisations and conducted waste awareness sessions. This year, an orientation programme was conducted at Vriddeshwar Ghat in collaboration with Jeevitnadi, an NGO that works for the preservation of rivers, to show the condition of the rivers to the volunteers.
Pai also praised the PMC’s efforts in installing tanks at various ghats for the visarjan. She said, “More people have started immersing idols into the tanks instead of the river. But there are always a few people who still immerse them into the river. These issues have to be dealt with a lot of sensitivity as they concern faith.”
Last year, SWaCH had diverted 138 tonnes of Nirmalya away from the river.