New Delhi: “This year’s Kumbh will make history by being titled as India’s cleanest Kumbh Mela. It will be both grand and divine,” this was the promise made by Uttar Pradesh’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to the people one day before Ardh Kumbh got started. This commitment was backed by Uttar Pradesh government with resources, from employing more than 20,000 sanitation workers to involving 1500 swachhgrahis (clean India volunteers) to educate and motivate people to keep the Kumbh premises clean, from installing over 1.2 lakh toilets to setting up temporary Sewerage Treatment Plants so that no faecal waste ends up directly in the Ganga, the authorities have done it all to keep Kumbh Mela 2019 spic and span. Even the theme of Kumbh Mela, ‘Swachh Kumbh, Surakshit Kumbh’ (Clean Kumbh, Secure Kumbh) has been kept keeping in mind the swachh targets.
NDTV crew travelled to Prayagraj (Allahabad) to check the on-ground reality of the preparations for the 55-day long Ardh Kumbh Mela. The initial reactions of the visitors to Kumbh 2019 seemed positive. Pawan from Ujjain said, “I am coming to Kumbh for the second time and the last time I visited the place, I found it to be very dirty. This time, the Kumbh reality is very different, it is very clean.”
Mala from Dehradun adds, “After some metres only there is a dustbin, moreover there are swachh volunteers everywhere who are guiding people like us on where to throw the garbage so that no waste ends up going into the water. What was interesting to see was sanitation workers on duty 24×7, wearing their swachhagrahis jacket and armed with brooms. Because of their hardwork, Kumbh this time was, in reality, a clean affair.”
After devotees, NDTV also spoke with authorities to get a clear picture of arrangements done this time in Kumbh to make it a successful swachh bharat mission example.
Giving details of the preparations, Narendra Giri, President, Akhil Bharatiya Akhara Parishad, said,
In past, the biggest challenge at the Kumbh gathering has been cleanliness and hygiene. Our mighty rivers – Ganga and Yamuna for decades are bearing the brunt of pollution, they have become toxic and polluted despite many schemes. Keeping the past experiences in mind, this year authorities have drawn out a plan to keep not just the premises clean but also the water. We have deployed more than 20,000 sanitation workers on the ground who are responsible for maintaining cleanliness of ghats, kumbh areas and toilets. Moreover, training has been given to 1500 swachhagrahis from across India who are responsible for educating the pilgrims and devotees about their swachh deeds for example where they have to throw garbage, how they have to maintain cleanliness in toilets.
Explaining the garbage disposal aspect and how the waste is being treated at Kumbh, Vijay Kiran Anand, Mela Adhikari, Kumbh, Prayagraj said,
One of the common issues at any gatherings is the issue of littering, to manage this, we have installed 20,000 dustbins at Kumbh this time, so a visitor can find a dustbin within their 25 metre area. Along with this, we have deployed 120 tipper vehicles (the smaller van that collects waste), their job is to collect waste from each dustbin. All these vehicles have GPS trackers so that they can be monitored.
In addition to garbage collection, the waste is also being managed in an effective way so that minimum waste is being sent to the city landfills, Mr Anand added,
On an average, 100 metric tonnes of waste is being produced on a daily basis. We have units deployed to manage this amount of waste. Whatever waste can be treated on spot is being done through composting, some of the waste which can be recycled is being sent to the treatment facility at Baswar.
Along with dustbins and waste picking vehicles, this time in Kumbh there are trash skimmers those are basically deployed at every ghat for clean-up.
The skimmers collect waste like flowers, ash, clothes which are immersed by devotees from the surface of the river so that the water remains clean 100 per cent.
To check open defecation, over 1.20 lakh toilets have been installed to provide proper sanitation facilities. Talking about how swachhagrahis are maintaining the cleanliness in toilets and keeping a vigil to check open defecation at Kumbh this year, Kumbh Young Professional Ubaid Ur Rehman said,
We have been trained to motivate devotees on why they need to use a toilet besides overlooking the cleanliness of the mela. Our job is to help authorities maintain cleanliness 24×7 and figure out loop holes so that authorities can take action immediately.
Taking a lead in terms of monitoring, this time the authorities have also given swachhagrahis some devices wherein they have been asked to take pictures of their respective area and fill the feedback and status from, identify loopholes and plug then immediately.
One of the major things that have been done this time around Kumbh is the installation of Sewerage Treatment Plants (STP) so that waste of more than 1.2 lakh toilets can be managed effectively. Elaborating on how STPs are helping in solid and liquid waste management in Kumbh, Saloni Goel, Environment and Kumbh Sanitation Consultant, said,
This time one of the best arrangements that has been done in Kumbh is the installation of the two temporary STPs. Along with this, a permanent sewer line of 8.5-kilo meter has been laid in sector 1 and sector 2 of the cantonment area where many events are taking place to ensure that no amount of waste reaches the Ganga. There is also the use of technologies like bioremediation, and geo-bag modular STP that are helping to keep water clean.
Explaining the technologies, Ms Goel added,
Bioremediation is basically a process of breaking down environmental pollutants and toxins from water. Geo-bag on the other hand is basically a porous synthetic fabric that is stitched from three sides and is open from one side. It is filled with soil and it helps filter sludge from the wastewater.
Talking about the outcomes of these technologies, Gulab Chandra Dubey, Chief Engineer, Uttar Pradesh Jal Nigam, Prayagraj says “We have been working to clean the Ganga river and to treat the sewage, we already have the sewage treatment plants in place and all our senior officers are monitoring it. We have been quite successful in controlling the pollution in the rivers. We are using the best of technologies this time and making sure that no drain is going into the Ganga and Yamuna and further polluting it.”
With all these steps in place, Kumbh Mela this time is expected to be India’s cleanest festival.
Apart from these steps, Kumbh Mela has also tried out different things in order to spread the message of Swachh Bharat Mission such as a unique ‘toilet cafeteria’ that is there to spread the word about the mission, swachh raths that are there to motivate and educate pilgrims about swachh dos and don’ts in Kumbh 2019 and plastic bottle dispensing machine for people to deposit plastic bottles for recycling instead of simply dumping it in the dustbins or worse in the river.
Kumbh Mela is the largest human congregation in the world, with over 130 million pilgrims expected to participate in the festival this year. It got underway on the auspicious day of ‘Makar Sankranti’ on January 15 and will end on March 4.
NDTV – Dettol Banega Swachh India campaign lends support to the Government of India’s Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM). Helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan, the campaign aims to spread awareness about hygiene and sanitation, the importance of building toilets and making India open defecation free (ODF) by October 2019, a target set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, when he launched Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in 2014. Over the years, the campaign has widened its scope to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and menstrual hygiene. The campaign has also focused extensively on marine pollution, clean Ganga Project and rejuvenation of Yamuna, two of India’s major river bodies.