New Delhi: Snuggled in the lap of the Himalayas, Uttarakhand is revered for its pristine sceneries and captivating pilgrimage sites which see an influx of lakhs of devotees from all over the world every year especially during the annual ‘Char Dham Yatra’ also known as the ‘Chota Char Dham Yatra’. The Yatra covers four holy shrines- Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri. All these temples are situated in the Garhwal region of Uttarakhand covering seven districts – Haridwar, Dehradun, Tehri, Uttarkashi, Rudraprayag, Chamoli, and Pauri. This year the ‘yatra’ on one of the most popular pilgrimage route started on May 7 and as the devotees pay homage at all religious places, the Department of Tourism of the state launched two initiatives- ‘Swachh Bharat, Swachh Garhwal’ cleanliness drive and ‘Smriti Van’ tree plantation drive, with an aim to make the Garhwal region of the state clean and green by the first week of November when the ‘yatra’ is scheduled to be concluded.
Talking to NDTV about Uttarakhand Tourism Department’s new initiatives, Seema Sharma, Nodal Officer, Char-Dham 2019, said,
We have tried to do something different this year by launching the two initiatives that call for participation from tourists and pilgrims and also from the local people in the seven district of the Garhwal Mandal. We started the cleanliness drive called ‘Swachh Bharat, Swachh Garhwal’ on June 5 to mark the World Environment Day and the tree-plantation drive called ‘Smriti van’ was launched on June 16 by the tourism department under the guidance of Commissioner, Garhwal Mandal Vikas Nigam (GMVN), marking the sixth anniversary of the devastating floods that swept through Kedarnath in 2013 and to commemorate the lives lost during the floods. Through these ambitious drives we aim to clean and beautify the whole Garhwal region by the end of this year’s ‘Char Dham Yatra’.
‘Swachh Bharat Swachh Garhwal’ To Clean The Seven Garhwal Districts By November
With an aim to clean the whole Garhwal region by the end of the yatra, the Tourist Department of Uttarakhand is working towards inspiring people to adopt cleanliness along the route and volunteer in cleanliness drives during their stay in any of the seven districts. For implementing ‘Swachh Bharat Swachh Garhwal’ campaign, the department has divided the seven districts of Garhwal into 212 parts and has deployed one section officer for each section. These section officers have been given the responsibility of conducting daily clean-up drives, call on pilgrims to volunteer, and monitor the cleanliness of the area. The department has also appointed 105 nodal officers to overlook the implementation of the campaign with support from municipal councils of the seven districts.
While participating in cleanliness drives is not mandatory for all pilgrims, they are urged to volunteer through posters and wall graffiti. According to Ms. Sharma, up till now, more than one lakh pilgrims have volunteered in the cleanliness drives being organised daily by various section officers in their area.
Along with clean-up drives, the state tourism department has also banned the use of plastic bags and other single-use plastic items during the yatra. Ms. Sharma said,
While single-use plastic has been banned already in the state, the tourists usually tend to bring single-use plastic items. Therefore, during the yatra, at multiple stops, we will arrange for distributing cloth bags made by the locals and the pilgrims will be asked to deposit their plastic bags.
Under the Swachh Bharat Swachh Garhwal campaign, the Tourism Department has also built 40 permanent toilets with four seats each along the yatra route to make the entire route open defecation free.
Pilgrims Can Plant Saplings In Memory Of Their Loved One And Track Their Growth Through A Mobile App
In a bid to make the Garhwal region greener and to inculcate the practice of tree-plantation, the department has started a plantation drive and a mobile application to keep a track on the sapling planted by the pilgrims. Ms. Sharma said,
The idea behind launching this initiative ‘Smriti Van’ and the mobile application is to make the initiative sustainable and eventually develop it into a worldwide campaign.
The unique feature of this campaign is that these mini forests are being created in remembrance of loved ones will be taken care of by the local self-help groups (SHGs). Under this scheme, pilgrims can plant saplings and can be sure of their survival and growth for a charge of Rs. 2,000. With the help of the money, the SHGs will arrange for caretakers, water, fertilisers and medicines to keep the plant healthy. The caretakers will also share the growth of the sapling with the tourist/ pilgrim for one year by sharing pictures on a weekly basis. Ms. Sharma asserted,
The objective behind involving local people as care takers of trees and keeping a fee of Rs. 2,000 is to make this initiative sustainable for as long as possible and help the sampling become trees after which they need lesser care.
Under this campaign, the pilgrims can plant saplings of their choice in any of the seven districts under the Garhwal mandal. Ms. Sharma said that for this campaign, the land has been identified by each of the seven districts with support from district forests department to create the ‘Smriti Van’. The land selected for Smriti Van includes one hectare land at Batula near Rishikesh-Badrinath national highway in Chamoli district, two-hectare land at Lalpani along Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass in Dehradun district, two-hectare land at Daksh Deep Ganga Vatika in Haridwar district, 1.5 hectare at Dwari horticulture farm near Bhatwari Chowk in Uttarkashi district and at Ratuda along the route from Rudraprayag to Badrinath in Rudraprayag district.
Till now, more than seven thousand trees have been planted under the ‘Smriti van’ campaign.
Currently, only the registered pilgrims of char dham can use the App to plant saplings but after the yatra is concluded, the app will be open to anybody across the globe who would like to plant a tree in memory of their loved ones.
Ms. Sharma signs off by saying,
This year, we have already received a foot fall of about 20 lakh pilgrims and we are receiving commendable response from them. Even if the 10 per cent of the pilgrims donate some of their time and labour towards making the pilgrim sites and route along the yatra, clean and green, both campaigns will be quite successful.
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.