When Jodie Underhill packed her bags to visit India in 2008, little did she know that she would be staying there to take up the country’s waste management struggle as her own. That she would set up an NGO and work with those Indians who remain unseen and forgotten by their country people. That she would have to barge against the iron gates of ignorance to make educated folks see the light of day on the matter of waste management.
As she traveled across the country, she was struck by the insane amounts of wastes dumped on streets, over the edges of otherwise scenic hills, along the banks of “holy” water bodies, parks and just about every place set foot on by humans. And out of this appalled state came Waste Warriors.
A couple of minutes spent browsing through www.wastewarriors.org will give you all the data you need on the NGO founded and run by this passionate young women. Dehra Dun and Dharmshala are the two regions that have profoundly felt the ripples of change initiated by Waste Warriors. Commercial streets have been cleaned up and are now well maintained by waste warriors, funded by business owners on the street who have come to believe in clean cities. Bus stops, sidewalks and walls have been give makeovers with debris being cleared and colorful graffiti discouraging waste and creating awareness.
Multiple events funded by corporates like Wipro, Mahindra and Airtel have helped Waste Warriors (WW) conduct awareness initiatives and expand their work base.
Jodie Underhill came to Hyderabad so that WW could partner as waste managers with the Airtel marathon as waste that took place yesterday. Ajay Kumar Koli, known on the campus for his initiatives like Green Gops and plantation drives, roped in Jodie to deliver a talk at the campus. She said that the topic is relevant and more importantly it must be reflective in the actions of the faculty, students, staff and the authorities including the Vice-Chancellor in the campus. During the interactive session, a student pointed out that waste management in the campus is non-existent, with garbage simply being dumped in the forested areas and burnt.
Prof. Mohanty spoke about the indifference barrier that exists among students. He described his efforts to initiate and sustain clean up habits by strategically installing dust bins, and inviting participation in plantation drives. He revealed that only two categories of students showed up for such efforts – young students pursuing their bachelors, and students from marginalized groups who are closer to nature.
Jodie Underhill pointed out that the attitude of students has been influenced by that of those at the top. A legislation regarding waste management was introduced in the country in the year 2000, but hasn’t been enforced till date. Environment clearances are bought by companies who find it more economical to bribe inspectors instead of properly disposing their wastes. The issue of waste management is often sidelined to prioritize other issues, and this means that the average citizen too de-prioritizes waste management.
Jodie Underhill and her expanding band of Waste Warriors wish to help Shri Narendra Modi deliver his promise of a clean India. They wish to help him with their expertise and wide knowledge on waste management. They want is, too, to be part of this journey by helping them creating noise on the feedback page our Prime Minister has set up so they catch the attention of the man with the power to make change. And they wish for all of us to be more responsible in our waste production and management for a better India.
-Harika Vankadara, MA-Communication