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‘When the last tree is cut and the last fish killed, the last river poisoned, then you will see that you can’t eat money.’ – John May
India has a population of over one billion, of which almost 300 million live in around 600 towns and cities. Unfortunately, as a result of stressed environmental conditions, most of these towns and cities are unable to cope with the rapid pace of urbanisation. Water pollution, unavailability of drinking water, inadequate sanitation, open dumping of waste, and loss of forest cover are some of the related problems.
These have serious consequences on the health of the people and are also an economic burden to the country. Similarly, water-borne disease like diarrhoea, jaundice and cholera are taking a heavy toll on both human health and economic productivity. This situation demands immediate intervention in the management of rapidly growing urban environmental problems. The quality of the environment needs to be monitored regularly and, more importantly, scientific work needs to extend beyond the laboratory and become more community centered.
While the regulatory agencies continue to play their role, programmes that are community based are required. These will help the community understand local issues and take necessary initiatives to improve their local environmental conditions and come up with new locale-specific initatives to improve their sorrounding environmental conditions. CLEAN-India (Community Led Environment Action Network) programme was launched by Development Alternatives (DA) with the vision of developing a cleaner environment for our urban centres. This nation-wide programme focuses on environmental assessment, awareness, advocacy and action on school children who are the future citizens.
The underlined realisation is that ‘each one of us is responsible for the current state of are environment and we cannot wait for someone else to solve it’.
The CLEAN-India programme aims to mobilise community responsibility for environmental assessment and improvement in all major towns and cities of India through schools and NGOs linked with governments, business, academic and other institutions.
CLEAN-India programme partners with more than 30 like-minded NGOs, 400 schools and over one million students who coordinate the activities across 78 urban centres of India. They participate in various environmental activities and programmes for a cleaner greener India.
CLEAN-India has evolved with the experiences and learnings from the various initiatives it has taken in the past fifteen years. It is now a front runner in the field of conservation and sustainable living. CLEAN-India programme evolved from DA’s experience with the Delhi Environment Action Network (DEAN) programme, which began in September1996 with five schools. Over 4000 children have now been trained directly on environmental assessment and improvement activities. Action programmes to improve local environmental conditions have been initatiated. Solid waste management, plantation drives, energy conservation, paper recycling, etc., are some activities done by the schools, Resident Welfare Associations (RWAs), business and industrial associations and individual households. This experience indicates that when environment assessment is youth and community based, it mobilises the community to review their local environment conditions and take the requisite measures without waiting for external support. CLEAN-India has around 30 partner NGOs who drive the CLEAN-India initiative in their urban centres.
The endeavour has been well received in these areas. Many more NGOs from across the country have expressed interest to initiate the CLEAN-India programme in their own cities and towns. Over the past decade, the programme has mobilised an extensive network of environmentally conscious citizens. They have assumed responsibility and evolved solutions to their existing environmental problems. Besides the core network of 30 NGOs, thousands of school teachers and several other citizens’ groups like RWAs, parents fora, local business associations and youth clubs participate actively in the activities. The programme covers various aspects pertaining to our environment like water, air, trees and medicinal plants, waste management (composting, waste paper recycling), checking for food adulteration, bird watching, energy conservation, eco-consumerism.
The CLEAN-India Programme is:
Recognising the potential of the CLEAN-India Programme, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Development Alternatives to mutually assist and strengthen existing initiatives of community based environmental action in India. This collaboration was aimed at mobilising the school network for continuous monitoring of environmental quality and motivating communities to initiate activities for clean neighbourhoods.
Similarly, CLEAN-India is partnering relationships with business and industry associations and entities like the Confederation of Indian Industries (CII), Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI), Society for Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM), FORD Motors and also with academic institutions like the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), and Indian Institute of Science (IISc).
• A Solid Waste Management Plan for Jhansi is being developed in collaboration with the Municipal Corporation of Jhansi and Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board.
• Ten deflouridation filters were provided by the manufacturer and 70 filters have been set up with the initiative of CLEAN members by Rural Water Supply Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh.
• CLEAN-India Delhi Chapter initiated and facilitated in setting up of a tree helpline.
• CLEAN-India Mysore Chapter has networked with Mysore City Corporation for solid waste management. They have also networked with a womens’ Self Help Group (SHG), to convert all election campaign material into mats and other decorative items.
• CLEAN-India Pune Chapter was successful in the Eco-visarjan campaign. The authorities banned the use of idols made of plaster of paris painted with toxic colours. Unbaked clay idols were made available and proper arrangements were made for immersions.
• CLEAN-India Dindigul Chapter has set up a residual recycling plant in tanneries as an outcome result of a campaign by school students.
Young people constitute a large part of the world’s population. India has the largest youth population in the world. Nearly 40 per cent of the Indian population is aged between 13 to 35 years, and are defined as youth in the National Youth Policy.
A large population, especially young people and children, are particularly vulnerable to environmental risks, for example, access to clean and safe drinking water. In addition, young people will have to live with the consequences of current environmental actions and decisions taken by their elders. Future generations will also be affected by these decisions and the extent to which they have been addressed. Their concerns would be on depletion of resources, the loss of biodiversity, and radioactive wastes.
Youth have both special concerns and special responsibilities in relation to the environment. Young people will engage in new forms of action and activism that will generate effective responses to environmental challenges. CLEAN-India will now focus on youth and provide them with an opportunity to associate with it. It will direct their efforts towards eliciting a positive change in urban society.
In the past 16 years of its existence, CLEAN-India has traversed a long way in pursuit of its mission to mobilise community responsibility for environmental assessment and improvement, which has also earned it numerous laurels from both within as well as beyond its shores. But a greater opportunity of work and engagement still awaits our footsteps and we are committed to take it further in the days to come!
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