Expedition Manimahesh – Mountain Cleaners all the way
Dharamsala: The Manimahesh pilgrimage this year has a different slogan, besides the usual Jai Shiv Shankar. ‘Leave your sins, not your things’ will be heard echoing across lofty Himalayan ranges as thousands of Shiva devotees take a holy dip in the Manimahesh lake overlooking the Kailash mountain peak. Term it divine intervention, or simple concern for our environment as pollution in mountains takes monstrous proportions, a huge army of volunteers, under the banner of ‘The Mountain Cleaners’ is slowly moving up to clean up the Himalayan slopes.
Led by Jodie Underhill, now popularly known as the Garbage Girl in Himachal, the Mountain Cleaners will carry out a one-month cleaning campaign during the Manimahesh Yatra from August 20 to September 23. Formed in April 2009 after Judie started organizing mass cleanups in McLeod Ganj, the Mountain Cleaners has quickly grown into a major movement and now promises to save Himachal Pradesh from waste chocking its beautiful valleys and rivers.
Under its latest initiative, volunteers will be setting up waste facilities en-route and at four check points along the challenging 14 km trek to Manimahesh. The pilgrimage, which is attended by over 800,000 people, runs for nearly one month starting on August 25th. The group is appealing to pilgrims to dispose of their garbage instead of throwing it on the floor or burning it. “I intend to have waste disposal and drop-off points at Bharmour, Hadsar, Dhancho, Gauri Kund and Manimahesh. We will encourage as many people as possible to bring the waste they generate back to Bharmour and hope to provide reusable cloth bags for this purpose,” Judie says.
Jodie is hoping for voluntary and financial assistance from large corporations, businesses and the general public and would love to hear from anyone that can help. “We are in desperate need of a sponsor for t-shirts to be supplied free of charge to volunteers and sold to generate funds and awareness about the campaign. There is no phone reception so we need walkie-talkies to enable us to communicate between the checkpoints and allow us to make contact with the outside world. We require a large number of gloves and garbage bags for waste collection and transportation from the check points. We would also like to provide cloth or mesh bags so people can bring their own waste back with them,” she appeals.
Considering that there is no solution for non recyclable waste at present, Judie now wants to highlights the need for the government to take necessary measures to avoid further dumping in rivers and forests. And the final act – to clean up India, little by little, through a combination of direct action, liaison and awareness-raising.