November 11th, 2011
For Immediate Release
On November 20th, Varanasi citizens, visitors, and members of local organizations will be participating in a Samaj Seva: Kashi Ganga Cleanup. The community service project is led by Project Surya and will begin at the Dasaswamedh Ghat and will continue to the Kedar Ghat, along the river and throughout the city’s alleyways from 9am until 12pm.
Kashi Ganga Cleanup is being initiated to promote awareness about the negative health and environmental effects of pollution and littering. 1,000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day, many thanks to the 60,000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 millilitres, 120 times more than is considered safe for bathing, found in the Varanasi Ganges. The local river water has 3000 times the safe concentration of sewage flowing through it – thanks to 24 open sewers along the city’s shores.
To incite long-term change in Varanasi, participants will be exercising their democratic right to protest by passing around a petition for the Varanasi Nagar Nigam (VNN) and regional office of the UP State Pollution Control Board (UPSPCB) to more carefully regulate the import of restricted plastic bags, a move that would put the city on par with San Francisco, Taiwan and South Africa in the global green movement. Approximately, 4,000-5,000 tons per day post-consumer plastics waste is generated in India. Jago Banaras will be leading the petition drive, purchasing cleaning machines for long term use, as well as donating brooms, bins and students from Sunbeam Schools Varanasi on the day.
Gandiva Hindi Daily is also donating bins to be placed around the city along the ghats.
Kashi Ganga Cleanup is a symbol of Varanasi’s unity as a city, regardless of race, religion or creed. Members of the Muslim, Sikh, Christian and Hindu faiths are all coming together to be active members in their civic duty on the day.
The project is best summed up with the mantra, “A clean city is a healthy city.” While yoga is one way to cleanse the body and enhance health, Project Surya aims at cleaning the passageways of The City of Light to make way for a new era of health consciousness. A documentary film is being produced by Soul Creation Productions, about India’s role in the global green movement, and where this project fits into the big picture. Release date TBA.
Leading the Kashi Ganga Cleanup is a yogini writer and teacher from Honolulu, Hawaii, Joanne Kelly. As a frequent visitor of Varanasi, Joanne decided to create a seva project to give something back to the community. Many tourists comment on the contradiction between the sacredness of Kashi set against the backdrop of careless litter and grime. Joanne has a great deal of respect for the laborers who are working to make the city clean everyday, and hopes this project will serve as a wakeup call to citizens to care for their community and exercise their rights in the largest democracy in the world; she also hopes for politicians of Varanasi to take action and serve their constituents with greater sincerity and effort.