Students in Darjeeling Find Novel Ways to Keep the Town Clean
Student group ‘Scavengers’ has taken the responsibility of ensuring a clean Darjeeling. 
Student group ‘Scavengers’ has taken the responsibility of ensuring a clean Darjeeling. (Photo Courtesy: Facebook/Altered by The Quint)

Students in Darjeeling Find Novel Ways to Keep the Town Clean

Darjeeling is one of the most famous tourist towns in India. People travel here from all over the country and the world to enjoy the scenic views and clean mountain air. However, not many realise that with a population density of over 11,212/sq kms (according to 2011 census), Darjeeling municipality is the most crowded mountain regions in the world. By this measure, the population density is greater than New Delhi. This, coupled with the fact that Darjeeling attracts the most number of tourists every year in the Eastern Himalayan region, has made this once gorgeous mountain town one of the most polluted as well.

It thus comes as no surprise that in a recent nationwide cleanliness survey conducted by the Union Housing and Urban Affairs Ministry, Darjeeling featured among the 25 dirtiest cities of India.

Tired of this mounting pollution, youngsters from the town, guided by Kamlesh Rai – a teacher from the prestigious St Teresa’s School, Darjeeling formed a group called Scavengers in May of 2018.

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Novel Ways to Keep Darjeeling Clean

Ever since its formation, this group comprising of school and college students has focused not only on cleaning various parts of the town, but they have also undertaken steps to inculcate behavioural changes among the residents, especially among school students and youths.

Scavengers group on a cleaning spree.
Scavengers group on a cleaning spree.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

For instance, to tackle the problem of food and other organic wastes from going into the landfill, the Scavenger group has adopted vermi-composting, and they have been promoting the same across various schools and home-stays in the region.

A major aim for the group is for schools in Darjeeling region to stop using plastic covers for their text and note books.

Of late, it has become fashionable among private schools in Darjeeling, Kalimpong and Sikkim to use plastic covers for text and notebooks, with their school logo embossed on them.

The Scavengers feel that plastic covers must be eradicated, as doing so would go as far as making students and their parents ponder over how every little action towards promoting a healthy environment matters. There is a real menace of plastic pollution in the mountains that they hope to curb – most recent of their efforts was on Tiger Hill.

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Rai explained how she came to realise the fault of making books look beautiful with colourful plastic covers.

“Our school has more than 1,500 students and if we multiply each student with number of subjects and with the number of books or extra copies throughout the year, it leads to a staggering amount of plastic sheets being used. I calculated the amount of plastic used and was terrified of the consequences that are not only causing adverse ecological and biological impacts, but also leading to littering of our region. I couldn’t bring myself to terms when I thought about the enormity of the amount of plastic pollution our own students were causing, though unknowingly.”
Bags full of waste being carried.  
Bags full of waste being carried.  
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook) 

She added, “We have a significantly large number of students, which means we are producing a very large number of plastic wastes. Even the pathkar-wallahs (ragpickers) will not take such covers if we sell used copies. I personally feel that our children should be aware of this, and not to use plastic covers, and also not to use even brown-paper covers in order to save trees. Let's act locally so that its impact can be felt globally.”

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Following this, the Scavenger group, who dream of a ‘Plastic Free Darjeeling’, have sent out an appeal to all the heads of various schools to stop using plastic wrappers for their text and note books. The appeal points out that the plastic used can neither be recycled nor disposed of safely. The appeal has generated quiet a buzz in the hills of Darjeeling, with some schools already responding positively to the appeal.

Reacting to the appeal, Shivangi Hamal Rai, Principal Camellia School Darjeeling, said,

“We’ll do it, no plastic covers for Camellia School next year! We did away with all single use plastic in the canteen and on a day to day basis, as well as during events too this entire year already, we hope to do more.”
Poster that reads ‘this is not a waste bin’. 
Poster that reads ‘this is not a waste bin’. 
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook)

Geetanjali Lama, a teacher at one of the oldest schools in the Eastern Himalayan region Loreto Covent stated,

“We’ve already taken a decision to ban plastic covers at a meeting last week. Next step will be to stop using gel pens and switch over to good old fountain pens and ink.”

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Appreciating the initiative, Diwas Chettri, a local from Kurseong said, “Thought provoking initiative! I will try this at my personal level with my child. Let's see what the school has to say. What’s the harm in trying?”

Students take on themselves to clean up the waste.
Students take on themselves to clean up the waste.
(Photo Courtesy: Facebook) 

Though this may seem like a small effort, but a truly clean and green India will only be possible when a whole generation of children across the nation group assumes a sense of responsibility towards the environment, and are aware of the factors that pose a threat to it.

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(The author is a resident of Darjeeling and is pursuing a doctoral degree in Natural Resources and Environmental Management. All 'My Report' branded stories are submitted by citizen journalists to The Quint. Though The Quint inquires into the claims/allegations from all parties before publishing, the report and the views expressed above are the citizen journalist's own. The Quint neither endorses, nor is responsible for the same.)

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