A 25-year-old techie from Pune has taken it upon himself to eliminate the stigma attached to picking trash in his city. Vivek Gurav, through the technique of plogging and a group of volunteers, is transforming his city's landscape, weekend by weekend.
Plogging is an exercise where one combines jogging with picking up trash— to take care of their health while cleaning the litter.
"When I shifted to Pune for higher studies, I joined the MIT academy of engineering, Alandi in 2014. The river Indrayani was a place where I went for a daily walk with my friends in the evening. We observed people who carelessly dumped a lot of trash and plastic in the river as well as surrounding areas," Gurav told Hindustan Times.
As a young student, watching people irresponsibly dumping the waste on the streets bothered Gurav. He also felt that instead of blaming the local body authorities and the government, it was wiser to take the matter into his own hands and initiate action. Thus, he decided to pick up all the waste lying on the banks of the Indrayani himself. Soon enough, he knew, to cause a long-term tangible change he needed to mobilise people and connect the community to the cause.
"It was such a sad sight. Since I couldn't do the cleaning alone, I asked my college friends to join this initiative. They agreed and over 60 people worked on clearing the waste," said the techie, reported Edexlive.
The cleanup project was reportedly turned into the city's first plogging runs.
Gurav's efforts continued for four years and after a span of time, the visitors reflected a behavioural and mindset change at the Indrayani ghat near Alandi temple. After encountering success, the team took up the charge to not only clean rivers but all the public spaces in Pune.
"I have integrated clean-up with my workout routine which has now made this a multi-tasking routine for me," Gurav stated.
"Starting my day early morning at 5-6 am daily has helped me manage my work schedule. I do the morning walk for around 45 minutes covering 3 km stretch daily. That has helped me stay fit and healthy while contributing to the Clean City mission," he explained.
Formed in 2017, Gurav's team called the Pune Ploggers now has over 4,000 people across all age groups. This group is trying to break the stigma around picking up trash and building a sense of collective responsibility among people from different professional backgrounds.
"Transforming the way, we pick up trash and gamification of Swachh Bharat Mission, I was able to attract more than 4,000 Ploggers across India and now people have started identifying us as Eco-Fitness warriors. Cleaning the city isn't only the responsibility of the government, citizen participation will actually drive the mission of Swachh Bharat Abhiyan and Fit India movement," he said on his mission.
He stated that more than 5,000 tonnes of waste had been collected through several campaigns over the last four years. Gurav ensured that no monetary transaction took place during the process and the team members were motivated with the vision to conserve nature.
"The moment people donate money for campaigns, the value and purpose of it is lost. Hence, I don't encourage donations and I spend money from my own pocket in these campaigns whenever necessary."
Recycling The Waste
The massive amount of waste that is collected is then handled adequately. It is segregated and the trash is given to local Kabadiwalas for recycling.
"We make Eco-bricks out of non-recyclable plastic waste; cigarette butts are being recycled as well. The glass bottles are upcycled by a team of rural women who get some extra income by selling those," Gurav said.
"I began creating eco-bricks with a target of making one lakh such bricks. Since most of us were on work from home mode, I thought of introducing volunteers and those eager to learn how to reutilise plastic covers, wrappers and stuff them into plastic bottles thus giving them volume and strength to be used as bricks for building temporary structure in slums," he explained.
The young plogger has been promoting the idea of living a zero-waste life. He has also been educating the youth and the local communities on the impact of climate change by organising awareness campaigns.
Chalk of Shame
While picking tonnes of plastic waste, Vivek and his Pune Ploggers noticed that cigarette butts were literally everywhere.
"Because the toxic parts in these cigarette butts pollute land and water. We are not against people's choice of smoking but we are definitely against those dropping the cigarette butts around and making the place look ugly. Hence, we decided to start this campaign called Chalk of Shame during Diwali last year. We drew small or even bigger circles around the cigarette butts using chalk and wrote messages in English and Hindi around these circles."
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