Ground Reports

Give Plastic Get Gold: Kashmir’s Unique Cleanliness Drive

Under the scheme, any person collecting 20 quintals of plastic waste from the village will get a gold coin.

By Haris Jeelani Toogo, 28 Apr 2023

In an effort to combat plastic waste, Farooq Ahmad Ganai, a resident of Sadiwara, a remote village panchayat in Hiller Shahabad block of South Kashmir's Anantnag district, has launched a revolutionary campaign called "Give plastic and take gold". The campaign has gained momentum on social media and has successfully made the village plastic-free.

Ganai's idea has created a significant impact on the community, making it an example for his fellow villagers to follow. With this campaign, Ganai has shown that an individual effort backed by the community can bring a significant change and a positive impact on the environment.

A lawyer by profession, he ran as an independent candidate for the Panchayat elections in 2018, with a vision of bringing about change in his community. After winning the election he started his campaign of making his village free from plastic and domestic waste.

In the beginning, people were not receptive to the campaign, as they believed it was solely the government's responsibility to take such initiatives. As the Panchayat head, Ganai took the lead and initiated another campaign, focusing on sanitation and community participation within the village. For that Ganai made a model to build domestic and plastic waste pits in and around Sadiwara.

According to Ganai, the response from the villagers towards sanitation drives and cleanliness in 2021 was not encouraging. Many people took these efforts for granted and there was a lack of enthusiasm towards these initiatives.

Despite the initial setback, Ganai remained persistent in his efforts and started a door to door campaign to create awareness asking people about how much of the waste they produce on a daily basis and how they need to treat it.

In 2021, during a campaign to create a cleaner and greener village, Ganai found that many people in the village were throwing waste into nearby water bodies. This posed a significant threat to the environment and the health of the community.

Ganai took notice of this and decided to take a different approach. In 2023, he circulated a message, “Trash Ke Badle Cash'' stating that anyone who helps in the sanitation and cleanliness of the village would be rewarded in terms of gold.

The message was well received, and people from all walks of life, including men, women, and children, participated in the campaign. The entire village became plastic-free within just 15 days. According to the scheme, anyone who provides 20 quintals of plastic waste will be rewarded with a gold coin by the Panchayat.

Once littered with heaps of plastic strewn across its roads and streets, this village is now a shining example of cleanliness. All collected plastic is now handed over to the Panchayat. The government is looking to replicate this success in every village of the Union Territory.

Danish Rashid, a student from Sadiwara, is among the villagers who got inspired by the commendable work of the Panchayat members. "Thanks to the tireless efforts of our Sarpanch," he says, "our village has become a better place to live in. With dedicated hard work and a strong vision, our Sarpanch has brought about positive changes that have impacted the lives of every single person in our community."

Wani Shakeel, the president of the youth club at Sadiwara village, revealed that it took more than six months to bring about a positive change. According to him, "People didn't have enough knowledge about the harmful impact of pollution on the climate and environment." Previously, the water stream known as Vatista was only suitable for agricultural purposes due to its poor condition. However, after the cleanup, the water now looks fresh and is usable for other purposes as well.

The transformation in Sadiwara village is a testament to the power of community-led initiatives. What started as an individual effort to clean up the neighbourhood has now sparked a movement of change in the surrounding villages. As people witness the visible improvements and positive impact on the environment, they are motivated to take similar action in their own areas.