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October 8, Amritsar;
To celebrate the 479th birthday of Guru Ramdas, hundreds of Sikh volunteers have gone into the streets of Amritsar, Punjab, to collect garbage during the entire time of the nagar kirtan.
The theme of the birthday celebrations this year was Nature Preservation and Conservation of Bio-Diversity, and it was promoted by EcoAmritsar, an initiative by US-based EcoSikh, in association with the SGPC, Baba Kulwant Singh Ajnale Wale, the MC of Amritsar, Punjab Tourism Department, Khalsa College of Engineering & Technology and Voice of Amritsar.
The sewadars and student volunteers collected garbage from roads in recycled bags and loaded it onto trolleys and thelas provided by the SGPC and Municipality Corporation of Amritsar.
Eco Amritsar also shared leaflets on the subject of ‘Five steps to Green Langar’ leaflets with food stalls along the route to teach the public about the growing problem of garbage in the holy city.
“If we can use contemporary language for this, then in 1577, Guru Ramdas founded this city with a vision of sustainable development in one hand and nurturing care for nature and biodiversity on the other,” said EcoSikh President, Dr. Rajwant Singh.
The Sikh hymn about Amritsar on page 1362 on Sri Guru Granth Sahib Amritsar says; Vasdi Saghan Apar Anoop Ramdaspur… He thus envisioned Ramdasspur (present day Amritsar) to be a prosperous city of incomparable beauty. So our task is to raise awareness so citizens of this great city take pride in caring for the Guru Ki Nagri.”
Amritsar today faces many challenges and opportunities. On one side, burgeoning population and vast inflows of tourists and pilgrimsare creating major issues in terms of waste management, traffic, and depletion of green cover. On the other side the economic opportunity for the people of Amritsar of having so many people is huge.
But one way they are frittering away the opportunity is because of the many heaps of garbage.
In the short term there is a solution in organizing clearups: EcoAmritsar team made several trips along the route as a prelude to Guru Ram Dass jee’s Nagar Kirtan. Each seva jatha putting up chabils and langars was asked to support the initiative to keep their own area clean – and they were given recycled bags to help them do this.
A list of do’s and don’ts (Hidyataan) was freely distributed along the route.
In the long term, EcoAmritsar hopes to be a voice of change, to help the city take charge of its garbage more efficiently. But this will only happen if the majority of people want this, ask for it, and notice when it is not done.
Gunbir Singh, Chairman of Eco Amritsar, said, “Each and every citizen must take ownership of the city. The people of Amritsar have displayed and proved the possibility of garbage-free Nagar kirtans. There is no bigger tribute to the founding Guru of this Holy City, than to ensure a clean, green, sustainable city”.