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March, a Month of Environmental Action by Sikhs

EcoSikh is a response from the Sikh community to the threats of climate change and the deterioration of the natural environment. Our organization arose as part of the Long Term Plans for Generational Change programme initiated in 2009 by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Alliance of Religions and Conservation, UK (ARC) to help the world’s major religious traditions create long-term plan EcoSikh to improve their relationship with the environment.
The Washington based EcoSikh is the only Sikh environmental initiative in the world, that has provided us an opportunity to show that our faith is committed to working for the betterment of humanity. Our vision that Sikhs are seen as saviours and protectors of Mother Earth.
During the last couple of months, the Sikh community has been very active in environmental activity throughout the world. Over 5100 organisations from 12 countries and 13 Indian states; the Gurdwaras, Khalsa Schools and other government and non government institutions celebrated the 8th World Sikh Environment Day (SED) on March 14, commemorating the environmental legacy of Guru Har Rai ji. Since 2010, EcoSikh has pioneered in marking the celebration of the Sikh Environment Day in Sikh community. Guru Har Rai was known in history to have deep sensitivity for nature and animals and had asked his followers to care for the environment.This year in 2018, the SGPC launched bio-safe plastic bags made from potato starch at Sri Harmandar Sahib on March 14, to discourage the use of non-biodegradable plastic bags. On an average daily basis, Punjab generates 4300 tonnes of waste, 40% of which is one time use plastics. Gurdwaras in 22 districts of Punjab and other parts of the world participated in SED via bicycle rallies, flower shows, kirtan on nature, clean up drives, buta prasad etc.
Gurdwaras in Sweden organised organic langar and communities from Derby UK, Hong Kong and Lakhi Jungle Bathinda planted trees in forests. Gurdwara Guru Nanak Darbar, Dubai set the Guinesse Book of World Record by distributing highest number of plants to school students in one day. Families in Norway distributed seeds prasad to launch kitchen grading in the Sikh homes. EcoSikh has been instrumental engaging Sikh community to combat climate change and protect the health of future generations.
Punjab, the Sikh homeland is losing ground water at the rate of 3 feet per year, four major cities of Punjab; Ludhiana, Khanna, Gobindgarh and Amritsar are amongst the top 25 most (air) polluted cities of the world, the state is only left with 3.80% of forest cover and none of the cities of Punjab has a legitimate waste recycling scheme.
EcoSikh’s India Project Manager, Ravneet Singh stated, “The entire life on earth is suffering due to quality of air and water. Currently Punjab’s future is not safe. It was for the first time in the history that Punjab’s educational institutions were shut down due to smog in November 2017. This was a warning sign to all of us as citizens. Political leadership ought to take meaningful and remedial steps. We need a unified action plan to prevent such situation and as well to create a long term sustainable plan for Punjab.”
In last week of February, 100 young volunteers from Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Jalalabad, Ferozepur, and Chandigarh gathered to join EcoSikh. A four-hour training session was organised by the environmentalists and entrepreneurs under the aegis of EcoSikh. During the session, they were given an understanding of the environmental urgency of Punjab and well-planned strategy was rolled out to engage the communities via awareness and steps to reduce wastage of water, air pollution and use of Styrofoam (thermocol) and plastic garbage at homes and places of worship.
EcoSikh and Initiators of Change team organised a shout-out to public for a garbage free Punjab and shunning the use of Styrofoam (thermocol) and plastic disposable ware. Over 40 young Green Warriors today, conducted a symbolic clean-up at a roadside garbage spot on Ishmeet Singh Road by Model Town Cremation ground.
Sharing the Punjab state’s garbage statistics said EcoSikh Liaison officer, Satvir Kaur, “Punjab needs a sincere public effort to reduce this 50 percent of garbage by adopting cloth bags, leaf/steel plates and totally banning the use of non-biodegradable plastic and styrofoam stuff from langars, Nagar Kirtan and all kind of religious and social celebrations.”
Later in March EcoSikh was invited at Techno Cultural festival at Guru Nanak Engineering College Ludhiana to spread environmental awareness. EcoSikh Board Member Jasbir Kaur from California along with Amritpal Singh Aulakh who made a special visit to this event to understand how the youth of Punjab respond to the call for climate action by EcoSikh. They were amazed to see an overwhelming response by 250 youngsters who registered to volunteer with EcoSikh. The head of the institute, Dr Sehajpal Singh, also promised to organised water audit in the entire college campus.  Said Jasbir Kaur, “Punjab is facing high water depletion rate of 3 feet per year due to the unchecked installation of tube wells. 102 agricultural development blocks out of 141 in the state, now fall in the dark zone, where the underground water level is 200 feet or more.”
Since 2010, EcoSikh has organized Sikh Environment Day celebrations annually in 18 countries.  Organic Langar, Youth Environmental Leadership Workshops, Organic Farmer Trainings and Organic Mandi, Green Nagar Kirtans, educational environmental movies, and Green Diwali are some of the recent signature campaigns of EcoSikh. EcoSikh has worked with international bodies like the United Nations and the World Bank. In addition, it is frequently being invited by the White House on climate change issues.