Holy City on environmental decline, but positive signs emerge
Supplied Content (By EcoSikh, Washington DC, USA)
Amritsar, June 28, 2017
Hundreds of people from all faiths marched at dawn, along with their faith leaders and representatives, in the ‘Walk for Amritsar,’ organised by Eco-Amritsar under the tutelage of EcoSikh on June 27, 2017 to mark the 440th anniversary of the City.
Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains and Sikhs walked together to mark this auspicious occasion, raising positive slogans and carrying placards for the ecological upliftment of the Holy City in consonance to the vision of Guru Ramdas Ji.
Hundreds of people were engaged through social media campaign on Facebook and many youngsters worked for days to volunteer for the celebrations.
Golden City then…
Guru Ram Dass established the City as ‘Chak Ramdasspur’ in 1577.
It was envisioned to be a hamlet, created around the Golden Temple, in harmony with Nature. The City was flush with gardens, commercial establishments and residential dwellings interwoven and in sustainable coexistence.
That hamlet has now expanded to a bustling City of over 1.3 million people, with more than 40 million visitors each year. Lack of credible waste management and unchecked growth of three wheelers spewing out dangerous and poisonous gases has made Amritsar one of the 20 most polluted cities globally.
Disheartening pollution now
Amritsar is facing severe environmental challenges. There is only 1% of forest area left in the City which is losing three feet of underground water every year.
Eco-Amritsar team has initiated projects to involve schools, colleges, businesses and gurdwaras to take green steps like plantation drive, awareness campaigns and also promoting organic food.
The Fifth Annual ‘Walk for Amritsar’ on June 27, 2017 was a celebration of the City’s existence as well as an introspection of the five-year Eco Amritsar Programme (2013-2017). The Programme for clean and green environs, for a plastic free, water saving, sensible and responsible Amritsar was adopted by scores of NGOs and supported by the district administration, SGPC, educational institutions and social welfare organisations.
The two-hour procession had participation from schools, colleges, NCC, Bhagat Puran Singh Pingalwara and others. A power-packed gatka by Chief Khalsa Diwan Orphanage, and a brilliant street play (Nukkad Natak) on irresponsible littering and defacement by the IVE school for the underprivileged were performed at the commencement of the citizens gathering at Ram Bagh gardens.
People from all over the world watched the live coverage on Facebook.
The event was chaired by Deputy Commissioner Kamaljit Singh Sangha, who, despite personal emergency, kept his promise to the people and returned to the City early morning.
Commitment to conserve
Speakers at the event expressed their pledges to work together for the betterment of the City. The proposal by Bhai Guriqbal Singh to adopt two neighbourhoods for cleaning and greening by each social organisation was endorsed by Indranuj of ISKON Hare Krishna Temple.
Similarly, Father Vijay of the Diocese of Amritsar, Abdul Noor, President Majlis Ahrar Punjab (Amritsar Mosque), Colonel Commandant NCC Ashwini, were unanimous in their support to the cause.
While ecological warriors and organisations who have worked with Eco-Amritsar 2013-2017 were presented saplings, the plantation program for this monsoon was inaugurated by ceremonial handover of 250 saplings to Palmgrove and Paradise Green Association representative Mona Mehra, and 100 saplings to Atamjit Kaur.
Scores of indigenous tree species were presented to citizens, organisations and children who pledged to look after them for at least one year.
The efforts of Ravneet Singh, Project Manager South Asia EcoSikh, and his team from Khalsa Colleges, Basics of Sikh and youthful volunteers at large who worked tirelessly in creating events over the past one week were widely appreciated. These events were held in collaboration with Dilbir Foundation, Art gallery, Voice of Amritsar and other social welfare societies.
In a message from Washington DC, Dr Rajwant Singh, President, EcoSikh, said, “Guru Ram Dass Nagri is revered and loved globally. World Sikh population looks with concern the rapid fall in environmental indices of Amritsar. While Sri Harmandir Sahib, the Golden Temple, is pristine in its grandeur, it is the Holy City which has degraded immensely, and its green cover depleted. We need a concerted effort to renew its sustainability for our future generations.”
Mr Sangha was deeply appreciative of this philanthropic and proactive initiative.
He stressed the need to recognise the contribution of the ragpickers and the sanitary workers who work ceaselessly for maintaining a semblance of cleanliness.
He asked people to take responsibility and assist the civic administration to make the essential change in the City.
Said Gunbir Singh, Chairman, Eco-Amritsar, “In all humility our initiatives for a better City have shown encouraging results. The organic food movement including organic langar at the Harimandar, Plantations in the City, Green Nagar kirtan, Plastic-free Christmas, Zero-disposal parks and garbage-free households are some of the positives that give us satisfaction. The enthused NGO participation, advocacy with local and state administration as well as our tree plantation projects are ongoing initiatives. Most gratifying is the interfaith support that we generate on occasions such as AFD 2017, which encourage us to work towards an Amritsar as envisioned by the Gurus.”
- Amritsar Deputy Commissioner Kamaljit Singh Sangha speaking at the Celebrations. Seated are Interfaith leaders along with EcoSikh Team members
- Young volunteers pledge to protect the environment in the Holy City
- Members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness participating in the process. Hindus, Muslims and Christians were also a part of the event
(Pictures supplied by EcoSikh based in Washington DC)