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Posted at: Aug 13, 2017, 12:42 AM; last updated: Aug 13, 2017, 1:25 AM (IST)

On waste trail in Himachal’s Shrikhand

Sanjam Preet Singh in Chandigarh
On waste trail in Himachal’s Shrikhand
Team Green Srikhand clears trash en route the Shrikhand Mahadev yatra.
IF you are a trekker, you would be sensitive towards the fragile ecosystem of the mountains. You would be mindful of not littering the track with plastic waste. But what about the waste littered by others?

After all, it's a tedious task to bend your back and pick up the waste from an off-beaten path. Ask Ajay Dhiman.

He has been cleaning up the track en route the Shrikhand Mahadev yatra since 2011. That was the first time he visited Shrikhand. Appalled at the plastic waste, he got down to picking up the trash and, by the end of it, he had collected five to six bags of waste.

On his return, he announced at Singhad, the first base camp, to clean up the track from next year. "I said it on the spur of the moment, but realised it later how challenging the task would be. I was planning a clean-up drive on a track, where walking was a challenge," says Ajay (43) from Yamunanagar.

What he said was part of his DNA — to challenge himself and see how he fares. When working as a sales manager, he would dash off to the mountains on weekends - alone on his bike. And when he had had enough of the rigours of a thankless job, he quit and started Himalayanone Expeditions.

A clean-up drive en route the yatra is an environmental initiative of Ajay's adventure outfit. 

He discussed the idea among his friends and some of them came along the next year (2012). Thus, started the “Green Srikhand Eco Drive”.  "For the first three years, we gathered bagfuls of trash. Pilgrims and kiosk owners formed an opinion that the Team Green Srikhand (GS) will come and pick up the trash. So, they littered unabashedly. Some of the kiosk owners dumped the trash in the Kurpan river," he says.

As it seemed a never-ending job, the Team GS shifted its focus last year. It started asking pilgrims not to litter, while kiosk owners were educated about the ill-effects of burning plastic. Slowly and steadily, the change was visible. Now, most of the kiosk owners bury the trash in a pit, while several pilgrims don't throw away the waste. They keep it in their bags and dump it in yellow bags provided by the Team GS to kiosk owners at Singhad, Thachru, Kali Top, Kunsha and Bheem Dawar, among other places en route. 

Noida-based Anil Madhok, one of the participants this year, says the Kullu district administration needs to make an effort for making more arrangements for the pilgrims and cleaning up the track. "In the coming years, the number of pilgrims will increase. The administration should be geared up for that," he adds.

In terms of finances, the journey of the Team GS has been an arduous one. In the initial years, Amit contributed himself and later asked his friends to pool money. 

"On one occasion, I got printed some coupons and distributed them among my friends. I asked them to collect money from their circle against the coupons. The response was poor. So, I decided to charge money from participants. These days, I charge Rs 8,000 from every participant. This covers the cost of travel, lodging and other things," he says.

Every year, eight to ten participants with four crew members trek to the Shrikhand Mahadev, with an added responsibility - a responsibility that every pilgrim needs to understand.

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