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Focus on the Yamuna River
03 February 2010

Delhi, India: The NGO Swechha has been working consistently over the past ten years towards creating a sense of environmental stewardship among young people, concentrating on local environments, while keeping the big picture in mind. It is with this thought process that much of our efforts are centered on the Yamuna.

The Yamuna caters to the needs of millions of people along its course and beyond. Yet, the river has been widely abused. In Delhi, it is safe to say it has been reduced to nothing more than a glorified drain.

The IVD 2009 celebrations were designed to have a two-fold purpose, to foster the spirit of volunteering and to put the spotlight on what can be described as Delhi’s most significant environmental concern.

The most important lesson that the event gave to the volunteers, participants and audience was that it is most essential to care for our natural resources in order to ensure an environmentally sustainable future. It also laid emphasis on the concept that through individual and collective action, each of us can make a tangible difference to the world we live in. Through this event we reached out to a large number of people, mainly youth who have now become a part of the ‘We For Yamuna’ campaign.  

The event owes its success to days of hard work put in by volunteers. We had a team of over 50 volunteers from colleges in Delhi University, who worked closely with the Swechha team to organize and coordinate all the aspects of the event. The efforts of UNV volunteers in the preparatory phase of the IVD event were also significant.

The volunteers were involved with: mobilizing volunteers from schools, colleges and other organizations (event and IVD posters were printed with support from UNV); making and mounting of posters and banners; arranging press coverage; decoration of the venue (banners were designed and printed with support from UNV); assisting school students who participated in the IVD event; making of email invites; and making 30 wall magazines for the IVD workshops, which were then presented to the 30 schools where the workshops were conducted.

The central themes of the workshops and the event were volunteering and environmental conservation. The Yamuna was a central theme in all our discussions, but was used also as a metaphor for what could happen to the entire planet, if we don’t change. The idea of collective participation of the state and civil society in saving the Yamuna was propagated.

More than 3000 volunteers attended the IVD event at Kudsia Ghat, helping in cleaning the banks of the river. The volunteers came from different backgrounds - schools, colleges, NGOs, corporate houses etc.

At the end of the Yamuna Clean-up more than one truck load of garbage had been collected and taken to the landfill from the river bank.

The United Nations Resident Coordinator Mr. Patrice Coeur-Bizot addressed the gathering on 5 December and also joined the volunteers in cleaning the banks of the Yamuna, thereby reinforcing the urgent need for all of us in engaging in different ways to help our planet.

The event was also attended by several noted celebrities including Fashion Designers Rina Dhaka, Ritu Kumar, Shibani Kashyap (singer), Ms.Nafisa Ali (politician).