Meghalaya with its name evokes thoughts of scenic and enigmatic beauty. Shillong, its capital city, has been called the Scotland of East by the Europeans. But lately, the city has been fighting an ugly battle beneath its beautiful clouds. The Ministry of Tourism in 2015, conducted a study which ranked Shillong as 33rd out of 36 cities in terms of cleanliness index. Meanwhile, many debate that it is the responsibility of the municipality and the local government to maintain cleanliness in our cities. But exactly one week ago, 24-year-old Nangjop Thabah from Meghalaya took it upon himself to make his hometown Shillong, litter-free.
Thabah along with a young neighbour, a fellow volunteer and his sister, and armed with a camera, single handedly began removing the garbage thrown on the streets and drains of Jaiaw Laitdom, his neighborhood. He called this initiative #NoLitterShillong and took to Facebook where he wrote, ‘What followed throughout the course of the drive were folks looking along at us with quiet disdain to questions such as ‘Phi leh aiu?’ (What are you doing?) to more ridiculous ones like, ‘Phi ioh Scheme aiu na ka Sorkar?’ (Which Scheme are you getting from the government?). Apparently, one can’t do a good deed for the local community without an agenda now.’
Thabah admits that initially he was afraid of embarrassing himself or his family but soon that thought fizzled out as he realized what he is doing is the right thing. It was then that he decided to buy pairs of latex gloves along with two dozen large garbage bags and turned his beliefs into actions.
By the end of fourth day, he writes ‘Upon inspection of the waste gathered today, I surmised that 70% of it was potato chips packet, sweets, chocolate and ice cream wrappers which would suggest that the majority of the litter bugs are children, likely from the schools in the vicinity.
Hence I feel it is imperative for parents, shopkeepers and especially teachers to inculcate in them the value of cleanliness not just in the school premises but also in public spaces as well. Teach them the value of ownership, above all. Remember, every micro action counts.’
Thabah has urged more and more people to connect with the cause and the initiative #AdoptaNeighbourhood. Although it started as a small project, but in a week’s time #NoLitterShillong has now become a movement that is sweeping thousands of people who are coming together in making their locality a cleaner place from the city as well as across the nation.
Nangjop is a journalism graduate and vows to remain undeterred and promises to continue this work.
By Pritesh Gupta