As many as 934 members from 85 branches of the Young Mizo Association (YMA) along with officers and staff from the PHED (Public Health Engineering Department) and the local community participated in shramdaan during which they removed plastic waste from the longest river in Mizoram – the Tlawng River, cleaning 11 tributaries in the process.
All the plastic waste collected along the river during the shramdaan on July 2, 2022 was carried by garbage trucks to a proper plastic disposal ground. The initiative is a part of the Swachh Bharat Mission Grameen (SBM-G) Phase II campaign of which plastic waste management is an integral component.
The campaign was launched amid a small gathering early in the morning. The Minister for Public Health Engineering Department, Shri Tawnluia addressed the gathering, spoke about the importance of protecting the river from pollutants of which plastic was one, before he flagged off the programme.
For the officers and other staff from PHED who were detailed to help out at designated locations, the active participation in the cleanup of the river by all members, officials and local inhabitants living near the river was a heartening sight.
Plastic pollution in riverine ecosystems directly impacts livelihood, causing economic losses while increasing the risk of flooding in both urban and rural areas. The harmful effects of plastics – a persistent material that takes hundreds of years to decompose; causing ecological, economic and eco-toxicological effects that are long term – are well known.
Illegal dumping amounts to throwing of garbage which contains toxic substances directly into a river or stream, causing extensible damage to marine life and polluting the water for human use. The Tlawng River that harbours an array of species bore the brunt of this practice, its inhabitants gradually succumbing to the poison of plastics.
Mizoram under the influence of the southwest monsoon receives heavy rainfall during the months of May to September. Rainfall is the only source of water in the state that replenishes both the ground and surface water. The surface water is distributed into numerous streams and rivers flowing through the hilly terrain of the State. This is the chief source of water for the people of Mizoram as underground water is not easily accessible in the hilly terrain.
Other than domestic uses, the river water is used for multiple purposes in agriculture, industry, transportation, aquaculture, tourism, etc.
The river Tlawng also known as Dhaleswari originates from Zopui hill near Zobawk (Lunglei District) and passes through five districts of the state. It is the major source of water for the Mizo people.
In keeping with the MOU dated 28.9.2021 signed between the Public Health engineering Department and the Young Mizo Association which is the biggest and most powerful NGO in the state, a Coordination Committee on Water Resource Conservation and Sanitation was created.
The MOU stipulates the organizing of Shramdhan and cleanliness drives in various places of Mizoram towards the making of a plastic free state. Furthermore, a high-level committee meeting was held and notifications published in the Mizoram Gazette for establishing a ‘Save Tlawng River’ Committee the Chairman of which was the Chief Minister of Mizoram.
Towards this initiative, a Save Tlawng Committee was established and a proposal was made to conduct a mass awareness campaign along with Shramdhan on July 2, 2022.