There are no tourists now, but imagine a national park that is famous for years of plastic waste more than its nature or wildlife. This is where Jim Corbett National Park is headed, as India’s first Tiger Reserve and Asia’s first National Park. Over 200,000 tourists came here in 2019, and left behind a mountain of waste for villages to deal with. Corbett Tiger Reserve has an average of 14 tigers per 100 square kilometers but also a very high density of waste that is generated per square kilometer. Despite being a plastic free zone, environmentalists are constantly expressing concern over plastic infestation in the region.
What are the Challenges?
The accumulation of waste is a consequence of a massive influx of tourists over the years and improper waste disposal. The widespread dumping and burning of plastics is a regular sight around Corbett and is a threat to the key wildlife and forest habitats in the beautiful Terai Arc Landscape. With its presence in air, water, and soil, plastic pollution is an unacknowledged pandemic.
But there is a twist in this seemingly sombre tale of waste.
Since 2013, a Dehradun based NGO, Waste Warriors has been actively working in this region through their Corbett team. Its 9 member local team and 15 Self Help Group (SHG) women have been tirelessly managing waste around eastern Corbett. Efforts to engage villages, change behaviours among communities, and build Solid Waste Management systems have slowed down habitat degradation and mitigated the impact of waste pollution on key wildlife.
Impact Since 2013
Through 450+ clean-ups with 6500+ volunteers, and waste collection services from 20+ villages, they have diverted 450+ tonnes of waste from wildlife habitats like forests and rivers. They have also helped sensitize 18,000+ children in 79 schools on Solid Waste Management(SWM), and 800+ families now segregate their waste. On an average, the Waste Warriors Corbett team ends up collecting 300+ kgs of waste in each clean up drive.
Current Scenario amid the prevailing circumstances
However, COVID-19 has now presented its own set of concerns. Homes and shops that relied heavily on tourism have lost their only sources of income. This means that the SHG women who are an integral part of this waste management system, without the support of the team at Waste Warriors Corbett, have also lost their source of user-fees from homes and shops that were participating in waste collection. This is a challenge that will take months to overcome.
- There’s a need to prevent the reckless burning and improper disposal of waste from endangering wildlife in Corbett’s sensitive ecosystem.
- There’s a need to build the value of waste for a better circular economy where; what is disposed of, even at rural scales, is returned to producers.
- Lastly, there’s a need to empower marginalised rural communities by providing livelihood options that tackle waste disposal challenges and also improve health & sanitation throughout these villages.
Approach to Mitigate Environmental Impact
The primary strategy of Corbett team to achieve Solid Waste Management works in villages through (i) initiating community behavioural change, (ii) activating & sustaining Solid Waste Management systems through waste collection, segregation, and material recovery, (iii) supporting rural youth through skill-building and empowering women through better livelihoods and Self Help Group mentoring, and (iv) building collaborative partnerships with key government and tourism bodies.
Why should you consider Donating?
In order to afford this integrated approach to building a sustainable Solid Waste Management model, the team at Waste Warriors Corbett, including the SHG women who cannot earn a living without collecting and segregating more recyclables, require our support. Their resources are overstretched but the passion towards their work is unwavering. Even during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Self Help Group women of Waste Warriors Corbett ensured villagers had safe access to the waste collection service. They have dutifully carried out their work as frontliners and continue to do so.
Each one of us can do something about it. The team asks for our support as they clean Corbett, one village at a time. Join them in this fight against waste, and become their beacon of hope in this pandemic!