It was a typical conversation that you expect from 3 friends, sitting together at a hotel in the pretext of current national scenario. National politics was in discussion, how 2017 has shaped the political landscape of Pakistan. Probably the best thing happens in the recent years, the emergence of youth as a significant stakeholder in the political calculations. From there, the focus drifted down to the happenings of Azad Jammu and Kashmir. But now the focus was not the politics anymore but the inexcusably depreciating outlook of Muzaffarabad, the capital city of AJK. They were discussing how the local administration has failed to maintain a city which people once used to compare with Bogota, capital of Columbia, due its beautiful, clean and green appearance.
What started as a typical conversation did not, fortunately, end as one. These 3 friends did not simply bash the government and the administration, finished their tea and adjourned the meeting. Something emblematic of youth these day, right? Instead they decided to take an initiative. After a few days, one of them Waleed Nisar, a graduate student of MBA from AJK university decided to test the waters. He made a Facebook, stating his concerns about the cleanliness and environmental issues of Muzaffarabad and his ambition to start a public movement to counter this effect. His notification icon was stormed with comments like “bohat achay bhai”, “yes we desperately need it”, “Shru karen bhai, hum ap k sath haen” etc. So he planned an activity to clean a neighborhood and shared the details of his plan online.
At the D-day, there were only 8 people present at the venue to carry out the cleanliness process. One of them was Waleed, and rest of all 7 were his close friends. But being the part of this young crowd, Waleed had anticipated how it was going to turn out. He knew that the youth of our country would conveniently share on Facebook Prophet S.A.W saying, “Cleanliness is half of faith” (Sahih Muslim 223). But when it comes to application to this saying only few show the commitment.
Anyhow, they named their initiative, “Clean&Green Muzaffarabad”. They were moving around all that neighborhood picking up trash with their hands and putting it into the plastic bags they were carrying with them. During the process, they noticed something they had not accounted for earlier. Due to lack of awareness and habit of years, people were still littering around right in front of their eyes. This provoked an insight that for the success of this initiative it is very important that they create an awareness among the masses as well about why it is important to keep their surrounding clean.
So, now they were picking up the trash and talking with people about why they were doing it. Many laughed that it is not going to help as tomorrow this locality will be the same dump, but a few appreciated as well.
The day came to an end, once again Waleed took it to Facebook and uploaded the images of the activity. He showed before and after images of the neighborhood and it was absolutely amazing, the difference. Waleed thanked all those who joined him in the cause, but the best part was that he DID NOT reproach those who were first to comment on his previous post but nowhere to be seen on the day. The response once again was very overwhelming and positive.
That is when Waleed was struck with an amazing idea. He asked people to clean their own street, individually, they were living on. Take a selfie before and after the activity to show the difference, share it on Facebook and challenge others to do the same using hashtag #Your_House_Your_Street. Clean&Green Muzaffarabad campaign started to take momentum with many people joining this selfie activity. Surprisingly, it did not restrain itself to Muzaffarabad city but spread across many cities of AJK. Once a group of tourist who had gone to Ratti Gali lake, a breathtaking and famous tourist spot in Neelum Valley, carried out this activity over there. They picked up the trash and wrappers which tourist had dumped around the lake and urged other tourists to please maintain the serenity and beauty of these tourist spots. Hence a new dimension was given to the campaign.
Some More glimpses from #Your_House_Your_Street Initiative.
It is very easy to gauge the success factor of such movements, your circle of volunteers keeps on growing. When the second activity inside the city, at another locality was planned, the no. of participants grew significantly. And they kept on growing. Clean&GREEN Muzaffarabad recently organized its 5th major cleanliness exercise from Bank Road to Press club, a busiest intra city road. What started off as a campaign by 8 friends, had huge no. of volunteers this time. It was not just the students and youth anymore. They were joined by lawyers, journalists and civil society members.
A resolution was signed by hundreds of citizens, directed toward the Prime Minister Of AJK Raja Farooq Ahmed Khan, which demanded proper cleaning road map for the capital city, on part of government and relevant authorities.
Citizens of Muzaffarabad signing the resolution.
Clean&Green Muzaffarabad Campaign In Images
The best thing about Clean&GREEN Muzaffarabad is that it not only encourages citizens to take responsibility of their environment but also building an advocacy to government to fulfil its designated responsibilities. It is one of the primary functions of government to look after environmental issues which directly and indirectly effect the health of its citizens. It is encouraging to see the general public looking after its backyard but this simply does not mean that government can rest back. It functions on the taxpayer’s money, and it should be made to perform its duties if it is not doing so. For this purpose, in its latest activity, Clean&GREEN Muzaffarabad posted “99 signatory form letters” written by people of Muzaffarabad to Prime Minister Of AJK Raja Farooq Ahmed Khan. They announced it via a Facebook post which read:
Team Clean & Green Muzaffarabad posted “99 signatory form letters” to Prime Minister of AJK. These forms are filled by people of Muzaffarabad city.
Basically the form contained some valuable suggestions for taking steps to eliminate the garbage heaps from the city. It suggests necessary measures to dispose off waste and trash from the certain areas.
The concept of sending 99 letters to PM is, since we have sent 99 letters, we will be desperately awaiting 100th from Mr PM, which could change the fate of Capital of AJK.
Now ball is in the court of PM of Azad Kashmir.
“99 signatory form letters” posted to Prime Minister Of AJK Raja Farooq Ahmed Khan.
Waleed Nisar, the pioneer driving force behind this initiative, while talking about growth of Clean&Green Muzaffarabad said, “As the name of the campaign indicates, our next step is to counter the environmental degradation by means of planting more and more trees. Muzaffarabad has been a beautiful and clean city but in recent year we have seen a significant increase in the pollution level. Though its intensity is not as grave as we get to seen in Lahore and other cities of Punjab but still we need to stop it to escalate to that level. We are growing with the number of volunteers day by day. To maximize the use of human resource we will soon be starting proper registration of the volunteers.”
When asked what would be the message he would like to convey to students across all the Pakistan he said, “This is our country, our home. We belong to it and it belongs to us. Nations and countries go through crisis situations, it nothing new. Sure we have many problems, who else is going to solve them if we don’t? Sure enjoying and having fun is part of student life but that’s not it. You have got problem with something around you, CHANGE IT. It does not matter the magnitude of the change, but the fact that you do make a difference even at a minute level. Do it for yourself, your community and your country.”
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