The town of Sagar, Madhya Pradesh, looks no different from the numerous others in the Hindi heartland, except for one aspect -- the ubiquitous polythene bags are missing. The change was brought about when junior ncc cadets, assisted by school children -- a work force of over 50,000 -- launched a 20-day drive against plastic bags.
The guiding force behind the cadets has been retired colonel K L K Prasad, who gave them the initial lessons on the environment. Prasad has also conducted classes over a 10-day period for around 15,000 government school students in Sagar.
The drive was so successful that shop-keepers stopped supplying plastic carry-bags and started displaying notices on the dangers associated with using polybags. The campaign snowballed with doctors, lawyers and professionals from all walks of life extending their support.
The principal of Maharani Laxmi Bai Girls High School says "every student became a Rani Laxmi Bai and declared war on pollution. I had no option but to join them."
The students' efforts paid off. In the two months preceding the launch of the drive, 25 animals died after consuming polythene bags, but since then there have been no reports of animal deaths from polybag consumption. The use of paper bags has increased and this has created additional jobs.
Having achieved one mission, the children are now planning to tackle the acute water shortage in the city. The water table in the surrounding areas has fallen to a depth of 300 ft and people have been compelled to purchase drinking water during the summer. But if the children have a similar measure of success as their previous venture the water shortage in the city will soon be a thing of the past.
Sagar's children have shown that nothing is impossible if the commitment and determination to tackle crises exist. In the end, saving the environment is saving yourself.
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