Solid and Plastic Waste earns INR 1,00,000 for Municipal corporation every month and INR 2,50,000 to localities. Dirty, smelly dumping yards are turned into beautiful parks and playgrounds.
Mr. Ramdas Kokare, Government Chief Officer has been building healthy societies by ensuring hygienic surroundings and clean environment for citizens.
Top Government officer who works as an NGO, hardly takes leaves and works from dawn to dusk night just for saving mother earth! He has ignited his teams and all the stakeholders to follow his suite wholeheartedly.
Here are the details of discussion with Mr. Ramdas Kokare with our Inspirational Beings's team
Tell us about your personal Background and education
I hail from a tiny village of India, called Ritewadi. My parents are shepherd cum farmers and we are from uneducated Low strata community. Our lives and livelihood were completely depended on nature, rain and thus there was a huge uncertainty in every aspect of life. There were no tar roads, electricity, cemetery or even public transport.
In that poverty, my family gave me good lessons, like never giving up hope, persistence, and patience, which has been helping me in carrying this mission.
I was the first graduate in my entire family and village. After my graduation in agro-science, which was a thing unheard of in my family and village, I decided to pursue government service.
What inspired you to become the super efficient government officer who has created his own impact nationally
My college years in Agriculture College Pune and competitive atmosphere of Mahatma Phule Agriculture University,Rahuri played a significant role in me coming into government services as a Chief Officer.
When I lived in a tiny village, I thought” the sanitation, hygiene, open defecation, illegal dumping, and all the environmental violations were due to illiteracy, poverty and in the absence of strong alternatives. But my belief completely changed during my college days. People carelessly throw waste including empty plastic water bottles, cans, chips wrappers in the open ground and public places were of different ages, socio background, and economic condition.
I realized, the real problem of environmental violation is due to lack of awareness on basic environment values in common man.
Then I started reading about the alarming level increase of global warming due to pollution and irresponsible human behavior, and it’s harmful consequences in the form of increasing natural disasters ( floods, droughts, cyclones, etc.) and the spread of disease.
In that phase, I read the book “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson, a world-famous American biologist, who talked about the dangerous impact of plastic pollutants and pesticides’ on the environmental and mother earth, that had a lasting impact on my understanding; we all are the stakeholders and contributors to these problems and are entitle for the dangerous outcome, if we don’t arrest this problem.
One man will have limited scope in changing society, but with public support, we can achieve any revolution faster. This motivated me to join Government services. An officer can influence people in the right direction and that can foster a strong and healthy society.
Challenges you faced in carrying this mission and how did you overcome them?
To bring out any change in the society there are many challenges to be faced, Literacy in cleanliness is most important, it includes awareness regarding segregation of waste at source, plastic pollution, and self-responsibility to keep public places clean. Lasting behavioral change is a key factor which requires continuous interaction with citizens and change in their attitude.
When we started taking actions over Citizens & shopkeepers who were not adhering to plastic ban and segregation of waste at source, they started protesting and many times gave precedence of other towns where plastic use was allowed and waste segregation was not the mandate.
To overcome this objection, me and my team established the “Volunteer” group which was comprised of citizens who had understood the importance of Clean city.
To make these campaign successful going above and beyond our duty call was essential. We set up cleanliness drives from 6 am to 9 am and 7 pm to 10 pm. We conducted discussions and meeting with local residents, shop keeper and vendors to make them understand dangerous side effects of using plastics and other pollutants, and how they affect every one of us, our coming generations and mother earth adversely. Slowly many more citizens volunteered for the mission. This wasn’t just a day or week activity, it became a continuous process for my team.
We worked on a strategy that would attract and appreciate the work of rural citizens, like recognizing citizens who used cloth or paper bags against plastic bags. Traders were given away a certificate and a letter of appreciation when they stopped using and giving plastic bags in their shops.
Explaining people about defecating on the roads about hygiene and sanitation was the biggest challenge, as no Government rule prohibited them from doing so. We realized, open defecation challenge, influencing people to change their choices, priorities, and habits were important as many relatively well to do people prefer open defecation overuse of affordable latrines.
Local and traditional leaders are mirrors of the community. Anything they do and possess can serve as an example, and people are more likely to follow their advice. We first contacted the prominent people, presented our project and when they were convinced, they worked as our mission ambassadors
Separate “Good morning groups” were established where motivated Men, women and even youth use to visit, prohibit and educate people about the hazardous side of open defecation and how it causes disease and inhibits the physical and cognitive growth of their own kids. We supported poor citizens, in building toilets by giving grant from the government.
Sometimes I used to feel discouraged to see people opposing good initiatives, which were required for everyone’s benefit. But then I used to remind myself to remain optimistic and persistent. Sometimes things look difficult, and look like there is no hope, there is always a small glimmer of light and if we hang on that, then this glimmer becomes big and significant flame in no time. Ultimately, many schools, NGOs, and various political teams wholeheartedly supported us in making clean cities.
What is unique about your Mission and what motivates you to pursue it despite many difficulties in the current system ?
Our mission is creating clean, responsible and healthy societies with no dumping yards or open defecation.
Along with my colleagues, we started various campaigns by deciding our mantras - THINK GLOBALLY ACT LOCALLY, Plastic-free villages and cities, Waste to energy(electricity generation through biogas), Solar -wind Power plant (23kw), Litterbin free city, Segregation of wet and dry waste at source, No open defecation, Waste should earn wealth and No dumping yards in Cities
Vegurla a small city in state of Maharashtra is first city to be Zero Waste city and zero waste dumping ground. United Kingdom has refereed Vengurla city zero waste model for her PhD.
Our approach to creating wealth through a waste created a miracle. In Vengurla, Maharashtra India, we built 12 km of “plastic” roads. The uniqueness of this road is, its built out of plastic waste which our citizens sold to contractors and earned INR 15 per kg of plastic waste sold. Collectively locals earned close to INR 250,000 out of waste!
We installed garbage screening machine and plastic crusher machines. A briquette machine is installed that helps process dry waste such as Garden waste into briquettes, which are sold to nearby industries as an alternative fuel for boilers. Unwanted material having calorific value is sold to cement factories where it is melted at 3000 degrees Celsius and used as RDF. while glass, paper, cardboard, rubber, tyres and metal waste are sold by auction. All these activities created wealth for locals and for the municipal corporation.
We have successfully converted waste dumping sites into tourist points, playgrounds, and cultivable land.
My motivation is blessings from low strata society, who directly gets impacted from smelly, detrimental polluted slums and dumping yards, unfortunately, these people have no voice to protest against unhygienic surrounding and unhealthy living conditions which get imposed on them.
How can society contribute to the mission of Hygienic surrounding and healthy world?
“If we don’t effectively manage waste generated in our area, it will follow us everywhere - in the soil, in the air, and in the sea those sustain us.
We always organize our house, workplaces, and surroundings to look beautiful and clean. However are we throwing the waste in the right direction? Are we keeping our bigger home, Mother earth, Clean?
People, societies, and behaviors should change from within not from external power. Inner changes and realization are everlasting. Every one of us should play our duties in cleaning our areas and ensure we contribute our efforts in cleaning common places and roads. People need to volunteer with NGOs, who are making consistent efforts in keeping your city clean. We should educate and guide people, who defecate in open places or throw their garbage on the roads.
We have been destroying our own natural resources, but every one of us has a golden chance of restoring those resources. To do so, least we can do is plant a tree and it is a very doable thing.
It doesn’t matter how small the action is, if we all do the little things, we can collectively make a huge difference and can create a beautiful and comfortable world.
Awards and recognition :
Awards/Recognitions : INR 2,50,00,000 Cleanest city award from State Government, ‘First prize in Konkan division for Sant Gadgebaba Nagari Swachhata Abhiyan INR 8,00,000 in 2010, ‘Vasundhara Mitra’ Activist’ award, 2012-2016-2017, ‘Best Chief Officer’ Municipal Corporation, 2016, ‘NDTV, Banega Swachh India’, Award felicitated by Mr. Amitabh Bachchan. 2016, ‘Vasundhara Mitra’ Activist’ award, 2017, ‘Sindhudurg Bhushan’ award, 2017, ‘Vasundhara Sanman’ award, 2017, ‘Five leaves award 2018(By CSE).
Someone believes in creating a healthy society and responsible generations and does his best to change the world we live in.
Let us be part of this mission of protecting our own mother earth!
You can contact Mr Kokare on his youtube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHpv5vRGbvxihEMUpoP6Vuw
This article is supported by
Gurukul, Sarswati Education Society, Pune, India
6th Grade student.