India - archdiocese launches campaign against plastic

Chief Minister Sheila Dixit

Chief Minister Sheila Dixit

The Archdiocese of Delhi has begun using two special vans to campaign against the use of plastic and to promote reusable bags made of jute.

Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit on June 5 launched what the organizers claim is the country's first mobile environment-drive to mark World Environment Day. Several environmentalists and Church leaders, including Archbishop Vincent Concessao of Delhi, attended the function at the chief minister's residence.

Archbishop Concessao told the gathering that the vans, emblazoned with messages about environmental protection, would move around the city to encourage people "to make our city safe from plastic."

The prelate told UCA News later that the campaign was "a big step" in the Church's involvement in environmental protection. The project would reach out to all people in the national capital and eight districts of neighboring Haryana state.

The chief minister said plastics are hazardous to nature as they pollute the environment. They are not biodegradable and kill many animals that consume them along with food found in garbage bins. People throw away plastic that eventually gets into the drainage system and blocks it, he said.

A year ago, the archdiocesan social service wing, called Chetanalaya, launched a "green shopper" campaign in collaboration with self-help groups that make jute bags in West Bengal in eastern India.

Archbishop Concessao said Chetanalaya has sold 300,000 bags in the past 12 months with the help of self-help groups in West Bengal and New Delhi. He added that the jute bag campaign has helped the archdiocese to create jobs for the poor as well as promote environmental awareness.

The Delhi state government has also supported the new environment-education campaign using the vans, the prelate said. "These vehicles will help our movement to reach out to more consumers."

During the June 5 event, Dixit applauded Chetanalaya's work and said her government wants more such groups to promote environment awareness among people. She called the launch an "extraordinary big leap toward making people more aware that plastics are harmful and we should not be using them."

Dixit also said that punishing those who damage the environment would not necessarily help save it. People need to work voluntarily to make changes in society, she stressed.

She said the Church's "green vans"  would help bring awareness of the problem even to small vendors who continue to use plastic bags.

Chetanalaya director Father Susai Sebastian told the gathering that people have the responsibility to preserve the environment for "our children." The priest said his group aims to eradicate plastics from Delhi by 2010, when the city is scheduled to hold the Commonwealth Games.

"Until now we were working among the city slums. Now we are getting into other areas," Fr Sebastian said. He added that his organization has about 1,300 self-help groups in Delhi and Haryana.

The priest told UCA News Chetanalaya plans to place another 10 more green vans on the roads by the  end of June to "sensitize more people."

Source: UCAN

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