Clean Up

Dear friends.

I am still in Moreh/Manipur/India, border town to Myanmar.
Until the end of January I stayed in my room, somehow retreating.
It was a surprise, that the need of relaxation, relaxing, rest, just doing really nothing, was so big.

Then there was a rumour, that the border maid open at the 1.2.2021. That was the day of the coup in Myanmar. Finally I heard some days ago, that the border remained closed, not because of the coup, but still because of Corona.
Now there is a new rumour, that the border now maid open at the 1.3.2021. But I not really believe it.

CLEAN UP at Khujailokh River/Moreh.
At the beginning of February I started to clean up the Khujailokh River here in Moreh. I started at the bridge, where the main road bridges the river. Its quite in the center of Moreh, just 100m away from the main market.
Moreh town is somehow dusty, and even at my first day in Moreh I had the feeling, that people dont care about there town.
But surely I have also learned, that there are a lot of nice people, who like to have a better situation for Moreh.
Anyway, at that specific bridge people used to put there garbage directly in the river or to the side of the river, followed by making fire. So the place was somehow a dump for that surrounding area.
On the bridge is maybe 5 or more cm of dust, lots of sand… and the bridge is even a little bit broken. On the bridge and on other places close by there are rest of contruction material, like sand and stones. The whole area looks somehow like a mess. Every time a bike, car or truck drives by, a big wave of dust makes the main road unbreathable (but its paved) Luckly in this times we wear masks, so I have a protection.

So I made that place my starting point. Before I checked, if the town has a dump. I learned, they make fire there sometimes, so I walked towards the dump, to learn, that the dump is on Myanmar ground. At that time no fire to see, the dump area was visible, but I could not go very close.

Physically I clean up the river and area around since the 3rd of February. I learned that Shekharjit founded a clean up group, called WATAM, and works since 2016 for a cleaner Moreh. He is super engaged and there is still a long way to go, to change the habbit of the people. Since Corona times, there was not so much more done.
The press got interested and reports where done in several media, including TV stations, even in the news. ‚A German man started cleaning up the historic Khujailokh river in Moreh‘
Its a sensitive topic not only for the state of Manipur, but for all India. Everyone would like to have a cleaner surrounding and its so difficult to make it happen, because people are used to through everything whereever and citizens like to make fire to burn all the trash.
Several people from different organisations came to help me, for example Surjit from the reforestation hill area in Kakching / Binay (Binay Kumar Shahu), a Paracyclist and engaged for tree plantings (Give me trees) / Valentina, 9 year old girl, who became a award for taking care of trees and is now the Green ambassador of Manipur / Dimbeshwor, from Imphal, socially and environmentally envolved in many projects….
And many more. Officials got involved.

The neighbourhood looked sceptical in the beginning. Its not the first clean up, after a while they got more and more interested and want to be partly envolved, to keep the situation after my leave stable. Kids helped here and there and once in a large group.

These days I speak with a principal of a nearby school. I am also invited to the college of Moreh. Also some other meetings. In the background Shekharjit is working continuesly to organize volunteers and he speeks with officials to get support for changings and laws with fines…. He also arranged all the media at the end of the first week.

And one princip is, not to talk to much, but do every day something. To take every day bags and bags of collected trash out of the river.
Until now, three weeks after starting, there is a strech of 50-70meter done, but 3 more intence places in this area still need attention.
A tree area of 4, who stand and hang somehow with there roots and stam at a kind of wall close to the bridge. This tree roots and stams are full of trash, from the time people where throwing even more trash in the river.
On the other side of the bridge, on a higher level, there is an area, also from earlier times, where people threw garbage down. It has a level of 1,5m in height. Hard to reach.
And another area has to be worked with a rag through. That maid take another 2 or 3 days for one person. Also about 1m high.

At one side, there is a little place, really small, some tree saplings where already there and we planted two more.
The idea is to make this place a little bit cosy. Two or 3 benches are planed.

I have the feeling, that people quickly feel, that you want something from them, by cleaning up. Sure, they appreciate the clean up, but changing habbits, not to burn and to bring the trash to a collection point let the feeling of uncomfortableness rise.
By giving not only nature back, but providing something beautiful, like a relaxing area, could help, to see the positive side of changing habits….

Some days ago, some big frogs layed there eggs in front of us at the cleansed strech of the river. Such a joy. And they came so close.

The idea now is to clean the river towards the source and to see, where the trash enters the river. Which side arms are dry in the dry season and will spoil the garbage into the main river during Monsoon.

Its complex and still is fun, when I feel, nature is breathing again.

Every day through this period, I write a post on Facebook: ‚Thomas Heinrich Schmöckel‘

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