The Muni-ki-Reti, Tapovan and Laxmanjhula area is 3 to 4 kilometers from Rishkesh in northern India, and is considered by many as one of the holiest areas in the world, still radiating a peace and stillness that has arisen from centuries of deep meditation on the Great Reality by the saints and sages of India.
Over the last 30 years however, this area has become an increasingly popular destination, not only with Indian pilgrims visiting the Ganges and holy sites in the region, but with western spiritual seekers and tourists, and more recently with rafting enthusiasts and weekend visitors from Delhi. As a result the pristine beauty of the area has become increasingly degraded by a combination of factors:
As a result garbage now litters the roadsides, drains, ravines, the banks of the Ganges and the hillsides. And the end-point for a large percentage of this garbage is the Ganges itself. In addition, cows eat the plastic bags containing food and sometimes die.
In the year 2000, deeply concerned with this problem, some students of American spiritual teacherAndrew Cohen at the EnlightenNext Centre in Rishikesh, began picking up plastic bottles themselves on the roadsides. Later they informally organized rag pickers to collect the bottles and other dry waste from local guest houses. Gradually this service grew into a small enterprise under the supervision of one of Andrew’s Indian students, Jitendra Kumar. It was given the very apt name, “Clean Himalaya.”
In 2006 Swami Amritarupananda, a Canadian disciple of Swami Chidananda of The Divine Life Society in Rishikesh, began helping Jitendra with the project and soon became completely involved. With her help a proposal was made to The World Bank India 2007 Development Marketplace Competition for grass roots initiatives for management and protection of Natural Resources.
In May 2007 Clean Himalaya was one of twenty out of 2500 grassroots projects selected for the World Bank Award. In September 2007 Clean Himalaya became a Society and is now officially called ‘The Clean Himalaya Society.
What began as the spontaneous response of a few individuals is now a growing non-profit venture managed by Jitendra Kumar with six hired workers and the help of a growing number of volunteers, serving almost 300 hotels, restaurants, ashrams, shops and households.
From the inside
At the heart of Clean Himalaya is a passionate response to the desecration of the beauty and holiness of this region. It is a devotional response by Westerners and Indians alike who have been deeply touched by the sanctity of the Ganga and Himalayas. For this reason there has always been a spiritual basis to Clean Himalaya and its work.