Mission possible

It all started at the football ground in Polo last year. Jefferson Kynjing’s son was playing in the Baby League and had scored his first goal. The proud father jumped out of his seat to cheer for the little star. In that moment of jubilation he stepped on a mineral water bottle and almost fell on his face.
“It could have been a serious accident and I could have broken my skull or limbs. By God’s grace I was saved. But that was a turning point,” he says.
Kynjing, an alumnus of St Edmund’s School, decided to start his campaign against plastic waste. He started collecting plastic bottles and other polythene waste from his neighbourhood and wherever he went.
Called Project Clean Surroundings, it was a lone man’s fight against plastic pollution in the hill city. But with time, Kynjing started getting support from concerned neighbours.
Whenever Kynjing goes out for jogging in the morning he makes sure that he carries a garbage bag so that he can pick up waste littered everywhere in the city.
Plogging, or picking up garbage while jogging, is a new concept and many concerned citizens in other cities are practising this nowadays. However, Kynjing was not aware of the term until he was told about it.
The 44-year-old man stays in a rented house with his wife Tiapokla Jamir Kynjing and two children, Norman and Ivan. And all of them support Kynjing in his endeavour. “My sons too are aware of the plastic hazard and abstain from any kind of littering. So every time they drink packaged juice or cold drinks or chips, they put the plastic bottle, wrapper or tetra pack in their bags or find a dustbin for disposing of the waste. Even I have got into the habit of collecting plastic waste when I see it lying on the road,” says Jamir.
On any given day, the backyard of the two-storeyed Assam-type house is filled with plastic waste collected from the nook and corner of the city. Kynjing says it is embarrassing at times when visitors see heaps of plastic and liquor bottles but “I feel that those people whose litter I have collected should be more embarrassed”.
Initially, Kynjing did not know how to dispose of the waste and a friend in Laitkor who deals in scrap helped him with his vehicle. Now, he uses his car to carry the waste. “But the car I use is a family vehicle and I do not have any spare vehicle for carrying the waste. If any Good Samaritan can rent out an old vehicle then I will be really grateful. It will be for a good cause,” he says.
Sing Paramkhol, who runs a small tailoring shop in the locality, and Cliff Richard Kharkongor are among the people who are helping Kynjing run his cleaning drive in the city. Kharkongor, who was unemployed, says Kynjing is helping him earn by selling the garbage.
“He is an inspiration. I volunteered without thinking about earning a livelihood. But Bah Jeff (as Kynjing is known among friends and relatives) helped me a lot. Apart from our neighbourhood and other parts of the city, we go to Upper Shillong and Smit to collect plastic waste littered by locals and tourists,” says Kharkongor.
Kynjing says he does not keep the money earned from the disposed waste for personal use “Instead, I use it for agriculture. A friend has given me a small plot of land in Laitkor that is used for growing potatoes, chillies, cabbages and other vegetables. I have employed a person to farm as well as take care of the land and I pay him from whatever money I get from selling the plastic waste,” he adds.
This year till May, Kynjing and his companions collected 1,964 kg of waste. One can hardly see any plastic waste in the locality in Laitumkhrah where the green crusader lives.
Persara Rynjah, a member of a local women’s group, says a few people know about Kynjing’s initiative at present but “I am hopeful that the word will spread and more Shillongites will join hands to clean the city”.
Kynjing is against those who join cleaning drives on special occasions and remain inactive for the rest of the year. “Cleanliness should not be an occasional affair. It should be part of our lifestyle. One should get over shyness, laziness and pride and start cleaning the city. The onus is on us, the citizens,” he asserts.

~ NM

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