How Arunachal's Ziro Festival became sustainable
Representational Image

Ziro Festival is held annually in the picturesque Ziro Valley located in the Lower Subansiri district of Arunachal Pradesh. Home to the Apatani tribe, the Ziro Valley offers lush paddy fields, pine trees, and a pleasant climate. Every year, locals and organisers work hand in hand to make the festival more sustainable. They work with the government, private partners, and allies to introduce new eco-friendly initiatives, apart from continuing measures adopted in the previous years and this year have received support from Make My Trip Foundation who have come onboard as their sustainability partner. 

Here’s what the organisers said when asked about their efforts towards sustainability.

1. Can you share a success story or achievement related to sustainability that your festival has accomplished?

Ziro Festival has been a front runner in adopting best practices relating to sustainability since the festival began in 2012. Each year has been a learning journey, and our actions towards reducing waste and creating awareness to bring about behavioural change comes from our first-hand experience. Towards the effort to make the festival more sustainable and help attendees consider their use of single-use plastics, the festival banned the sale of single-use plastic bottles and serveware. There is free drinking water provided at designated water stations, and attendees are requested to bring reusable water bottles. This was implemented in 2018, four years before the Indian government banned it nationally in 2022. Further, the festival works with all the local food stalls within the festival ground to use traditional ways of serving food in bamboo, local leaves, and banana stems, and where this is not possible, connects them to biodegradable serveware manufacturers.

In tune with our commitment to sustainable values, the festival also runs the Sustainable Design Residence Workshop, designed to create an exchange of knowledge and culture while learning new hand-on skills from each other. The workshops focus on the collaborative working process with participants from different age groups from the indigenous community to create dialogue around sustainability, ecology, socio-cultural and environmental issues and art. The materials used are mainly local or waste that are upcycled to create functional art objects and installations. 

Santiniketan-based artist Dharitri Boro’s ‘The Weaver’. A huge spider made of bamboo that holds a foetus made from plastic waste inside its womb aimed to create awareness on sustainability and the looming threat of excessive use of plastics. Ziro Festival 2022. Photo credit: Mohit Sharma

2. How do you involve local communities and businesses in your sustainability efforts?

Sustainable practices are an inalienable part of the Apatani society — the community that hosts the festival every year. The community has a strong tradition of preserving forests by creating separate groves of bamboo and mixed forests mostly dominated by the indigenous oak. The festival has borrowed similar ethos in preserving these practices.  

Imbibing the wisdom of the indigenous Apatani tribe of Ziro, the festival is designed around sustainable principles that the community has been practising for generations. Since the festival began in 2012, the festival architects spend over a month in Ziro during which they visit villages nearby and interact with the local community to learn how they work with bamboo and how their skill sets have evolved over the years. During the build of the festival infrastructure, over 300 local workers and artisans are employed to work with the architect’s team. The entire team works hand-in-hand crafting the site using new and traditional techniques that they learn from each other to build the entire festival infrastructure including the handcrafted stages and lighting fixtures. Most of the material used for construction of the stages are from the previous editions where the material is stored properly. Even the flattened bamboo called Yamio, which is weaved to make walls have been stored from the previous editions.

Deep Kalra, Trustee, MakeMyTrip Foundation and Founder & Chairman, MakeMyTrip, shares, “We are thrilled to announce our partnership with Ziro Festival 2023, where the rhythm of nature meets the beat of sustainability. As the sustainability partners, MakeMyTrip Foundation shares and encourages Ziro’s harmonious vision, to celebrate the arts while nurturing our planet. Ziro Festival has consistently set a remarkable example of blending cultural richness with environmental responsibility, and we couldn’t be more excited to contribute to this journey. Together, we aim to create an immersive experience that not only resonates with the attendees but also leaves a positive footprint on the Earth. Our commitment to eco-friendliness aligns seamlessly with the festival’s ethos, and we look forward to inspiring others to dance to the rhythm of a greener, more sustainable world.” 

Every year, the festival works with local schools, colleges, youth and women’s associations to organise waste collection drives and its community engagement programmes. We tie-up with local waste businesses to do this as well. These collaborations not only facilitate efficient waste collection but also support local entrepreneurs and businesses, thereby contributing to the economic development of the valley. The festival takes the opportunity to educate both attendees and the local community about the importance of environmental conservation. 

Local community member, Bullo Mobing, working on building the bamboo stage, Pwlo (Moon): 2013. Photo credit: Shiv Ahuja

3. How do you measure and track the environmental impact of your festival? Are there any plans for improvement in the future?

While we have been working constantly towards realising our vision to make Ziro Festival the most environmentally friendly and sustainable festival and pave the way to have a generation of eco-sensitive artists and attendees, there is always room for improvement. We are deeply encouraged by receiving support from Make My Trip Foundation who have come onboard as our Sustainability Partner for this edition and our plans for this year include quantifying and auditing the overall waste from the festival. 

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The festival is well on its path of becoming the most environmentally friendly and sustainable festival, paving the way to have a generation of eco-sensitive artists and attendees. 

Er. Tage Taki, Minister for Agriculture, Horticulture, AH & Veterinary, Dairy Development, Fisheries of Arunachal Pradesh shares, “I am very proud of the 10th Edition of Ziro Festival. This milestone celebration marks a decade of sustainability and culture and our unwavering commitment to sustainability. Ziro Festival has pioneered eco-friendly practices, shunning single-use plastics and embracing infrastructure crafted from locally sourced materials. Our journey towards sustainability is not just a commitment; it’s a testament to our dedication in preserving the pristine beauty of Ziro Valley while showcasing the richness of the Apatani way of life. We believe that sustainability and culture go hand in hand, and together, they’ve made this festival an inspiring beacon for the world to behold.”

Also Read | How eco-friendliness shapes the Ziro Festival of Music

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