(From left) ‘Shillong Times’ editor Patricia Mukhim, managing director Manas Chaudhuri and former ambassador RV Warjri addressing the media at The Shillong Press Club on Friday

Shillong: Failing to curb the garbage menace in Meghalaya capital Shillong, The Shillong Times, a leading newspaper of the state, has decided not to cut a cake to mark its 75th year of existence. Instead, it will organise a seminar on the theme, ‘Waste Management: Challenges and Solutions’, on March 21.

Incidentally, The Shillong Times led an operation clean-up on August 8 last year. Comprising schools, colleges and several like-minded groups and organisations, they have been working on Saturdays to clean up public spaces and rivers on a regular basis.

Wanting to find a sustainable solution for people not to litter the streets, streams and the overall environment of Shillong, The Shillong Times (Pvt) Limited managing director Manas Chaudhuri said that it was everyone’s job to keep the city clean and that the government alone is not responsible for it.

“Everybody wants Shillong to be clean, but everybody’s baby is nobody’s baby. So we want to have a dialogue with the people who are supposed to look after the cleanliness of Shillong. The citizens, the authorities, the government, the other official agencies all together we plan to have a dialogue,” said Chaudhuri.

Meghalaya chief minister Conrad K Sangma will inaugurate the programme to be held at the Hotel Pinewood Banquet Hall. The seminar will have two basic business sessions. One session is about the solid waste that every household produces a lot of waste, how to collect and how to finally dispose of. The second session is about water bodies and how to keep them clean.

Chaudhuri emphasised the need for Rangbah Shnong (headmen) to come forward and take responsibility.

“We want public participation, we cannot depend on government. The government alone cannot keep the town clean. We as citizens must come forward; we have requested the rangbah shnong (local authority) to come forward and assume some responsibility. Give some directions to the government; we want to see how we can create a roadmap, a roadmap that will be sustainable. We are expecting 100-150 people to turn up,” added Chaudhuri.

Meanwhile, The Shillong Times editor Patricia Mukhim highlighted the issues of how the garbage remains the same despite the repeated clean-up drives being carried out by the team.

“We have been trying to clean up the Umkaliar river. And the reason why we have stuck to Umkaliar is that we don’t want to move from one river to another. By sticking to Umkaliar we are reducing the flow of garbage into the Umkhrah. And from Umkhrah we know that it goes down to Umiam. But every time we have gone there, we have found that the garbage remains the same,” said Mukhim.

Questioning the flow of garbage, Mukhim emphasised the need for a proper river gateway at the endpoint of every locality.

“Because the river Umkaliar it comes from many localities, so unless we have a proper gateway where every dorbar shnong (locality) ends then every locality will blame the other. We want to put an end to this blame-game and see how we can make sort of traps that end on a particular locality. So that locality will be responsible for collecting that garbage or for telling the residence that this is a punishable offence,” added Mukhim.

She further added that a mindset change is the most difficult change to bring about.

Former ambassador RV Warjri said that what was surprising is how civilised people continue to litter the place, and felt that it must be a habit for them. Warjri said that such mindsets should change.

Warjri echoed the same opinion with Mukhim that Rangbah Shong (Headmen) has a major role to play in the society and curtail the menace of garbage.

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