On the morning of Sunday, July 16th, 10 of us, a group of teenagers, worked for almost four hours, scraping bills, removing garbage, and repainting electrical boxes near Marathahalli Bridge, Bengaluru. We started our work at 6.30 am. By the time we finished, the stretch of road was clean, colorful, and a pleasure to see! This is just one of many projects that we have taken up in the past year, working under the group name of Clean Up Bangalore, or CUB.
CUB is an initiative that originated in August 2016 when three of us, Rithana, Achyutha, and Neha, found that it was necessary to bring about a change that our city Bengaluru is in need of. Today, we have expanded to an eight-person-team that has come together based on a collective passion for helping the environment.
All of us belong to the same class and school. We are committed to making a tangible difference in our city. We chose spot fixes as our primary projects because it enabled us to take direct action and set an example for other citizens as we created a visible change.
Outside of our core team, we have a group of regular volunteers (fellow students) who help us with spot fixes. When we reach out for volunteers, we look for other people who share the same motivation as us and are genuinely dedicated to the cause.
Our spot fixing system works thus: we usually “adopt” an area for a period of months, wherein we tackle different spots within that area and clean as much of it as possible. Once we feel that our work is done, we move on to another area. Rather than finishing a spot and simply abandoning it, however, we take steps to maintain the cleanliness in the long-term, such as placing bins and writing messages to deter posting of bills.
Currently, we are working in Marathahalli, after finishing several spot fixes in the Kadubeesanahalli area. We have so far done eight spot fixes. Each of us keeps a conscious eye out for places in the city that we can turn our attention to.
Because all of us are in our final year of high school, heading off to universities next year, we may not be in Bangalore much longer. However, we are determined to maintain CUB as an active organization in years to come. Therefore, we are seeking to get our juniors involved, people younger than us who are willing to take up the responsibility of carrying on CUB in the long-term. The idea is that, as we leave, we pass on the running of the initiative to them, trusting that it will be maintained. Even though the current members will be in different places next year, we will interact with and aid the members of CUB in whatever way we can.
Our other idea for developing CUB is to grow such that we can have branches in different areas of Bengaluru, carrying on spot fixes concurrently. Right now, we are working towards making this plan a reality as we encourage like-minded students to join our organization.
Working to keep it clean amid challenges
One of the challenges we sometimes face is raising funds to buy our materials, such as paint, brushes, and scrapers. Fundraising options can be somewhat limited, but we usually choose to hold bake sales, which are quite effective.
Another challenge is balancing our spot fixing work among a hectic student schedule. As each spot fix can take up to 4-5 hours a day, it is a challenge to schedule a time when many of our team members are available. A shorter spot fix would result in a half finished job, which defeats our purpose, as the aim is for the area to remain clean in the future.
As our entire team is now entering 12th grade, it is difficult to juggle our school curriculum as well as university-related deadlines while simultaneously hosting a CUB spot fix as frequently as possible. However, we aim at cleaning two times a month, and more frequently during vacations.
Ensuring that our spot fix location does not get dirty again is another difficult task. Many times after scraping posters and repainting walls, we have returned to the location to see new posters stuck or a different pile of garbage.
BBMP has assisted though, by encouraging us to put their logo or mention on the wall that they themselves have given an official order, which reduces the chances of rubbish or posters getting placed every week. Furthermore, we are in communication with the BBMP officers of the respective regions that we spot fix.
Although it is important to work in harmony with the local governing bodies, we’ve seen a large positive response from the most important one: the people of our city. As we are working, they stop by to speak to us of how they’ve observed our work and commend us on our initiative. Some are willing to volunteer and ask us to contact them with details of our next spot fix.
It’s extremely encouraging to see fellow citizens wanting to join the community effort towards keeping Bangalore clean. We truly believe that every single one of us has the capacity to strive towards making our city a better place.
All in all, this is only the beginning for CUB. We’re progressing strongly after a year of hard work but we’ve got a long way to go. Our next task is to expand the initiative by launching small projects to help our city in other aspects, such as planting trees. We plan to increase the local involvement, aiming at spot fixes with large groups of like-minded people.
As members of CUB, we’ve learnt that our belief to bring a change has fueled our passion for environmental protection. This passion has set up a platform for the success we have achieved today. We hope to inspire many other teenagers to join this community movement with us.