Clean Upper Dharamsala Programme (CUDP) is an organisation belonging to the local Tibetan Settlement Office, a unit of the Tibetan government in exile. Founded in 1994, our aim is to create a healthy environment as well as promote a sustainable and responsible lifestyle.
Concretely, our work incorporates keeping the streets and surroundings of McLeod Ganj unpolluted, organising campaigns and holding talks to increase awareness among the population about the importance of a healthy environment and ways to achieve it.
The Clean Upper Dharamshala Programme (CUDP) has its base of operations in the small hill station of McLeod Ganj in Upper Dharamshala, which is situated in the Northern Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Green forests surround the little towns with the majestic Dauladar Himalayan range towering above. The arrival of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in 1960 had revitalized the area which virtually abandoned after a catastrophic earthquake in 1905. Since then, Upper Dharamshala has been the residence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
While McLeod Ganj is the largest town, Upper Dharamshala also includes the communities of Gangchen Kyishong, Jogiwara, Gamru, Heru, Bhagsu, Dharamkot and Naddi. At any given time, the area is home to 2000-3000 recently arrived refugees from Tibet as well as about 2000-3000 Tibetan monks from the Settlements. Additionally, there are tourists waiting to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama, listen to his teachings, and to explore Tibetan culture and Buddhism. Consequently, the area has become a popular destination for tourists from throughout India and the world. Today the population in the area is somewhere between 20,000 -25,000.
Due to the small size of Upper Dharamshala, urban problems such as traffic congestion and environmental degradation have become common everyday troubles. Remoteness and lack of infrastructure have significantly accentuated the difficulty of waste collection and disposal.
For centuries, the local people have been used to dumping waste outside their villages. Until recently, the waste was biodegradable and had minimal environmental impact. With introduction of plastics and other non-biodegradable packaging in the early 80’s, garbage began accumulating on the hillsides around Upper Dharamshala.
The problem was worsened by an ever increasing number of Tibetan refugees, Indian merchants, and tourists, who unlike the local people do not own fields and as such depend entirely upon purchased goods. The ever-increasing tourism has further resulted in a general increase of income and consumption. This, along with the growing influence of commercials and advertising, has led to a shift in consumption from locally produced goods to product produced and packaged in factories outside the area.
In early 1990’s the garbage problem had worsened to such an extent that the residents, administrators, and visitors all agreed to act upon seriously to address the problems. Although the Tibetan government in exile does not have the jurisdiction over the area, the Tibetan Settlement Office (TSO) voluntarily accepted the responsibility to tackle the environmental and sanitation problems in Upper Dharamshala.
In June 1994 on World Environment Day, the TSO launched the Clean Upper Dharamshala Programme and also opened a Green Shop to provide eco-friendly products. The staff members (known as Green Workers) are appointed to collect recyclable “dry” waste from the local households, hotels and restaurants. In July of 1995, the program began producing recycled papers from 100% consumer waste collected by the Green Workers.
Two of CUDP Green workers during collection of recyclable waste
In 2002, the TSO was awarded with a Municipal Sanitation Contract by the Municipal Corporation Dharamshala (MCD) to take responsibility of the waste collection and sanitation improvement in Upper Dharamshala wards 1-3. After getting this contract our organization grew significantly and was able to purchase trucks for the transportation and disposing of both recyclable “dry” waste and non-recyclable “wet waste” such as food or toilet paper. We also had the opportunity to hire a number of street sweepers who are tasked with keeping the streets of Upper Dharamshala clean; picking up the trash that tourists and locals throw in the streets and drainage.
In this way the TSO is involved in both waste collection and recycling activities in Upper Dharamshala, and has over time acquired a high level of technical and organizational know how, as well as good relationships, acceptance and trust with the general public and local Indian authorities.
In doing our work we hope to:
- Ensure a healthy and clean environment
- Promote sustainable & ecological development
- Increase environmental awareness in the community
- Establish segregation of recyclable and non-recyclable waste at household, business and institutional levels
- Maximize the level of waste recycling
- Involve all stakeholders in project planning and implementation and remain transparent
- Serve as a model for other Tibetan settlements and interested communities