Pained by the amount of garbage littering his once beautiful village, an NRK rushed home and took a broom to do the job. Jibran Nazir reports how Tariq’s efforts changed the stink into aroma
Australia was a home away from home for Tariq Ali, 37, a network architect, who originally hails from Tujjar Sharief, a small hamlet in Barmullah, famous for sufi shrine and apple orchards. But it was not home. He was homesick.
In 2014, Tariq insisted his friends to create a Whatsapp group so that he can stay in touch with his roots. “I asked my friends to show me around the village by sharing some pictures,” recalls Tariq.
As the pictures started flooding his small phone screen, something caught his attention: and it was not the beauty that he missed his village for. “Instead, it was heaps of garbage in the background,” recalls Tariq. “It disturbed me.”
For next few days Tariq couldn’t get the sight of ruins out of his mind. “It was pathetic to see my beautiful village in such condition,” recalls Tariq.
Almost instantly, Tariq made up his mind and decided to do something to clean his village: but the question was what and how?
A few months later when Tariq came home, he literally took up a broom and started the process. But it was not a possible for a single person to do the job. The amount of garbage in the village was huge.
“Every street corner was stinking. The main market place was literally turned into a dumping site. There were stray dogs everywhere. It was a painful sight for me,” recalls Tariq.
Without losing any time Tariq shared his concerns and ideas with his friends, who readily agreed to help him.
The discussions ended with Tariq and his friends forming a group called ‘Tujjar Go Green Society’.
The first activity Tariq and his group did was to visit door-after-door with brooms in hand. “We would talk to people about the importance of cleanliness,” recalls Tariq.
The response from villagers was overwhelming for Tariq and his group. “It was unexpected. They understood the importance of keeping their surroundings clean,” said Mehraj-ud-deen Peer, a group member.
Then Tariq and his group contributed money amongst themselves to buy seventy dustings and brooms. “We installed dustbins at every corner of the village,” said Peer.
But, still the job for Tariq and his group was far from over, as active participation of villagers was imperative to success.
Then, on August, 31, 2014, the group organized its first major cleanliness drive in the village. “Everyone, from a school going kid to elders, participated in it,” recalls Peer.
When the day ended Tujjar was a completely different place: a neat and clean one, restored to its former glory.
Since then, without a miss, August 31, is observed as annual cleanliness day in Tujjar. “It has changed the outlook of our village completely,” said Tariq proudly who makes sure to fly over for participation in the event.
This year, because of summer uprising, Tariq couldn’t make it to Tujjar in August. “But I was happy to see villagers doing it on their own despite difficult times,” said Tariq.
However, Tariq is pained by the level of pollution in Badshah pond, a small water-body located in the middle of the village. “In my childhood we used to drink from this pond only. It was our only source of fresh water. Now one cannot even wash clothes in it,” said Tariq.
The next big dream Tariq harbours is to restore the lost glory of this pond. “For that we would need support from neighbouring villages as well,” said Tariq.
After the success of the group in Tujjar, the villages surrounding it are eager to imitate Tariq’s efforts.
Recently people of Bomai, Yunisoo and Zaloora villages have started taking similar initiatives.
“This makes us feel proud,” says Anaytullah, who runs a poultry farm in Tujjar and doesn’t let anyone throw garbage on the streets.
Tariq is hopeful in coming year more and more villages will follow the suite. “We cannot go on ravaging our environment forever,” feels Tariq.