Interview with Vimlendu Jha of Swechha - Part 1
Today is the first of a two part interview with Vimlendu Jha from New Delhi, India who began the organizations Swechha and Green the Map.
(All photos from www.swechha.in)
We are thrilled to highlight Vimlendu, not only because of his partnership with Wild June through the production of our Recycled Rubber and Velvet collections, but because he’s also an inspirational environmental warrior, putting boots on the ground where they are desperately needed, to save the trees and rivers of India.
~ Vim, why did you start Swechha?
I started Swechha twenty years ago when I was at university. I wanted to do something about the environment and I wanted to help the Yamuna River. I wanted to campaign for a clean river in India and I took one year off to do so. At the time there was very little conversation about the river being cleaned or sustainability. But now, over two decades later, the campaign has grown to encompass the education of youth on sustainability, governance, trees, and many other issues.
Swechha now encompasses three broad areas: environment, education, and enterprise.
For the environment we clean the river, educate young people by taking them on exposure journeys and river cleanups, recycle waste and teach gardening.
For education we do a lot of campaigning. Our big one is “Monsoon Wooding.” Through Monsoon Wooding we’ve been able to plant five to seven thousand trees every year for eight to nine years and have almost planted thirty thousand trees in total in Delhi with a 95% survival rate.
For enterprise we work with children in distress, mostly young girls in the slums of Delhi, around issues of empowerment and future employment opportunities.
~ Can you tell us more about Monsoon Wooding?
Yes, through this campaign we got a stay (halt) from the high court against the killing of the trees.
We are currently protecting trees that were supposed to be cut down by the government. Through our advocacy, we’ve been able to get a stay from the high court to end the cutting of trees and for five months there is a ban on the chopping of trees in Delhi. High court was set to cut down seventy thousand trees, and there’s a stay on that now. I filed a petition and that case is going on as we speak. So far they’ve only felled three thousand and we’ve managed to save about fourteen thousand trees.
As mentioned, Monsoon Wooding has also planted about thirty thousand trees and our survival rate is 95%. So, it’s not our job to just plant and run away, but plant, protect and promote. To truly make sure the trees survive. And that’s why we have a 95% survival rate. It’s very difficult to tangibly say what the impact of these thirty thousand trees will have made to Delhi’s ecology, but at the end of the day, we’ve brought thirty thousand trees to the ecosystem over the last seven to ten years.
Swechha works very closely with the media houses and at the moment, whatever happens in India vis-a-vis environmental issues, Swechha plays a direct role in either creating the narrative or building the narrative. We are one of the most sought after policy commentators in the country on each and every environmental issue. In the last decade, we have occupied the prime time news studio and sought justice and deliberation. We also play an active role in advocacy and policy making.
If you search Swechha, you will see that we are involved in most environmental issues in the region. Air pollution is a big issue in India, and Swechha is actively involved. Every day we are on prime time television campaigning for clean air.
~ What is your connection with Wild June Designs?
Kim and I met in 2011, in a cafe in India. Since then, it’s been a long time since we’ve been trying to do some amazing work together.
We make her rubber bags by using all upcycled tires through Green the Map. And it inspires me to hear how well her products are doing all over the world. I don’t get to see that expression on the face of he or she when they buy my product, but the fact that it’s been moving so well, and Kim is doing so well, I’m very very proud of Kim who sells those products.
Green the Map upcycles lots and lots of waste and provides employment to several young men and women who have migrated from small towns and villages.
~ Your offices are furnished exclusively with upcycled furniture?
Yes, our entire office is made out of waste. Creativity plus sustainability is what it was. I wanted an office where we practiced what we preached. And we wanted to create an office that is high on creativity, high on design and high on sustainability.
Green the Map profits then go directly into education and the planting of trees. A lot of the trees we’ve planted over the years are primarily because of the profit that we make from Kim and our other partners.
I would love for people to know that every time they buy a recycled rubber bag from Wild June, there is a tiny little tree that is being grown with that money.