In Conversation with: Jack Todd and Josh Roberts from Swechha

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Swechha, started in 2000 as a young people’s campaign to raise awareness about pollution in the River Yamuna, is starting a fresh youth mobilization drive, ‘We For Yamuna.’  The campaign intends to work throughout March and April to organize sensitization drives, discussions and Yamuna walks for students of North Campus. Jack Todd and Josh Roberts,  volunteers of the campaign answers questions for DU Beat.

1. What made you come up with the idea of starting the campaign “We for Yamuna”? 


“We for Yamuna” started as a campaign in August 2000 for creating and spreading awareness about the pitiable state of Yamuna in Delhi. Since its inception, the campaign has been using innovative methods to attract the attention of the government, media and citizens for the cause of the river. Today, “We for Yamuna” is globally recognized as one of the strongest youth voices on the issue of Yamuna. “We for Yamuna” led to the genesis of Swechha in June 2001. For the past six weeks we have been working within North Campus to spread awareness and create a buzz about Yamuna throughout the student bodies.

Jack (left) and Josh (right) talking to students from North Campus about the river at  Najafgarh Drain, the first drain that enters the Delhi stretch of Yamuna.
Jack (left) and Josh (right) talking to students from North Campus about the river at Najafgarh Drain, the first drain that enters the Delhi stretch of Yamuna.

2. Tell us about the previous attempts that you have made to better the condition of Yamuna? What was the impact those endeavours had on people involved?

Since 2000, Swechha has facilitated a huge number of successful mega events including: Yamuna Shramdans, Yamunotsavs, Delhi’s first Yamuna Cyclothon in 2012 and the first 24 hour Yamuna cleanup as a part of NDTV’s Greenathon. Over the past 14 years we have engaged with over 15000 young people through Yamuna Walks and Yamuna Yatras. We have also engaged actively with national and international media on the issue of Yamuna. All of these events and activities have resulted in an increased level of awareness.

3. What does this campaign involve? How do you think this campaign will improve the condition of the river?

Since February 1st “We for Yamuna” has been working with North Campus on the awareness aspect of the campaign. Since then we have facilitated several Yamuna Walks, Community Interaction Sessions and Perspective Building Exercises to open the eyes of North Campus students to the state of Yamuna. As active campaigners Josh and I believe the first step to a successful campaign is awareness and that is what we are working towards.

Water from the Delhi section of Yamuna on the left and from the Haryana section of Yamuna on the right


4. Why are you targeting students of North Campus? Any specific reason?

Students getting out of a boat at Qudsia Ghat at the end of a Community Interaction Session along the river.

In 2000, a group of students from St. Stephens College initiated a campaign on the Yamuna, which eventually evolved into Swechha. We feel it was very important to make the students of North Campus aware of this issue as the river flows so closely yet so few students are aware of its location. North Campus is the hub of positive energy and we want our targets of change to be the media of change.


5. What is the cause of Yamuna degradation? This degradation can’t be stopped in just few attempts.

Yamuna entering Delhi through Wazirabad Barrage.

The biggest cause of degradation of Yamuna is the amount of raw sewage being pumped into Yamuna via 16 drains along with the minimal flow of the river. As Yamuna enters Delhi it becomes comparatively smaller as it flows through Wazirabad Barrage and starts its 22km journey through Delhi which amounts to 2% of the river’s length but contributes to 80% of the total pollution.

 6. What are your future plans of action regarding the whole issue?

As of now we plan to keep on creating a buzz about the river in North Campus. In time we see these students become a part of our bigger picture and help us spread the word among the residents of the city and to be responsible citizens.

I wonder how people write about themselves so effortlessly and adequately too! I for one find it arduous and extremely time consuming since when asked about me I go in a sort of trance “discovering myself” and all that and finally come up with nothing. So after the process I can say I dislike studying, like novels and music and coffee. Also, I am a second year B Com (Hons) student in Shri Ram College.

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