A keen hope for a ‘Green Kurdistan’

When the “ahead of our time” Entrepreneur and my worldly guru Elon Musk recently revealed his plans of setting up a city in Mars, I went WOW! I am sure most of us did (At least those of us who follow this genius. If you haven’t, right after you finish reading this article, do it!!). The idea was fascinating to me and I can pretty much vouch for the success of the project. If not within the planned time, eventually, the team will (My take!). But, Hold on! Why do we have to go to another planet? Hasn’t our Mother earth been giving us enough warmth? Well, she sure has been, except for the fact that we have made her too warm and as a consequence of that, global warming is coming for us. At least, I believe so. The modern lifestyle and all the comfort comes at a cost. We have exploited our mother nature in almost all the ways possible. We have dumped so much solid waste that is not degradable or will take thousands of years to degrade. The heaps of solid waste dumped at one of the dumping sites I visited over a year ago was an eye opener and I realized, it was about time we stopped messing around with the planet.

I am sure most of us have been through those times where we feel accountable for all the damage that human species has done to the planet and decide to contribute a tiny part of the reparations we owe. The involvement is often diverse and so is the outcome. Some do something amazing and bring about a real difference while some restrict to sharing a Facebook post or writing blogs like me. One of my friends belongs to the former set and has actually been doing something really incredible. Rzgar Al-Bewani, an international student studying WASTE program here at the University of Stuttgart has been gaining the limelight over the past two years for his project ‘Green Kurdistan’. A noble willingness to bid adieu to the usage of plastic bags in his homeland had got him started and has come a long way since then. I have been witnessing the project as a bystander for quite some time now and thought you, my fellow readers should also know what the project is all about.

Blaze a trail

With the planet facing an environmental crisis in this decade and a major contribution to the situation accounts to the plastic bags that we use. The whole world has been coming up with innovative solutions to counter this. Rzgar’s approach is no different than what you might have already heard or seen. But, the way it’s being implemented is what makes it worth a special mention. In his city of Kalar in the Kurdistan region of Iraq, people have been using plastic bags for shopping ever since its introduction. Being a student who studies the environment, he knew this had to be changed. How does replacing all the plastic bags with bags made of cloth sound? Greener? Well, by miles.

Sometimes, meeting the right people at the right time makes all the difference and it was no different for Rzgar, who met Laura Krautheimer, an assistant researcher at Institute of Combustion and Power Plant Technology and Daniel Gehring, a student of Maschinenbau and also a member of Umweltgewerkschaft (environmental union). They conveyed the idea to the (Umweltgewerkschaft) and had an overwhelming acceptance of the idea with 4 students from the union joining the project and of course remaining a part of the project ever since. Although, currently the project has 11 volunteers who have joined hands with Rzgar to the benevolent cause.

The Kalar kick-off

When you are ‘used to’ something all your life, it takes some effort to get rid of the habit. Once such practice is using plastic bags for shopping. The people of Kalar receive a new plastic cover every time they shop. Convenient, isn’t it? Availing it free of cost adds to the convenience and they usually end up throwing it away after using it once. The root problem according to Rzgar is the fact that the local populace does not understand the issues that crop up due to such reckless usage of plastic. And, since there is no other beckoning alternative, everyone follows what the herd does.

In order to make the most of his recent visit to his hometown, Rzgar attempted using the cloth bag for shopping at one of the local grocery outlets. As expected, the out-of-place bag received strange glares from the local people and the shopkeeper himself. He had some extra bags and presented each stare with a free bag. What a scene!

“It’s pretty funny when you are the only one holding a cloth bag and don’t be surprised if you get laughed at.”

Creating an atmosphere of awareness is decisive for the success of the project. An all-around approach is imperative for the society to change its behavior. Not only did Rzgar speak to the local people and professors in the universities, he also initiated a small scale enterprise that manufactures the cloth bags using refurbished sewing machines. He also feels that for the project to have a sustainable future, it is the kids in the school that have to be made aware of the problem and the ill effects if left unchecked. Starting with dispersing around 30 bags during his visit early this year, the project has so far dispersed around 1000 cloth bags. The group is well aware of the fact that in case their project has to change the proclivity, the scale has to be big. They plan to set up a few old textile collection centers and employ more women to turn the old cloth into a trendy grocery bag. If you got any bags that you think will be of help to Rzgar, follow this link for more information.

The renown

The attention of people, no matter whether they are the stakeholders of it or not, is something very important for the success of a project, particularly of this nature. Having presented his idea at numerous forums and having had the big fishes talk about his project has added many feathers to his crown. Within a short span of having launched the project, it won the Welt-Sicht (World vision) 2016 award presented by the Ökumenisches Zentrum at University of Stuttgart. Well, not just that. The project also attracted pecuniary consolation from the Stuttgarter Changelabs at the University of Stuttgart. Much needed money! Bingo!

Hoping that you have got a fair idea of what Rzgar and his teammates are up to, and also hoping of having rekindled your love to planet earth. If you have time and thoughts of supporting the group, be a part of the group by simply dropping an email. And, of course, don’t forget to like their Facebook page for updates on the project.

 

Saleem

 

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