SET & UN Millenium Development Goals

SET Millennium Development Goal written by Rachel Nagin

 

Sacred Earth Trust (SET) is a charitable trust set up in 2009. Our aim is to support and encourage the sustainable development of Bodhgaya, Bihar, India. Bodhgaya, home to where the Buddha attained enlightenment, is now a site frequented by many international Buddhist pilgrims. In this small city, the international community mixes with the local population, predominantly comprised of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, and Hari Krishnas. The local population sees a huge influx of pilgrims from November to February when the Bihar environment cools off and is far more tolerable. In the time of the Buddha, Bihar was forested and green. Today, much of the forestation is gone and Bihar is increasingly experiencing consecutive drought years. Bodhgaya’s main sources of pollution are locally based and controllable, consisting of non-biodegradable polyethylene products waste (plastic bags, food packaging, etc) and air pollution (rickshaws, cars, and tourist buses). Sacred Earth Trust works to tackle the environmental issues plaguing Bodhgaya with local and international organizations. Our goals are to identify and develop sustainable solutions, empower the local community through knowledge and transference of skills, and to engage the local community in implementing practical solutions to solve Bodhgaya’s ecological problems.

 

In the short time since our inception, SET has completed and started a number of noteworthy projects embodying many of the Millennium Development Goals. Our projects center around five themes: Waste, Water, Biodiversity, Energy, and Transportation. The projects provide educational programs, employment opportunities, and socially and ecologically just community development. Most of our goals line up with MDG 7 on a local scale, specifically sections A and B on Sustainable Development.

 

During our first project in Bodhgaya in December 2009, we worked with  youths and community members to clean up the main market’s surrounding areas, the Naranjuna riverside, the Kalachakra ground in the center of town, and surrounding village areas. SET collaborated with Khoryug, the monastic environmental committee, (www.khoryug.com)  as well as 250 local and international volunteers during this project. The recyclable plastics were collected and diverted to recycling stations already set up around the town. We aim to have a functional recycling processing center in the near future.

 

In January 2010, SET worked to collect 7000 signatures from community members to put a ban on plastic bags. Since the collection of signatures, the Bodhgaya Temple Management Committee has agreed to enforce the ban particularly on the grounds of the Mahabodhi Temple. To help Bodhgaya transition to being Plastic Bag free at retailers, the SET sponsored Women’s Co-operative produces reusable cloth bags made from recycled materials, including paper. As chai is sold and immediately consumed all around Bodhgaya, SET will be embarking on a project to encourage and introduce the use of alternative solutions,  using clay cups to replace the plastic cups currently used. The cooperative provides programs increasing environmental awareness, identifying local issues, and providing training to empower the women to make a substantial (environmental) difference in their community. The women are encouraged to play proactive roles in reducing Bodhgaya’s plastic waste pollution.

 

Combining the recyclables collection and the women’s enthusiasm, SET developed an employment program. The plastic wrapper waste is cleaned and turned into bags and other handicrafts for sale. This project started with 25 women with 2 donated sewing machines and has grown to 79 women with 12 machines. Orders for these recycled bags have surpassed 50,000 already. This program provides the women a steady job in the formal employment sector. The cooperative surpasses MDG 1A and B, increasing the number of people productively employed in decent jobs, earning at least $3 a day. It also empowers local women (Beyond target 3A), providing educational opportunities (Priority 1) and formal employment (Priorities 3 and 5). In addition, the project seems to have the potential to continuously grow and provide more positions while cleaning up Bodhgaya’s environment (in line with MDG 7A).

 

Bodhgaya and the state of Bihar, once completely forested, is dealing with increasing year of drought due to the drastic environmental change and global climate change in recent decades. Bodhgaya and the Mahabodhi Temple were declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 2002. Part of the plan for Bodhgaya is to create a green belt with indigenous trees and medicinal plants around the city. With UNESCO’s ambitious project in mind and as part of SET’s Climate Change Preparedness Program, SET raised awareness about carbon emissions in both the Buddhist pilgrim community and the Bodhgaya local community. In 2010, SET raised approximately 45,000 Rs (1000 USD) and 1500 indigenous trees to offset nearly 125 tons of carbon. Land near the airport was allocated by local government and Tergar Institute students (part of the Tergar Monastery) and monks have started to reforested the land. HH Karmapa inaugurated the project by planting an Ashok tree on the site. Funds left over from this project will go towards community garden projects, specifically focused on planting indigenous species. This project is just one step to further realize UNESCO’s plan for the area and reach MDG 7B in this area.

 

Other currently operating eco-awareness projects include hosting Environmental Leadership Training sessions for interested Bodhgaya youths, and running “Green” Certification and Environmental Training programs. The women’s co-operative urban garden provides yet another way to combat hunger and malnutrition (MDGs 1C and 4A) while sustainably developing Bodhgaya (MDG 7AB). The leadership training, though currently only working with a previously formed boys group, develops the skill set of Bodhgaya youth, increasing their ability to be stably and formally employed. This training could also facilitate locally run environmental work (MDG 1B and potentially 7AB). The “Green” Certification and Environmental Training program is a three-pronged effort focusing on schools, hotels, and monasteries. The programs take shape as workshops and activities geared towards the audiences. The topics range from waste management, water conservation, biodiversity, energy use and alternative energies, and, soon, transportation developments. In schools, SET works to raise environmental awareness with the students using a cross-curriculum drawing from science/technology and art (MDG 7AB). SET will be embarking on a Nutrition Education program as well in villages and working with landowners  (MDG 2A).

 

With hotels, SET works with individual hotels to develop their environmental policies and improve their “eco-friendliness.” We’ve developed a point system for evaluating their practices and standards. We also try to encourage the hotels to advertise their environmental practices, bringing them into the Eco-tourism industry. Monasteries provide a very interesting venue for environmental action. SET collaborates with individual monasteries as well as the monastic environmental committee to further develop a waste management system and practical implementation of other environmental projects (MDG 7AB).

 

Future projects SET hopes to embark on include a Youth Education and Career Counseling Program, Renewable Energy Production (Solar), Sustainable Human Waste Management, Organic Agriculture Training and Workshops, and expansion of the Climate Change Preparedness Program. The Youth Education and Career Counseling program is to  expand on the Youth Environmental Leadership Training program, providing skill set training and environmental activism training. SET will recruit both boys and girls and develop their computer skills, and community organizing skills (MDG 1B and Beyond 3A). Recently, SET sponsored workshops on Solar Power, Zero waste, Sustainabilty and Community Engagement, Raising Awarenss on plastic pollution for the local Bodhgaya community. SET is looking into the viability of Solar Energy powering villages surrounding Bodhgaya as well as hotels, monasteries, schools, and other businesses in Bodhgaya (MDG 7AB).

 

The next major project SET would like to implement is an Eco centre, demonstrating sustainable solutions and eco-technologies. SET is collaborating with monasteries and other community organizations to develop a plan for reducing and managing waste water and other human waste in the area. Not only will this project help to sustainably develop the city (MDG 7AB), it will also provide a system to manage water and sanitation (MDG 7C). Raising awareness and improving sewage system in Bodhgaya will reduce the spread of typhoid and other diseases (MDGs 4A, 6C, and 7C). Eliminating and cleaning the standing water pools in surrounding villages will reduce the spread of malaria, in addition to making Bodhgaya more livable (MDGs 4A, 6C, and 7C).

 

Organic Agriculture and Climate Change Preparedness (CCP) are two of SET’s longterm efforts. SET will be sponsoring workshops on the benefits of and conversion to organic agriculture to area farmers. Transitioning to organic agriculture has been proven time and time again to pull farmers out of the cycle of debt related to high-input, energy intensive chemical agriculture (MDG 1A). In addition, SET will be setting up an organic seed bank, to help preserve indigenous farming knowledge and species (MDG 7A and, most dramatically, B). As part of CCP program, SET wants to help make Bodhgaya food secure by enhancing the local economy and encouraging farmers to sell their biodiverse products to the local community. This will help increase farmer/producer incomes and lowering food prices for consumers (by eliminating the middle men). It will also reduce the food economy’s carbon emission impact by keeping it local. Having locally available foods and higher incomes/lower food prices will help reduce hunger, especially among Bodhgaya children (MDGs 1C and 4A). SET wants to also expand the CCP program to include a wide scale rainwater-harvesting project to reduce the effect of the drought in Bihar on Bodhgaya.

 

 

SET Project

Corresponding MDG

Women’s Co-operative

-  Recycled Materials Products

-  Urban Organic Garden

1A. Income Poverty

1B. Decent Work for All

1C. Hunger

Beyond 3A. Other Rights of women and girls

4A. Reduce Child Mortality

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

Trash Collection and Recycling Program

-  Sites around Bodhgaya

-  Future Recycling Processing Center

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

Youth Education & Career Counseling Program

1B. Decent Work for All

Beyond 3A. Other Rights of women and girls

Youth Environmental Leadership Training

1B. Decent Work for All

 

Renewable Energy Production (Solar)

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

Organic Agriculture Training and Workshops

-  Seed Bank

-  Community Gardens

-  Area Farmers

1A. Income Poverty

1C. Hunger

4A. Reduce Child Mortality

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

“Green” Certification and Environmental Training for hotels, schools, and monasteries

- Nutritional Education program in schools

2A Primary Schooling

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

4A. Reduce Child Mortality

6C. Malaria, other diseases and the right to health

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

7C. Water and Sanitation

Climate Change Preparedness Program

-  Rainwater Collection

-  Tree Planting Campaign (community land owners and public space)

-  Organic and Local Food Economy support

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

7C. Water and Sanitation

Ban on Disposable Plastics

-  Plastic Bag Replacement Program (Reusable Cloth Bag)

-  Plastic Cup Replacement Program (Clay Chai Cups)

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site Advocation

-  Will help plant Green Belt w/Indigenous trees, fruits, and medicinal plants  like in Climate Change Preparedness Program (Tree Planting Campaign).

7A. and B. Sustainable Development

 

 

Millenium Development Goal

Corresponding SET Program

1. Eradicating Extreme Poverty and Hunger

1A. Income Poverty

-  Women’s Recycled Materials Production Project

-  Organic Agriculture: Training and Transition

1B. Decent Work for All

-  Youth Education and Career Counseling

-  Youth Environmental Leadership Training

-  Women’s Recycled Materials Production Project

1C. Hunger

-  Women’s Co-operative Urban Garden

-  Organic Agriculture: Community Gardens and Seed Bank

-  “Green” Ceritfication and Environmental Training Programs: Nutritional Education Program in Schools

-  Climate Change Preparedness Program: Rainwater Collection

2. Achieve Universal Primary Education

2A. Primary Schooling

-  “Green” Ceritfication and Environmental Training Programs: Nutritional Education Program in Schools

3. Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women

3A. Girl’s Education

N/A

Beyond 3A: Other Rights of Women and Girls (Priorities 1, 3, and 5)

-  Priority 1: Youth Education & Career Counseling Program

-  Priorities 3 and 5: Women’s Co-operative

4. Reduce Child Mortality

4A. Infant Mortality and Children’s Rights

-  Organic Agriculture: Community Gardens and Seed Bank

-  Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

5. Improve Maternal Health

5A. Reduce Maternal Mortality Ratio

N/A

5B. Reproductive Health

N/A

6. Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases

6A-B. Halt and Reverse HIV/AIDS

N/A

6C. Malaria, Other Diseases and the Right to Health

-  Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

7. Ensure Environmental Sustainability

7A-B. Sustainable Development

7A. Sustainable Development and Reverse Loss of Environmental Resources

-  Women’s Co-operative (Recycled Materials Products, and Urban Organic Garden)

-  Trash Collection and Recycling Program

-  Renewable Energy Production (Solar)

-  Organic Agriculture Training and Workshops

-  “Green” Certification and Environmental Training for hotels, schools, and monasteries

-  Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

-  Climate Change Preparedness Program

-  Ban on DisposabPlastics

-  UNESCO World Heritage Site Advocation

7B. Reduce Biodiversity Loss

-  Women’s Co-operative (Recycled Materials Products, and Urban Organic Garden)

-  Trash Collection and Recycling Program

-  Renewable Energy Production (Solar)

-  Organic Agriculture Training and Workshops

-  “Green” Certification and Environmental Training for hotels, schools, and monasteries

-  Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

-  Climate Change Preparedness Program

-  Ban on Plastics

-  UNESCO World Heritage Site Advocation

7C. Water and Sanitation

-  Sustainable (Human) Waste Management

-  Climate Change Preparedness Program

7D. Slum Upgrading and the Right to Housing

N/A

8.  Develop a Global Partnership For Development

8A-E.

N/A

8F. New Technologies and Human Rights

-  Youth Education & Career Counseling Program

 


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