Joining hands for a cleanliness drive at Nanded


The city visit under Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) – India Chapter, which is part of the larger GPN programme developed by the Alliance of Religions and Conservations (ARC), WWF and ICLEI, was conducted in Hazur Sahib, Nanded on 17th and 18th December by ICLEI South Asia along with Nanded Takhat (Gurudwara) Board and EcoSikh, an international ecology organization which is proactively spearheading the movement. The GPN project aims to transform our pilgrim cities and places into a green, sustainable model in keeping with people’s faith in the place of pilgrimage. Hazur Sahib, situated in Nanded on the banks of river Godavari, is considered one of the five most important spiritual sites for Sikhs. Nanded receives over 25,000 pilgrims on an average day to visit historical Sikh religious sites, which puts a lot of pressure on all the environment resources like water, air, energy and transport.

A series of meetings were conducted with Takhat (Gurudwara) Management Board, represented by officers such as deputy commissioner, engineers of the Nanded Waghala City Municipal Corporation, Collector of Nanded District etc. The key challenges the city is facing are water scarcity, transportation/traffic management problem, lack of sustainable Solid Waste Management (SWM) and of Energy Efficiency/ Renewable Energy measures. The overall aim of the visit was to assess the present environmental condition of Nanded city and the additional stress the city is facing due to the huge pilgrimage.

"Power and water shortages are our major concerns but the cleaning of the river Godavari, which is highly polluted with city sewage, remains our top priority", said Superintendent of Takhat (Gurudwara) Management Board, Mr. Ranjit Singh Chiragia. The City and Takhat (Gurudwara) Management Board have expressed their interest towards ICLEI South Asia to frame the city into a more environmental and sustainable one by undertaking more energy efficiency/ renewable energy initiatives, introducing a sustainable SWM practice and a conducive traffic management plan.

Further information about the Nanded cleanliness drive can also be found below:

Green Pilgrimage Network more than doubles in size


During the second Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) international meeting that took place in Trondheim (Norway) on 26-28 July, ICLEI members Matale (Sri Lanka) and Mexico City joined - together with other 14 pilgrim places - the original 12 founding members of the Network. The Indian cities of Rishikesh, Varanasi and Ujjain are among the new GPN members as well.

The meeting brought together around 90 religious and secular leaders from China, Japan, India, Palestine, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, Armenia and many European pilgrim places, to discuss their successes – and failures – on the long and difficult pathway to becoming more sustainable. These decision-makers compared examples of best practice, and leveraged their position as holy places to get more funding towards improving the environment and helping their millions of pilgrims be positive rather than negative impacts on the earth.

Emani Kumar, ICLEI South Asia’s Executive Director, presented ICLEI and its contribution to the GPN’s mission. The South Asia Secretariat will concretely support the Indian pilgrimage cities part of the the ‘Green Pilgrimage Network – Indian Chapter’ (Rishikesh and Muni Ki Reti, Ujjain,Nizamuddin Area, Ladakh, Old Goa and Nanded) by helping them develop an environmental assessment, an action plan and a guidebook on financial opportunities.

First steps taken on path towards greener pilgrimage cities


With a first visit of ICLEI South Asia staff to Rishikesh, Old Goa and Ujjain, the activities of the ‘Green Pilgrimage Network – Indian Chapter’ have now concrete started.

Launched in Hyderabad in October 2012 by ICLEI South Asia and the Alliance of Religions & Conservation (ARC) with the support of the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC), the initiative aims to help different faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, based on their own beliefs and conviction. The Indian Chapter is part of the larger Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN) program, developed by ARC, the WWF and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, a new global network of green pilgrim cities and sacred sites of all faiths.

The response and endeavour shown by city and pilgrimage site authorities has been so encouraging that ICLEI South Asia has drafted a plan of action till the end of the year to take this initiative ahead:

  • An environmental assessment in terms of water, sanitation, ecology, energy etc. in the pilgrimage cities or sites
  • Preparation of an action plan based on the assessment
  • Development of a financial opportunity report or guidebook to take up on ground implementation work as per the action plan

City profiles will be created for holy places of different faiths such as:

  • Hindu: Rishikesh and Muni Ki Reti, Ujjain 
  • Muslim: Nizamuddin Area 
  • Buddhist: Ladakh 
  • Christian: Old Goa
  • Sikh: Nanded 


ICLEI and ARC launch Indian Green Pilgrimage Network


On the 7th day of the UN COP 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Hyderabad, eleven of India’s holy towns and cities came together to launch the India chapter of the international Green Pilgrimage Network (GPN).

The Alliance of Religions and Conservation (ARC) and ICLEI- Local Governments for Sustainability hosted the meeting, bringing together representatives of the Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist cities of Amritsar, Guntur, Howrah, Visakhapatnen, Shirdi, Ujjain, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Varanasi, Ladakh and Bodh Gaya. The India chapter joins an international network of 12 global cities located across Europe, Africa and Asia.

On any given day of the year, hundreds of thousands of people around the world are on pilgrimage. The goal of the network is to encourage pilgrims, and pilgrim cities and places of every faith throughout the world to become models of care for the environment.

It is fitting that India should host a new branch of the Green Pilgrimage Network as pilgrimage is central to the experience of faith in India. Nowhere else in the world has more pilgrim cities of all faiths or larger numbers of pilgrims. It is said, for example, that the Maha Kumb Mela in Allahabad in 2001 was the largest human gathering in recorded history - up to 70 million people. Other major pilgrim sites attract millions every year including 30 million in Tirupati, 30 million in Amritsar, and 1.5 million in Ajmer. Other pilgrim places such as Rishikesh, Varanasi and Bodh Gaya also attract a sizeable number of pilgrims.

The goals of this network are to ensure that the planning and implementation of tourism at pilgrimage sites have minimum negative environmental impacts. The Green Pilgrimage Network aims to†help different faiths make their holy cities and sacred sites as environmentally sustainable as possible, based on their religious beliefs.

Representatives from the government of Andhra Pradesh, including the Mayor and city commissioner of Hyderabad and the Honourable Minister for Municipal Administration and Urban Development, endorsed the meeting and mentioned some of the greening initiatives already underway in the state, such as solar powered cooking for Tirupati temple’s 15,000 daily devotees. In his opening address, the Commissioner commented:

This new program being launched today is unique, in that it aims to bring together religions and local governments. I cannot think of a better place to have such a network than India. With religious sites in every corner of the country, India has a sacred geography that is inclusive of every major religious tradition in the world.

Member cities agreed to meet again in a years time, where they will share sustainable solutions for pilgrim cities for greening waste, sanitation, buildings, transport, food and accommodation and share strategies to make the hosting of large scale pilgrimage more sustainable and environmentally friendly. This new network will encourage the sharing of best practice between pilgrim sites in India, and with those around the world.

It is expected that the Green Pilgrimage Network – Indian Chapter will:

  • Create a network of sustainable and earth-friendly pilgrim sites across India. 
  • Join an existing network of 12 international member cities.
  • Create a theological basis for green pilgrimage for each religion.
  • Encourage religions to work with government agencies, NGOs and private companies.
  • Create plans for promoting sustainability and care for the earth. 
  • Share stories, wisdom and tradition. 
  • Ask pilgrims to walk lightly and travel responsibly in the spirit of their religion.
  • Inspire pilgrim sites to celebrate their pilgrims and green their religious festivals.
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