Hunza Girl Guides win National Award for pioneering environmental project

Islamabad: The Hunza Girl Guides recently achieved national recognition from the Pakistan Girl Guides Association for their work to protect the natural environment. The Hunza Girl Guides focused on the mess left behind by tourists visiting the beautiful region, cleaning making and maintaining dustbins to encourage tourists to properly dispose of rubbish. This hugely successful project won the “Begum G.A. Khan” National Shield at the Pakistan Girl Guides Association’s Annual National Awards. Fiza Sadruddin of the Karimabad Girl Guides, Karachi and Maliha Shah of the Durkhan Girl Guides, Hunza also won the Presidential Gold Medal while other Ismaili Guide companies won various other awards.

Hunza is one of the most breath-takingly beautiful places in Pakistan. Situated in Gilgit-Baltistan, the region features lush valleys and awe-inspiring snow-capped mountains. It is an area popular with tourists and adventure-seekers, drawn by the purity and natural beauty of the region. Unfortunately, the influx of visitors tends to leave the area in a terrible condition. During the tourist season, popular sites become littered with wrappers, plastic bags, discarded water bottles, and drinks cans.

The Hunza Girl Guides decided to tackle the pollution to their environment with a pioneering clean-up project. The project involved clearing up the litter, educating the local populace and making and maintaining dustbins to encourage tourists to properly dispose of the litter.

Wearing masks and gloves, the guides worked hard in Karimabad and Aliabad to pick up the scattered biscuit wrappers and crisp packets, the discarded soft drink cans, water bottles, and other assorted rubbish. They also raked fallen leaves and cleaned the flash flood streams of Altit. The next step was to make and place dustbins in key spots so that visitors had somewhere to deposit their rubbish.

The Girl Guides chose a bright blue shade for the dustbins to make them easily visible and painted them with slogans encouraging environmental respect and civic responsibility. Shopkeepers in busy commercial spots took the responsibility of emptying the bins in their areas while groups of guides volunteered to manage bins close to their homes.

The Girl Guides raised funds for their project by making and selling handicrafts and home-cooked treats. Ms. Gulfam Ali, the District Commissioner for Hunza Girl Guides, supervised the project, which involved girl guides of all ages from the region. The project also included activities such as a rally on the environmental issues and information sessions on water conservation and the effects of environmental pollution on human health. Doctors from the Aga Khan Health Service, Pakistan in Aliabad discussed the topic on the radio to make local people aware of environmental hazards related to their health. The guides also celebrated a plantation day with the Gilgit-Baltistan Girls High School, Karimabad Hunza.

This multi-faceted approach to environmental pollution engaged the whole community but it was the lead that the guides took with their iconic blue dustbins that really inspired both the community and the wider region. Instead of simply talking about littering, the guides made their own efforts to clean their area and keep it looking beautiful, which in turn inspired others to respect the environment more.

As of now, about 70 dustbins have been placed in different tourist areas of Hunza, mainly Altit and Karimabad. The Girl Guides plan to place more dustbins at the Paso Glacier, the Khunjerab Pass and in Duiker and Aliabad Bazaars. They were very pleased by the response of the local community and being recognised with a National Shield at the Pakistan Girl Guides Association National Awards was the icing on the cake. For the very first time in the history of Ismaili Guides Gilgit-Baltistan, this shield was awarded to Ismaili Hunza Guides.

The team leaders thanked everyone involved in the fund-raising, the cleanup and in the preparation, placing and maintenance of the dustbins. They also thanked the entire community for the support and encouragement that they had received for the project.

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