Launched in 2015
Focuses on environmental needs
Cleaned up a village, including its holy sites
Kunao, a village near Rishikesh in the Indian Himalayas, is home to both Muslim and Hindu communities. It houses a Hindu temple and lies on the banks of the holy Mother Ganga River. Conflicts between the two religious groups arise over land ownership as well as wandering cows, which are holy to the Hindus but disturb Muslims on their properties. Additionally, pollution and the lack of sanitary facilities generate precarious hygienic conditions, which put further strain on the social life of the village. In order to increase harmony, protect the Hindu temple, and preserve the natural habitat, we started a cleanliness and environmental protection program in Kunao.
This field project was initiated by H.H. Pujya Swami Chidanand Saraswatiji, President of Parmarth Niketan, Rishikesh and co-founder/co-chair of the Global Interfaith WASH Alliance (GIWA), which is committed to cleaning the village and protecting its beauty. The project is engaging the Muslim and Hindu communities, including young students, in joint actions to improve access to safe water and clean the area near the Hindu temple. As part of the project, the two groups planted fruit-bearing trees, which offer the added benefit of providing food for local children; they placed large trash bins in the village and cleaned an open drain from which cattle and livestock used to drink polluted water; they transported stray cows to a shelter in order to take them off the roads and prevent intrusion into properties; and they built toilets in every home of the village, solving the problem of illnesses caused by open defecation.
In order to keep these efforts going, a local person is being selected to maintain cleanliness in the village. We are also holding classes to teach students about the importance of proper hygiene and building a computer center for them. GIWA is encouraging local schools to add the project to their curricula, so that Muslim and Hindu students can continue working together on issues that are vital to the community.
The Universal Code's field project in Kunao addresses both environmental problems and interreligious tensions through cooperation over common concerns. By responding to local needs, the project facilitates cooperation in a sustainable way.