All it takes is a small, simple idea to make a big difference. Sounds clichéd, doesn’t it? I would have thought so. However, after meeting Nima Rai, I can say with conviction that clichés exist for a reason.
Let me introduce you to Nima – football crazy, Nepali song aficionado and a Green Trails Team chauffeur on bad weather days.
Nima is a football crazy, Nepali song aficionado and a Green Trails Team chauffeur on bad weather days. He keeps a garbage bag in his car to pick up any trash that he sees on the road.
We met Nima for the first time at Rimbick, a small, vibrant market area just a few kilometers away from Sepi village, the endpoint of the Sandakphu trek. Rimbick has its own charm – a pocket of human humdrum in the middle of a silent bamboo forest.
Quite like his village, Nima exudes enthusiasm. Every time we came back to our homestay after our daily quota of work, Nima would ask us numerous questions about what we were up to. We understood that he was very interested in the kind of work Green Trails does. In his broken Hindi and heavy voice he often told us that “Maila toh Dami nahi hai.” (Waste is not nice at all).
So, on one of those foul weather days when we sat in Nima’s Alto car which is bedecked with football team scarves, we noticed a small blue bag hanging beside the FC Barcelona towels. When we asked about it, raising our voice over the lovely Nepali music he was playing as he drove us around, he sprang up saying, “Yeh mera kachra bag cho.” (This is my trash bag).
Nima observed that most of the plastic wrappers lingering around the uneven roads of Rimbick are the “gifts” of the passengers travelling in vehicles.
Nima with his Alto car. Apart from being decked out with Barcelona Football Club flags, his car serves two purposes: to transport people around and to collect garbage strewn along the roadside. Nima’s efforts have now become an inspiration for other cab driver on the Sandakphu trail to take up the issue of litter.
That is when he came up with his idea — A waste bag inside the car. He almost ordered us to march ahead and ask every driver to do the same. Honestly, we were awestruck by the minimalism of his action. We realized the value of what he had done with just one small simple idea.
So we followed his idea to combat the irresponsible littering on the roads of Rimbick. Nima had a bag that could take about 20 chips packet and 50 chocolate wrappers. Peak seasons would mean he would go to and fro between Sepi and Darjeeling. In a week, that would be about 500 wrappers he picked up from the roadside. So in about four months that would be close to 8000 wrappers. The wrappers were usually a combination of chips/Waiwai and chocolate wrappers mostly. The impact was huge.
We urged all the other drivers at Rimbick to put up a waste bag inside their cars. Since there is a road route to Sandakphu, a lot of Land Rovers ferry tourists up and down the route.
We have now put up posters and a waste bag at every vehicle around the Sandakphu trail. The habit of throwing waste outside the window without much thought has reduced in the last few months. This is not just our observation. We hear it from other travellers as well.
Can we do it?
An arguably small idea started a chain of events. Can we even begin to imagine what would happen if every vehicle has a trash bag inside it?
Do we all have the time to come out of our daily lives and just mull over waste management solutions like Nima?
The idea may not bring the waste down to zero. But it is a start. A small, simple and effective start.
This is why Nima is our local hero.
What you should do now
1. If you would like to to support Green Trails in its efforts to keep the mountains clean and bring in sustainability, click here.
2. If you would like to help Green Trails by working in remote Himalayan villages, then apply for the Green Trails Fellowship here.
3. If you would like to read another story of a Green Trails local hero like Nima, then click here.
4. If you ended up here by chance and were actually looking for treks to do: Then head over to our upcoming treks page. You’ll find all our Himalayan treks there.
5. If you want to see the 13 best treks of India: Then get our free guide here.