Project Prithvi, Queens, NY

> Environmental Restoration

Project Prithvi was initiated in 2013 by Queens Hindus concerned about the growing impact of puja items left in Jamaica Bay. The beaches lining Jamaica Bay are a popular place for pujas that would otherwise be done in the sacred Ganga. The Parks Service was on the verge of banning these pujas based on the amount of trash left behind. Although the majority of trash found on the beach was swept up by the tides or left by other beach-goers, the brightly colored puja items, like fabric, plastic murtis, and other non-biodegradable items stood out.

A few young adults in the community began cleaning up the detritus every month. They separated the trash and the puja items and store the puja items in a warehouse. Some have been on display in the Brooklyn Museum. They are motivated by a desire to preserve this fragile ecosystem and to keep the peace between Queens Hindus and local government. They also visit local mandirs to educate the community on not leaving waste behind: there is no spiritual need for leaving these items in the water. They encourage families to take used items home with them, to donate reusable materials such as saris, and to transition to using biodegradable items such as clay murtis and real, not plastic, flowers as per Hindu tradition.

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