ISP Srinagar Bureau
He was only eight years old when his father Muhammed Ramzan passed away. Son of a waste collector in Kashmir’s Bandipora district, Bilal Dar saw his father struggling to make ends meet for the family which consisted of three children. But tough times did not deter him from doing what he loved the most. His passion to keep lake Walur, the largest freshwater lake in Asia made him continue his father’s work of waste collection and this time he focussed on ensuring the revival of the lakes and other water bodies.
This north Kashmir boy won international fame when Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi mentioned him in his radio broadcast and appreciated his efforts to clean the lakes. He has since then been called the Son of Walur. His model of passion, environment action and livelihood is a thing of study for others. He combines his waste collection work with some dedicated efforts to revive water bodies and he also creates awareness about the same through media reach outs. He efficiently used social media to call for other youngsters to join in his mission and he has been considerably successful in doing so.
Bilal fought poverty and financial insecurity all through his life. Early death of his father made his and family’s life tough. Their survival was intertwined with the lake they lived beside. With continuous urbanisation and tourist inflow and waste material, the lake shrank following unbridled trash accumulation. His mother had to take up house jobs of menial work to earn for her children. In 2011, Bilal quit school in 8th class because he could not pay the fee.
Bilal returned to the lake to earn money for his family and himself. Unlike other neighbours who were mostly engaged in fishing, this youngster decided to take the unconventional way of earning from cleaning the lake. He started by removing the trash deposited in the depth of the lake. He wanted to revive the lifeline for himself and his community which lived around. His clean up drive became very popular and won support from many quarters. He collected nearly 30 kg of plastic trash daily. Billa continued till 2013 when a local documentary maker, Jalal-ud-Din Baba saw him while shooting from a hilltop. The film made on him ‘Saving The Saviour’ brought Bilal to the limelight and he was made cleanliness ambassador by the Srinagar Municipal Corporation. There was no looking back. Today Bilal is a role model for youngsters to combine social activism with livelihood.