Agra Sunder Hai - Beautiful Agra
Our club takes the first step of an ambitious sanitation project with Rotary District 3110 in Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, to help improve the lives of its residents, and make the city truly worthy of its most famous landmark, the Taj Mahal.
Agra is the home of the Taj Mahal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of the “7 Wonders of the World”, and the third most popular tourist attraction on the planet. It is also a metropolis with a population of over 4 million, and a good place to see the contrast between luxury and poverty.  While it would seem that such a popular destination would be thriving economically, this is where the paradox lies: there shouldn't be so much poverty there. After all, Agra is home to some of the finest hotels and spas in India. Yet, so much of its population lives in slums where there is chronic undernourishment, especially amongst children, and no sanitation to speak of.  Streets are overrun with solid waste, and removal systems are inadequate. The fact is that the typical tourist spends little time (and money) in the areas outside of the Taj because it is just too filthy – repulsive to many.    This leaves hundreds of thousands of residents trying to eke out a living on a few dollars a day from the small fraction of visitors willing to venture a taxi ride beyond the main compound, or brave an overnight stay in one of the many, small hotels.   
The Rotary Club of Newton, in collaboration with several Rotary Clubs in Agra, has proposed a global project to clean and beautify Agra by providing resources to not only clean up selected neighborhoods, but to create awareness, educate, inspire, and ultimately motivate the local citizens to improve the sanitary conditions of their residences, streets, and business areas.  In short, the goal of the project, named “Agra Sunder Hai” (Beautiful Agra), is to make the city of Agra worthy of the Taj Mahal, the universal symbol of beauty and love.
“Agra Sunder Hai” was originally the inspiration of Ms. Erin Willinger, the daughter of Newton Rotarian Andy Willinger.  Erin lived in Agra, and was in the process of organizing Agra Sunder Hai when she was tragically killed in 2014.  It was her mission to improve the lives of the local people she grew to love, and Andy has made it his mission to carry it out.  Together with Rotary Newton club president Indira Desai, the project began to take shape.
Raising money from the Rotary Clubs, relatives, friends and supporters, and through the Rotary International Foundation, the project will begin with removing trash and recyclables from a few thousand homes in a community near the Taj Mahal.  A local waste management company with heavy equipment will be used initially, and regular collections will follow.  Agra Rotarians will visit schools, businesses and religious institutions to spread the message and recruit volunteers, providing tools to aid in the effort.  Several other Agra NGOs have also agreed to participate.  Lastly, a social media campaign will support the goal to create a popular movement that can bring about meaningful and sustainable change in old behavior patterns.
This is only the beginning – a pilot project targeting one neighborhood.  A cleaner and greener Agra is a noble task that has been proposed many times in Agra’s history, but not carried out.  However, through the power, commitment, and cooperation of Rotary we hope to soon see an Agra that is worthy of the Taj Mahal, and a real improvement in the quality of life for so many.
For more information, or if you’d like to help, go to,
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