Peter Van Geit
Environment Tuesday, January 11, 2011
Write-up by Vaishnavi Narasimhan
My Sunday mornings are normally meant for sleeping in, being lazy, watching TV and eating a late brunch. However, this Sunday was different from others. For starters, I woke up at 5:15am. I then got dressed and made my way to Marina beach to do something much needed – pick up trash!
The Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) led a massive volunteer effort towards cleaning up the 15-km coastal stretch from Marina to Injambakkam this Sunday. CTC is a non-profit volunteer-based organization of nearly 1000 trekking enthusiasts. The group is actively involved in exploring trails, jungles and mountains all over India. CTC organizes 5-8 treks every month and often more than one trek on weekends. Apart from trekking, the group is also passionate about raising environmental and social awareness and organizes several campaigns to clean up and preserve environmentally sensitive areas.
Sunday’s coastal clean up was a sequel to another massive clean up that was held in May 2010. The group’s founder had a vision to make this event the largest beach clean up campaign in Chennai’s recent history. Thus, a single email calling for volunteers caught the attention of hundreds of residents and the media. In a mere few weeks, nearly 1000 volunteers (including me J) signed up to offer 2 hours of their Sunday morning to rid the city’s coastline of garbage.
This was my first interaction with CTC, and I was pleasantly surprised at how organized its volunteers were. The 15-km stretch that we cleaned was divided into 1-km zones, with 2-3 of CTC’s organizers manning each zone. A map indicating pick-up points, beach clean up zones and organizer names was sent out to everyone ahead of time through email. I signed up to meet the group that gathered at the Marina lighthouse. When I got to the beach, I saw a few organizers ready and waiting with gloves and biodegradable garbage bags (sponsored by Biotec). Once the gloves and bags were handed out, my group was divided into two teams– one that picked up larger pieces of trash, such as shoes, gunny bags, large plastic bags, etc, and a second team that picked up smaller pieces such as cigarette butts, small pieces of thermocole, plastic, etc. Since I am afflicted with an obsessive compulsive disorder and love cleaning in detail, I happily opted to join the second group. I spent a good 1.5 hours picking up all kinds of trash (and burning a lot of calories J), much of which was deeply buried in sand. Several of CTC’s photographers captured photographs of the clean up at all of the different zones.
It was really nice to see how passionate all of the volunteers were about cleaning up the beach. There were people of all ages that came out to for the clean up that morning. We also got the attention of several fishermen who lived in the area and people who happened to be taking a stroll at the beach that morning. A few fishermen made some generous contributions to my trash bag and even thanked me, which made me feel proud for doing something worthwhile with my Sunday morning. Together, we collected 800 bags of non-degradable garbage – a commendable attempt at raising environmental awareness.
I hope that the beach clean up has made Chennai’s residents realize the importance of preserving this precious and beautiful ecosystem, and that beach go-ers will now think twice before littering. On behalf of Transparent Chennai, I would like to thank CTC for organizing this amazing campaign. This effort is proof that we, as residents, can work together to make our city a better place to live!
I would like to thank the CTC for making things so simple. No complicated registrations, no hassle in finding the place and the people, Things were organized really well.
I was told about the coastal cleaning campaign by a friend from work. Three hours on a Sunday morning sounded very much fair. Can we not do this much for ourselves? It was not about doing something for the society , for our tomorrow. We had crossed that stage of trying to save something for our future generations, the stake is for our today!
The two of us registered the day before. We were to join at the Marina light house, we reached a little early. We started the day with a stroll and some fresh air. At 6, we found the others all geared to do their bit of something for all of us. We were given the Bio degradable bags and the gloves and instructed on what to look out for. We started with all enthusiasm, very green and very clean!! It looked and sounded so easy. It took me by surprise at how much of patience and work it involved, collecting shreds of plastic the lighthouse to santhome church stretch was nt easy. And true awareness comes only when you are a part of something like this. I had deciding while I was doing my part, that never again will I litter the beach.
And it was fun, fun to find new names of Suparis and brands of chips, I dint know existed. Did you know ‘ king of jungle’ was a brand of chips? Yes it is fun to go on the beach and have ice cream from the many stalls over there, but it is nt cool to dump the ice cream wrappers just where you are and walk away, Yes it is fun t come with a gang of friends and have tea and coffee. But it is so unhealthy for the ecosystem to leave the plastic cups littering around. It looks like what can one wrapper do to the ecosystem, but what we fail to understand is if everyone of us starts thinking that way, there ll be millions of plastic litters just like now and yes millions are unhealthy for our ecosystem.
And coming back to the campaign, time passed so quickly, as we started concentrating on picking up litters. I felt like a santa claus only the bag of goodies replaced with a bag of garbage but it was in a way a goodie!! :) We reached a place, a couple of other volunteers and the two of us are collecting litter from the same place for like almost quarter to an hour and its like treasure, the more we gathered, the more we found. We would have been filthy rich if it had been gold or even silver instead of shreds of plactic. But hey we were FILTHY rich!! It was an experience beyond words, a few locals, joined us. It probably felt lighter on their conscience if they helped us. A few local kids, helped with so much of vigor. To them, it was a gae, who helps fill the bags fast.
I walked out a different person, felt lighter and proud of myself, not because I thought I had dome something for nature or felt it was some kinda social service, but because I had learnt a lot these three and a half hours. I had learnt what all the books on eco friendliness could nt teach me all this while. And all the credits to CTC and all the people who had been associated wt the campaign! Cheers!!