Six years ago, when 150 Chennai Trekking Club volunteers travelled deep inside the forests of Tada, Tamil Nadu to restore the scenic Tada falls to its natural beauty, a strong environmental awareness movement was born. It was subsequently brought within the city limits as Chennai’s Coastal Clean-up, aiming to clear heaps of garbage that wreck the city’s beaches. Now in its 6th year, the movement is again raising an army to wage a war against plastic. And it’s inspirational, to say the least.
The 6th edition of Chennai Coastal Clean-up, organised by the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC), will be held on June 7, 2015. Determined to collect 50+ tonnes of garbage from 20+ kilometres of coastline area, the event will be steered by over 5000 volunteers from corporates, schools, NGOs and individuals. This colossal clean-up, at 15 target beach zones, will be co-ordinated by a team of 100+ member volunteers from the Chennai Trekking Club.
The movement has evolved from being a simple beach clean-up drive to segregation and recycling of waste, to achieving long-term sustainable goals for the conservation of environment. The waste procured from Chennai’s Coastal Clean-up is not just segregated into various categories (plastic, glass, biodegradable, etc.) for responsible disposal, it is also utilised to lay plastic tar roads, an innovation that is widely gaining popularity in India for eco-friendly use of plastic waste. In 2012, the movement entered the Limca Book of Records for the fastest clean-up with 2,369 volunteers collecting 17.6 tonnes of garbage within two hours. The participation has only grown ever since, with 6000 people from over 100 organisations joining hands in the movement’s 5th leg in 2014.
“We have explored the forests and mountain ranges where we could experience the virgin beauty of nature. We learned to survive in it without impacting it in any manner. Whenever we pass through tourist locations, it hurts us deeply to see the abuse of nature by humans,”
said Peter Van Geit, founder of Chennai Trekking Club who hails from Belgium but calls Chennai his hometown. The #ChennaiCoastalCleanup campaign has a strong presence on social media platforms, where followers are encouraged to undertake the five-day #noplasticchallenge and nominate their friends to do the same, in order to minimise their daily household dependence on plastic. Chennai Trekking Club volunteers have also started engaging in door-to-door awareness drives before the actual clean-up to encourage grocery shop owners to employ eco-friendly packaging. One such initiative involves putting up posters at tea stalls and coconut vendors with visual messages to sensitize the public on the adverse impact of plastic cups.
The rather flashy Swachha Bharat Abhiyan, launched by the Modi government, was swept away by stardom, vehemently driven by the selfies of politicians and celebrities alike who exhibited no qualms in posing with a broom in their hands. The real challenge, however, lies not in cleaning what’s already clean, but introducing socially-led initiatives to battle the waste menace in the country. Chennai’s Coastal Clean-up, being organised around the World Ocean Day on June 8, could be a befitting move to start with.
You too can get your hands dirty to do a bit of cleaning. Join the #ChennaiCoastalCleanup here.
Words: Sushant Kumar