Rising at dawn on Sunday morning, students, bankers, doctors and many more, got together at three different spots in Chennai. But they were not together to launch a rally, to give a public demonstration or make any proclamations. They were together for just one mission, removing garbage off Chennai’s beaches.
The beach cleaning was organised as part of the Joy of Giving Week. Led by an NGO, Bhumi, the event saw over a thousand people from every walk of life, from the employees of the Barclays Bank, to students of Chennai’s Corporation schools, to volunteers from the Chennai Trekking Club and other civic organisations in the city.
The cleaning up happened at the Light House, Santhome, Broken Bridge near Elliot’s Beach and Foreshore Estate. After hours of putting their backs into dirt and garbage, the volunteers managed to collect a total of 4.65 tonnes of waste.
“People should stop throwing plastic everywhere. It kills the plants and destroys our earth,” says B Vinoth Kumar, an eighth grade student of Chennai Middle School, M G R Nagar, who prides himself for having collected 6 bags of garbage at the beach cleaning.
But it was not only garbage that the beach cleaners came across. While the cleaning was in operation at the Broken Bridge, the volunteers came upon nothing less than a dead body. The police was immediately summoned to take the body away but the incident left some of them shaken.
An online petition was also launched at the event to urge the corporation to clean the beaches of Chennai. “The corporation only looks at cleaning Marina Beach and Elliots beach. The rest of the beaches are ignored. Unless the corporation takes up the initiative to clean all the beaches, this will not be sustainable, as volunteer beach cleaning happens just once in months,” said Co-founder of Bhumi, Dr K K Prahaladan.
A part of the waste that was collected was also segregated into plastic and biodegradable waste. The plastic waste that littered the beaches was then sent to make some tough roads in the village of Medambakkam in the Kacheepuram district. “The village had asked us for the plastic. So after segregation it was sent to the village for use to lay the roads,” he said.