Cleansing the Vembanad lake, their source of livelihood, of its impurities forms part of the religious ritual of a group of fishermen.

For the past three Mandalam seasons of the Sabarimala temple festival, the clam fishermen of Vembanad lake had been collecting plastic refuse from the bottom of the water body with religious zeal. At the end of the 40-day-long campaign, this season, they collected 75 gunny bags full of plastic and non-degradable materials from the lake. A local body from Alappuzha district has offered to use the plastic for surfacing roads.

Asoka Trust for Research in Ecology and Environment, Lake Protection Forums and Vembanad Nature Club have joined hands for carrying out the cleanliness drive. Usually, the plastic and other refuse that get entangled in clam nets are brought to land, said T.D. Jojo, the coordinator of the project. This year, the fishermen collected refuse from the lake in areas close to Arayad, Muhamma, and Thanneermukkam regions.

Most of the fishermen engaged in clam fishery have combined their religious beliefs with the drive. This year, 130 fishermen volunteered for removing the refuse from the lake, he said. The gunny bags filled with plastic refuse were laid along the track of the road. Later, red earth was spread over it and allowed to settle. The road would be laid on the stretch after some time.

The method was found effective in water-logged areas. The first road developed using plastic bags still remain intact, he said.

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