When the Belgian photographer Virginie Vlaminik moved to Injambakkam’s Bharathi Avenue two-and-a-half years ago, she often ended up having to negotiate a path through a sea of slippers and other kinds of garbage whenever she walked her dogs on the beach.

A few months later, she decided someone needed to take the initiative to keep the beaches clean.

Another year and the ‘Namma Beach, Namma Chennai – Keep Waste Out of Reach’ movement was born. As part of the campaign, on Sunday, around 100 volunteers cleaned the 1.5km-stretch of the beach.

During the clean-up, all the volunteers were given caps, gloves, refreshment and breakfast.

“Initially, a couple of residents in the area would clean up the beach once in a while, but then, we sensitised the fishermen and villagers on the need for a clean beach and they have been participating ever since,” Ms. Virginie said.

She has now hired four people who come to the area with pushcarts and clean the beach in front of Bharathi Avenue, Seshadri Avenue and VGP Avenue in Injambakkam on a daily basis. Apart from this, every two months or so, there is a massive clean-up that involves residents, students and villagers. The garbage they collect is taken away by the Chennai Corporation.

She raises money for the project through funds from the BSV (Bharathi Avenue, Seshadri Avenue and VGP Avenue) residents association as well as from the sale of her photographs.

According to Kumar, a young resident of the fishing hamlet, ever since the clean-up began, the children in his village have taken up the responsibility of ensuring the beaches are litter free.

“Now that we have a new pair of gloves, we will make sure that we wear it whenever we clean,” he said.

The residents association, however, is hoping that soon, private establishments will also take part in the activity.

Role of resorts

Captain Mohan Ranganathan, president of the association, said they were trying to involve beach resorts on the stretch since they received the most number of visitors and often conducted fireworks displays and other events that resulted in a lot of litter. If the private players participate, it is possible to do a much better job, he said.

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