Having been in the Indian Coast Guard for 30 years, D.N. Sharma has spent more time at sea than on land. Yet, on Saturday morning, he stood rooted to the beach with a plastic bag full of trash.

He was one among the many Coast Guard personnel, school students and volunteers who took part in a clean-up drive to mark the International Coastal Clean-up Day commemorated here on Saturday by the Chennai branch of the Indian Maritime Foundation.

More than 12,000 volunteers descended on the 210-km-long coastal belt between Pulicat and Cheyyur, and major coastal tourist destinations along the Tamil Nadu and Puducherry coast.

“People participating in efforts on land make our job at sea easier,” said Mr. Sharma. Referring to the recent oil spill incident along Mumbai's coast, he said such accidents underscored the need for surveillance teams of residents along the coast.

Rear Admiral (retired) K.R. Srinivasan, vice-president of the Chennai branch of the Foundation, said apart from removing plastic and other waste from the coast, data on the kind of waste found along different stretches would be compiled to undertake research.

Ashish Pandey, a software engineer and one of the volunteers at the Valmiki Nagar beach said, “It is good to know that I can do something to save the environment at least one day in a year. I come to this stretch of the beach to enjoy the evenings with friends. All of us have a responsibility to keep our beaches clean.”

G. Srinivasan, an NCC cadet, said “Only if some of us start doing this, other people will see us and participate.”

More than 48 tonnes of waste was collected during the drive. Chennai accounted for 75 per cent of the waste collected, pointing to the magnitude of the problem.

Stressing that beaches are eco-sensitive spots, G. Ashwini, a Class VIII student of Vana Vani Matriculation Higher Secondary School, said “It is sad that people are littering on the beaches.”

Union Shipping Minister G.K. Vasan, who flagged off the clean-up drive, said such initiatives would create awareness among people to protect coastal eco systems.

Mayor M. Subramanian and U.S. Consul-General Andrew T. Simkin participated.

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