Many visitors and vendors at the Marina Beach spent Sunday evening collecting plastic trash from the sands. And 120 of them won silver coins for their effort. “Look at all the coupons I have collected. For every 100 gram of plastic that I collected and gave at the counter, I received coupons,” explained S.V. Avvai, a student of class seven at Lady Wellington School, who collected plastic waste along with V. Jebaselvi, her classmate, and her sister V. Nancy.

The children said that this was a nice idea: giving away silver and gold coins through a lucky draw, to keep the beach clean. A. Madurai, who came to the beach for a stroll, also got a silver coin. “I didn't know there was such a competition on today,” he said.

Coupons were distributed for plastic waste collected at seven counters set up by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Chennai Corporation, as part of an awareness programme on plastics.

Environment Minister B.V. Ramana said the State government had sanctioned Rs.100 crore this year to lay roads using plastic material. He urged residents to segregate garbage at the source so as to reuse and recycle plastics.

Mayor Saidai S. Duraisamy said that in the next three months, the Chennai Corporation would ensure that collection and disposal of garbage is done in a scientific manner. He claimed that fires were being set at garbage dump yards by those who wanted to create a bad name for the government and the civic body. TNPCB Member Secretary S. Balaji was also present on the occasion. The event was supported by the Chennai Plastics Manufacturers and Merchants' Association.

Though the Chennai Corporation had banned the use of plastics on the Marina in August 2009, beach-users and a section of shopkeepers continue to use plastic. Plastic bags and water sachets sold in shops were seized as part of the ban, and in November 2010, the civic body had announced that a fine of Rs. 100 would be collected from people who violated the ban on the beach. The Corporation had also extended the ban to parks, places of worship and tourist spots.

“Not many people take the effort to put garbage into a bin. Only one in, say a hundred, would bother to put a piece of paper that was wrapped around a corn cob in their bags to dispose of it properly. Shopkeepers and food stall owners ensure that they clear garbage from around their regular spots after the evening's work,” said Thaiyalnayaki, a flower vendor.

Beach-goers however feel that the ban on plastics has not been followed up by the new regime at Ripon Buildings.

Despite claims that the sands are cleaned by a machine on a daily basis, many regular beach-goers find the sands dirty. R. Kesavan, a resident of Triplicane said that apart from small stones, pieces of glass, ice-cream spoons, pan parag sachets and corn cobs can be found on the sand. “You cannot walk barefoot for fear of getting hurt. Hundreds of children play on the sand — just imagine if someone got cut by a piece of glass. The Corporation should ensure that the sand is cleaned and sieved regularly,” he said.

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