A campaign that started as a lake-cleansing exercise is now turning out to one that is spearheading new methods of plastic waste management.

It was in November that the Bangalore-based Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE) joined hands with the Vembanad Nature Club and Vembanad Lake Protection Samithi to clean the ecologically fragile Vembanad Lake of its plastic waste. The 41-day campaign was taken out in such a manner so as to coincide with the 41-day Mandalam season connected to Sabarimala and focussed among fishermen and clam collectors surviving on the Lake.

The reason for the ‘purification drive’ owed its origin to the unfortunate phenomenon of fish, clam and other aquatic life being regularly trapped and killed in plastic waste dumped in the lake.

Beginning on November 17, the fishermen and clam collectors amassed the plastic waste that got entangled in their nets every day and finally, ended up with 40 sacks of plastic junk.

However, just as the role of the fishermen and clam collectors was seemingly over, the Muhamma Panchayat came forward with a novel idea.

And according to Muhamma Panchayat President Deepa Ajithkumar, the idea sprung from nowhere just because there was no proper plastic waste disposal facility.

What the panchayat did over the last two weeks was use to the 40 sacks of plastic waste to form a foundation for a new road that it laid in the region. So, the new road, the Janasakthy-Kalyanassery Road now has a 350-metre long plastic foundation, over which sand, crushed stones and now, gravel have been laid.

“We are now collecting segregated plastic waste along with other waste from all the homes here as part of an anti-plastic campaign launched by the Kanjikuzhy Block panchayats. We hope to make use of the plastic thus collected for such purposes,” says Ms. Deepa, pointing out that such disposal of plastic appeared to be the safest in the absence of the recycling or disposal facilities.

Meanwhile, ATREE project coordinator Jojo T.D. said the lake cleaning and consequent use of novel methods to dispose the plastic would be a continuous effort every year.

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