“I want Marina to look like Miami Beach”

Nisha Thota of Shuddha talks about the challenges she faces in her efforts to spruce up the beach.

September 05, 2015 04:22 pm | Updated March 28, 2016 03:37 pm IST - Chennai:

Chennai corporation has put up several garbage bins on Marina beach. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

Chennai corporation has put up several garbage bins on Marina beach. Photo: S.R. Raghunathan

As she walks me down the three-km stretch of the Marina Beach, Nisha Thota draws withering looks. She orders vendors sitting near the Kamaraj Salai subway to vacate the place. Some show their resentment. The quiet ones just stare at her, probably wondering what her next move would be.

The shops on the sands have been arranged into seven neat rows. The merry-go-rounds are out of the sands. In the area of the beach that comes under the Mylapore jurisdiction, horses are not allowed. Every vendor has a bin.

“You can see the boats now. Earlier, they were hidden behind the shops. That’s what the sea is all about,” says Nisha, founder of Shuddha, an NGO, which has been commissioned by the Chennai Corporation to keep the Marina beach clean.

It is ten months since Shuddha took up the task of sprucing up the three-km stretch of the coastline and every day, new challenges come up.

“I started the project giving myself a benchmark of 90 days,” she explains about ‘Operation 90’. Raids were conducted on the stretch with the help of the Corporation and the police to check on stalls selling un-hygienic food. Un-licensed stalls were removed and bins were made mandatory.

“It was tough. I have faced a lot of backlash from traders. I tell them that I am like their sister, their business will not be affected if they help keep the sands clean,” says Nisha, pointing to the lane occupied by the Narikuravar community who clean the stretch every day.

Nisha calls herself a “social activist”. She began her work with the youth wing of Exnora International and M.B. Nirmal was her mentor. One of her first projects was getting residents of Boat Club Area to segregate waste. Since then, she has worked with many corporates, notably Vodafone and HCL. “Clearing the residue at the Adyar creek was another challenging project as we were faced with stiff opposition,” says Nisha, a graduate from B.S. College of Physiotherapy.

Nisha shuttles between England and Chennai where her family resides.

“Every two months I visit the city. The day-to-day activities are handled by my team, which consists of 137 people,” says 37-year-old Nisha.

Shuddha will next work on streamlining the shops on the beach. With the help of FSSAI, she would offer these shop keepers training on food safety.

“Every fortnight, we conduct a raid. Constant vigil will only make our beach clean. I want Marina to be like Miami,” she says, thanking V. Balakrishnan, DC Mylapore and A.K. Giri, DC Triplicane, for their support.

Nisha says she wants to mechanise most systems including cleaning before Shuddha hands over the beach to the Corporation. “That is the only way to bringing about a long-lasting change,” she adds

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