Time and tide wait for no plastic

Waste management at beaches can be impressively in place but still miss a vital component. Here is a visit to the Marina to illustrate the point 

June 18, 2022 10:13 pm | Updated 10:13 pm IST

The seashore alternates between youth and age. At low tide, it is a middle-aged man with a receding hairline; and at high, with the “bald patch” filling up, it resembles the Beatles from the 1960s with their mop-tops.

Marina shoreline, June 18; around 9 a.m. An emptied PET

bottle lies on the shore, with something of a plastic tchotchke — likely a component of a plaything — keeping it company. The waves desperately try to reach up to these discards, but run out of gas. These desperate and unsuccessful attempts would probably continue for another two hours. High tide would set in a quarter past 11 a.m., and then, the waves would succeed in their mission, finally lapping up the “bounty”.

Behind the back of these plastic discards, not too far away, the beach is being freed of the vestiges of the previous day’s gaiety, with machines and humans hard at work.

The cleaning had begun at 6 a.m., and much ground has been covered, with Greater Chennai Corporation’s tractor-pulled beach cleaner putting up an impressive display. Wherever it rolls, it rakes up waste and gobbles it, leaving behind only tyre marks, and liberated white sands.

On the extreme west, conservancy workers are focussed on ridding the promenade, the service lane and the surrounding spaces of litter, patiently sweeping, hand-picking and depositing offscourings in handy bins that move on wheels. They also step on the sands to supplement the cleaning work helmed by a battery of machines.

It is quite a satisfying picture, and it pleasantly numbs one to the point that what happens on the “doorsteps” of the sea seems insignificant.

Besides the promenade and the service lane, the shoreline is the busiest section of the beach. In fact, busier than the other two.

It is a space as difficult to clean as the hard-to-reach gaps between teeth stationed in the inner recesses of mouth. Besides, machines obviously cannot be deployed in this area, as the space is sensitive, being replete with lifeforms that usually show up for a quick howdy when the tide is low.

Here are possible things to do to make sure the sea does not ingest dangerous garbage left tantalisingly close to it.

Through signages, educate visitors not to leave behind litter in this space — that is indeed a tall order; how often does education and awareness, particularly those concerning waste management, have worked? But it has to be tried out, alongside another measure which could in fact polarise people.

Many people frown upon the notion of having garbage bins planted on beach sands.

Given how garbage trickles in — trickles in the context of a massively long beach like Marina would come with a whole new meaning and significance — small-sized bins parked a little distance away from the shoreline should help.

Besides, it is also necessary to have workers from Corporation itself or from the conservancy agency — which now is Urbaser Sumeet — it has employed, stationed around the place to prod visitors to use the bins. And conservancy work on the shoreline should be given the same focus that it receives on promenade and service lane.

Unless these things are implemented, waste management on the beach could be civic-focussed — even impressively so — and still fall short of a massive requirement of our times: ecological focus.

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