Chennai

Voluntary groups adapting to new normal

Several voluntary organisations and citizens groups engaged in environmental conservation are adopting alternative measures due to the severity of the pandemic.

Weekend volunteering for various environmental causes, be it lake cleaning, tree plantation or awareness drives through wall paintings have been affected because of COVID-19 mitigation restrictions.

Finding sufficient number of volunteers has become a challenge, say environmental activists. The new restrictions, including lockdown on Sundays, will delay the work.

S. Sekaran, secretary of Korattur Aeri Padukappu Makkal Iyakkam, a citizens’ group dedicated to lake protection, said, “We recently launched ‘Save Korattur lake’, a 52-week campaign. We removed 300 liquor and plastic bottles and 100 sacks of garbage during a drive on a Sunday alone. We want to clean up to 6 km of the lake’s periphery to help more people use the area without hassles.”

However, the number of volunteers, particularly from educational institutions, has dropped by 50%. The citizens’ group is managing the activities with teams from other voluntary organisations, he added.

A few organisations plan to use machinery for clearing vegetation.

S. Sameer of the Social Work Team Trust said there had been a setback in weekend activities as students were not participating now. “We have limited the number of volunteers to 10-20 for maintaining trees planted around the lake. This would mean a delay in work. But we have to manage with available resources,” he said.

A few organisations, particularly in the southern suburbs, have stopped regular weekend volunteering activities owing to the pandemic.

Darwin Annadurai, founder, Eco Society India, said, “Participation has reduced considerably over the past few months as priorities have changed. Regular environmental activities have been stopped in Agaramthen and Selaiyur lakes. We seek only a few volunteers to maintain trees planted along the waterbodies.” “The absence of campaigns has aggravated issues like garbage dumping along roads in areas, including Pallavaram and Chromepet.” As an alternative, plans are afoot to employ people or provide remuneration for activities like wall painting and maintenance of saplings planted through fundraisers, he said.

Officials of the Water Resources Department said requests for volunteering activities were not encouraged.

“We have advised not to carry out any activities around Red Hills lake on Sundays this month. Volunteers are involved in tree maintenance efforts on other days. We monitor if they follow COVID-19 safety protocols,” said an official.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 10:04:14 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/voluntary-groups-adapting-to-new-normal/article34362488.ece

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