Cleaning up the Nilgiris, plogging style

Cleaning up the hillside  

After organising successful plogging drives in Kodaikanal and other cities, Jacob Cherian was introduced by a “conscientious journalist” (his words) to like-minded folk in The Nilgiris who are trying their best to clean up the picturesque blue mountains. Thus was born the two-day plogging party initiative last weekend at Sim’s Park, Coonnoor and Donnington Bakery, Kotagiri.

Just as we were heading towards Sim’s Park, a large vehicle cut across us. The window was rolled down and a well-dressed lady carelessly chucked some candy wrappers into the wind. Those of us gathered could only look on in utter dismay. How does one begin to put an end to this complete lack of civic awareness? Is it enough to pay our taxes and not give a damn about the pile up of trash? Is it easier to blame sanitation workers for under performance of their duties? These questions need to be asked because each one of us needs to pay attention to the problems plaguing the environment.

Tons of garbage cleared in just a few hundred metres

Tons of garbage cleared in just a few hundred metres  

At Sim’s Park, the team from Sakthi Solutions, who are under contract with the Municipality of Coonoor to keep the streets free of trash, joined us. They had brought a vehicle to help carry the garbage to the junk yard. Armed with rubber gloves, garbage bags, a few rakes and a trash-picking pole, we began working. We had barely walked a few hundred feet before it hit us that we had filled five large garbage bags. The quantity of thoughtless junk on display was just staggering.

Getting down and dirty Volunteers cleaning a gutter

Getting down and dirty Volunteers cleaning a gutter  

The volunteers didn’t just stop bend and pick up but knelt down, reached inside thick bushes and Dr Vasanthan even got into a clogged drain. While hoisting garbage out of yet another dry ditch, Prasannan Madhavan came across a bag of bones. That should have been enough to repulse anyone but these dedicated individuals were there with a purpose and it was amazing to see them tirelessly labour on.

Samantha Iyyana, who has been instrumental in rallying volunteers, is hoping to set up a model cleanliness drive along with Cherian’s help by getting the stakeholders involved. Business houses, restaurants, supermarkets, and hotels can take up the responsibility of keeping their surrounding free of garbage daily. Similarly if religious institutions made an appeal to their visitors, it would go a long way in achieving a permanent change in mindset. Alongside the revelry and festivities, if there were addresses about each individual’s responsibility to not pollute the environment, the message will not go unheard.

Udaya Venugopal and her son Rahul shifted to Coonoor three years ago after living in Mumbai. Venugopal attributes the massive pile up of waste to groceries packaged in plastic. “This is where the daily non-biodegradable waste is generated.” Hetal Barai, who also moved here from Kolkatta, says that while the municipality workers are doing their job, there is a pressing need to raise awareness in each neighbourhood.

Plogging parties are a great way to get people out and spread the word. While we received many curious stares from pavement dwellers and passers by, a few vehicles also slowed down long enough to enquire what was going on. When workers in uniform clean up, it’s taken for granted that they are doing their job. But when people from other walks of life are spotted doing the same, it creates a buzz. The need of the hour is to turn the buzz into a roar. Plogging is one way to do that.

Pradeep, the manager at Sakthi Solutions, lamented that a group of people who trash a particular spot with bottles after a daily alcoholic binge. In little over an hour, the ploggers had small cuts and bruises despite using gloves. Imagine the plight of those who do this every day duty. Just because they are paid to keep the streets free of garbage, is it right to that they are forced to endure such hardships while others pay scant heed to the environment?

Jacob says he promotes plogging because it makes ‘collecting trash’ sound cool. The clean up ended at the Hopscotch Bar where the participants celebrated a job well done. “Tomorrow, however, is another day with a whole new set of tourists,” says Samantha resignedly.

You have to admit that it would be wonderful to walk, jog, and run in a trash-free neighbourhood. It’s time we tried to achieve that collectively.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 1:20:49 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/a-plogging-party-in-the-niligiris-cleans-two-towns-and-raises-awareness-about-pollution/article23958704.ece

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