These are tough times for the Chaliyar. Like most rivers across the country, this Kerala river has been at the receiving end of the plastic menace. On November 3, around 800 kg of waste was picked from Beypore beach by Kozhikode-based Jellyfish Watersports, which is determined to do something about it. The organisation has been involved in the process of cleaning up the river for the past six years with its annual kayaking expedition, ‘The Chaliyar River Paddle’, which focuses on lifting out garbage from the waters while kayaking.
On December 4, World Wildlife Conservation Day, it will set up a marine cemetery, an installation made with plastic bottles, collected from the river by a team of about 200 paddlers and volunteers, as a reminder that marine life is facing threat of extinction. It will be honouring eight species of endangred fish species including Miss Kerala (( Sahyadria Denisonii )
“We want to make people aware of the grave danger rivers and marine life are facing,” says Tarun Gupta, who is part of the creative team of Jellyfish. “Plastic is affecting marine life drastically. We will have a memorial for Miss Kerala a fish native to the Chaliyar. It is in the red list of the IUCN (International Union of Conservation of Nature) and losing its natural habitat. This beautiful fish is over-exported.”
Climate activist Aakash Ranison, who hails from Indore, has joined the Jellyfish team. “This Marine Cemetery has been built to give people a jolt,” says Aakash. “And, it will educate them on how flora and fauna in our rivers and oceans are on red alert. It’s time to take steps towards course-correction.”
Tarun points out that many fish species are extinct today. “As many as 15 are already extinct and about 700 are endangered(Data source: Mongabay)He states there is little time to be lost. “Kerala has some of the prettiest beaches in India, but, unfortunately, they are also among the dirtiest.” Discussing how people must be sensitised about the hazards of plastic, he says, “We have already got together paddlers to clean the river. And the locals to clean the Beypore beach.” He adds, “We have been appealing to people to discard single-use plastic to start with.”
Kaushiq Kodithodi, founder of Jellyfish, agrees, stating that humans are digging graves for marine species. “Post floods, while we were kayaking in the Chaliyar river, it was horrifying to see the volume of plastic in the surrounding areas,” he says. We have used and abused single-use plastic, choking our water bodies. Marine life is being pushed rapidly towards mass extinction. We thought we should let people know this.”
The initiative is in collaboration with the Green Beach Mission of the District Administration of Kozhikode. The memorial service will be held at the Beypore Beach on December 4 at 5pm. For information, log onto www.bit.ly/themarinecemetery .