news Wednesday, June 10, 2015 - 05:30
  For people frequenting Chennai’s many beaches, plastic covers, oiled papers and more such garbage strewn across the sand is not an uncommon sight.   So much so, that when Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) organised this year’s coastal cleanup last Sunday, over 5,500 volunteers joined together and painstakingly scraped out almost 30 tonnes or 30,000 kilos of garbage from beaches lining Chennai’s coastline.   Organised as a part of the World Environmental Day celebrations, the CTC has done a commendable job by bringing together around 23 organisations and schools to take part in a mammoth beach clean up initiative.   Conducted along with 10 other green NGOs who collaborated with CTC on a bright Sunday morning in cities like Coimbatore, Madurai, Kanyakumari, Vishakapatnam and Hyderabad, the event, which saw its sixth year since its inception has grown to become more than just a city-based event. Other groups like the Environmentalist Foundation of India participated and cleanups were arranged around lakes in many of these cities including Thanjavur.    CTC’s founder, Peter Van Geit, tells The News Minute that the cleanup was not just a “clean-up” in the real sense.   “We all know that no matter what we do the beach is going to be dirty again the next day. But the bigger picture, it's more to make people aware about the environment and the necessity to keep the ocean clean,” he says.   One of the biggest issues facing Chennai are its toxic dumpyards, filled beyond capacity. “Our idea is not just to move the garbage from one place to another,” he says referring to the living conditions near such dump yards. The intention is to target segregation and thus reduce garbage generation at its base, he says.   Chennai for instance, has the title for the city generating the maximum garbage in the country with 6,404 tonnes produced daily. Closely following Chennai is Kolkata and Delhi.   Referring to this, Geit says that importance was given to the idea of segregation. The garbage was segregated  into three major categories : 15 percent glass, 38 percent recyclable waste (glass, rubber chappals, fishing net) and the rest 47 per cent as non-recyclable waste. Of this 54 percent was going to be recycled, he said.   Recyclable waste dispatched to their site for the next level segeration and recycling.   Environmentalist, Nityanand Jayaraman echoed a similar point underlying the importance of segregation. “The problem is that we are using material that cannot be reused, composted or thrown away,” he said. Identifying and segregating the garbage will be a step forward.   The remaining non-recyclable waste is taken away by the Corporation and dumped in one of Chennai's dump-yards. “I have seen people who live near the garbage dump. It has polluted the whole area there,” he says talking about the effects that the Perunguluthur dumpyard had on the nearby living community.     Peter Van Geit   Most of Chennai’s garbage today makes its way to Kodungaiyur and Perungudi dumpyards – both sites which are to be scientifically capped as the government starts developing alternate sites to handle the waste. A move still pending, recently this year a Change.org petition has gathered momentum asking the civic body to stop dumping waste in both these two dumpyards.  “19 toxic chemicals were found in air samples taken near Kodungaiyur dumpyard” reads the petition.   Born and brought up in a small town in Belgium, Geit landed up in Chennai around seventeen ago as a part of his work as a software engineer. It was then about seven years back that he began Chennai Trekking Club as a way to meet like-minded trekking enthusiasts. Today, the group focuses on outdoor recreation and environment social activities.   Interestingly, on the issue of lack of garbage bins at the Marina beach, the second longest beach in the world he says “that there is a fundamental problem” there.  “We asked the corporation at the beach about why they don’t keep garbage bins. “ They told us that no matter what they keep at the beach - plastic or concrete bins, the bins all get robbed”.   In conclusion, Geit emphasises that the idea of a cleanup doesn’t just mean emphasis on the beach. “The whole city is important. Our main point was this: If you can segregate it on the beach, segregate it at home too”. This way, we can reduce the 6,604 tonnes of garbage that leaves our city each day, he says.   (Image source : Chennai Coastal Cleanup Facebook page)    

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