Every time Rashmi Rao and her husband would drive to Shivamogga city, Rashmi would notice the trash that was littered on the roadside. "Disposable utensils, packets, and most of all, glass bottles everywhere," Rashmi says.
The 37-year-old freelance translator (English to Kannada) lives in Melinkoppa, a small village in Thirthahalli taluk of Karnataka. The area of the road which concerns Rashmi is referred to as the 15th Mile bus stop and comes in between Shivamogga and Mangaluru. Located about 25 kilometres from Shivamogga, 15th Mile bus stop is part of the Shettihalli forest reserve, about seven kilometres from where Rashmi lives.
“Every time we drove down that road, I would tell my husband about how people litter the area. Like many others, I also questioned how no authorities cleaned it up,” Rashmi tells TNM.
But that changed on September 15 when Rashmi decided that there was no point waiting around for things to change. The next day, she, accompanied by her husband, daughter and niece, along with her brother-in-law and his two children, arrived at the spot. They were armed with an empty drum, gunny bags and gloves.
With no help from the authorities or any official logistical backup, Rashmi and her family got down to cleaning up a few hundred metres of the 4-kilometre long road. Within two hours, plastic bags, paper plates and empty food packets filled up one big drum. The gunny bag was filled with 150-200 glass bottles.
“It’s a forest reserve area, so hardly anyone will come and disturb you if you want to sit here and eat and drink. Tourists can do that, but the problem is them not cleaning up afterwards. The broken bottles especially are a danger to people as well as animals who live here,” says Rashmi with concern.
The family decided to burn the paper and dry waste on some empty land because it proved too difficult to segregate. The bag full of glass bottles is still at Rashmi’s home. “We don’t know what to do with it,” Rashmi laughs. “I have told my friends to take it from me if they go to Mangaluru so that the bottles can be recycled,” she adds.
After their maiden attempt, Rashmi hopes to make this a practice whenever they can. She put up a Facebook post, asking people to join her in another clean-up mission that she intends to take up on the coming Sunday. “The response has been quite good – at least 50 people have shown interest! Hopefully, we will be able to cover more than a few hundred metres this time,” Rashmi says enthusiastically.
“The best thing,” she adds, “would be if people just learnt not to litter. It’s the best way to secure cleanliness and the future of our planet.”