The divers have been volunteering for the clean up for 4 hours in the morning, before going on to their day jobs.

Vizag divers remove 4000 kg of plastic from the sea in 3 weeks
news Environment Monday, November 11, 2019 - 15:46

Three weeks ago, Subhash Chandran, a scuba diving instructor, was out for a swim with a friend near Rushikonda beach in Vizag. “While we were swimming, plastic waste kept getting stuck to our legs. We went back and got our masks just to have a look – and we were shocked when we saw the amount of plastic,” says Subhash. 

Subhash, along with his diver friend, did not just go back to the shore or move to a cleaner spot to continue their swim. Instead, they dove in and started to remove the plastic. “That day itself, we removed around 400 to 500 kg of plastic,” says Subhash. Since then, Subhash, along with four other divers, has made 12 such rounds, together removing nearly 4,000 kg of wet plastic from the ocean. “We felt like we had to clean it up. We are divers, the sea is our home and our work,” Subhash says. 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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Subhash runs a recreational scuba diving venture called Platypus Escapes from Rushikonda, where he works as a scuba diving instructor. The remaining professional divers who are part of the clean-up mission have all been certified from Platypus Escapes, which is affiliated with SSI (Scuba Schools International), Subhash tells TNM. “We care about the environment. We also want to make efforts towards marine conservation, maybe even start plantation of corals which we’ve done in Andaman,” he says. 

The divers have been volunteering for the clean-up, venturing into the water early in the morning from 6.30 am for around four hours, before going on to do their day jobs. “We have started doing this as a continuous mission in the last three weeks. We dive at about 100 metres away from the shore and go two-three metres deep,” says Subhash. The team free dives wearing just masks, since using proper scuba diving equipment every time would be expensive. 

While the core team consists of five divers, Subhash says that they do take volunteers, if they happen to be experienced swimmers, after interviewing them thoroughly for safety purposes. 

“Sometimes fishermen from Mangamaripeta help us out by taking us into the sea on their boats. We pay them a basic amount. Since this is a voluntary venture, we have to manage the costs on our own and juggle it with our jobs,” Subhash says. 

 

The divers take along netted bags which they use underwater to collect plastic waste. Once around 70-80 kilos of plastic is collected, they swim ashore to leave it on the ground and go back for another round. Finally, Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation workers help them move the plastic into the GVMC dumpsters. “We could also use the help of non-diving volunteers who can segregate the waste,” Subhash says. 

Subhash, who was born in Kerala, has been diving for nearly 13 years. He has previously worked at a dive centre in the Andamans, before he met his wife from Rajahmundry and decided to move to Vizag, about a year ago. “I have never seen so much plastic in the sea before. We usually take our customers to the deeper side. Even then we’ve seen fish stuck inside plastic covers multiple times,” Subhash says. 

Cleaning up the Rushikonda beach itself will take at least 2-3 months, after which the group plans to continue with their mission along the coastline towards RK beach, until the weather and visibility allow, before the seasonal change turns the sea rough and the waters dark. But Subhash says that unless people stop throwing garbage in the sea or are penalised for doing so, especially at processions during festivals, the danger of plastic pollution remains. 

 
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