Every Year, 6,000 People Come Together to Clean Chennai’s Beaches, Thanks to This Group

Starting with 500 volunteers in 2010, the campaign organised its 8th annual edition last week that saw a participation of around 6000 volunteers and over 130 organisations ranging from IT companies to sports associations.

According to a report by the Irish Times, it is predicted that by the year 2050, there will be more plastic in the oceans than fish.

Seems scary and disturbing, right?

But the future does not have to be so bleak.

Chennai Coastal Cleanup 2017. Courtesy: Mohan.

An initiative spearheaded by the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) seven years ago, the Chennai Coastal Cleanup (CCC) campaign and its volunteers are trying to nullify the damage that plastic waste has been subjecting our coastlines to.

Currently having partnered with organisations like The Hindu, Environmentalist Foundation of India, and Chennai Volunteers, the first edition of the clean-up campaign was flagged off in 2010 with the initial group of volunteers from the club.

“During one of the treks to a waterfall near Chennai, we were astounded to find the amount of garbage and plastic waste that was left behind. That’s when we came up with the idea of clean-up drives and nothing was better than beginning at home,” says Peter Van Geit, founder of Chennai Trekking Club.

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Starting with 500 volunteers in 2010, the campaign organised its 8th annual edition last week that saw a participation of around 6,000 volunteers and over 130 organisations ranging from IT companies to sports associations.

“Our ultimate aim is to raise awareness on the impact of the ever-growing garbage footprint on the environment and health amidst the general public and find solutions that can be incorporated by everyone at a personal level,” he says.

Beginning with Chennai’s coastline, the group soon started organising various cleanup-cum-awareness drives with an aim to reach out to people on a national front.

Peter Van Geit (centre) and the volunteer crew. Courtesy: Dinesh Kumar.

“In 2014, we had begun the India Clean Sweep campaign extending out to 12-14 cities including Pondicherry, Hyderabad, Coimbatore, Vishakapatnam and Kaniyakumari in collaboration with various regional and environmental NGOs,” he says.

Last year, CTC had worked with various communities with action plans based on the zero-waste community model. One such community project involved around 600 fisherman families, where the group sensitised the women and children about the need for proper waste segregation and supplied them with waste bins.

“Over time, we could collect about 5 tonnes of mixed waste, out of which almost 90 per cent was successfully recycled,” Peter says.

With this year’s CCC mega drive, the volunteers were able to collect about 50 tonnes of waste across the 20km stretch of Chennai’s coastline, out of which around 60% of the waste was found to be fit for recycling, which is carried forward through various recycling plants that CTC has collaborated with.

A significant project for the volunteers had been post Chennai floods in 2015.

A tiny volunteer. Courtesy: Hariharan.

“We used to organise weekly cleanup drives since once the flood waters receded, there were huge piles of garbage around. We still conduct weekly drives in areas near Adyar river and Theosophical Society,” he explains.

When asked about working with government organisations, Peter talks about a project they’re currently working on in collaboration with the Chennai Corporation involving over 5,000 households in the Srinivasapuram region.

“Working with state agencies comes at its price, however. When we take up action on our own, things mobilise much faster without much delay. There is no dependence on anyone or the need to wait for things to happen,” he adds.

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Motivated by the concern towards the environment, the dedication and determination of the CCC volunteers is truly appreciable.

Courtesy: Mahesh.

If each one of us consciously takes small steps towards saving our environment, we would be able to save not just our oceans but safeguard the earth for coming generations.

You can reach out to the Chennai Trekking Club here or write to Peter Van Geit at peter.vangeit@gmail.com.

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