The anonymous group called The Ugly Indian, who have transformed several parts of Bengaluru, deserve credit for inspiring. Taking cue, Bunch of Fools from Raipur, We For Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh and several others have suffixed the word Rising to their city’s name, and started ‘spot fixing’ localities. Closer home, recent efforts like Goethe-Institut/Max Mueller Bhavan’s Conquer the Concrete saw international artists use railway stations as their canvas, while the beach cleanups by the Korean Consulate saw communities coming together to save our stretch of sand. But the sixth edition of Chennai Trekking Club’s Coastal Cleanup (taking place this Sunday, as part of the World Environment Day or WED weekend), is expected to be the largest till date, with corporate employees, students and NGOs participating in multiple cities. We take stock of all the efforts you can join.
With cleaning camps, recycling drives and restoration projects, groups of volunteers across Chennai are on a mission to sensitise the city this weekend.
With 25,000 people following them online, this group of fitness and trekking enthusiasts, is joined by corporate employees, students and NGO volunteers too Their watch: The beach stretch from Marina to Kovalam Taking on: Smaller cleanups in and around the city
Just back from a two-week-long endurance run in the Himalayas, the man who started the Chennai Trekking Club (CTC) back in 2008 is totally kicked about the response to the sixth edition of his group’s Coastal Cleanup. Peter Van Geit’s trekkers realised they had to step in, when they saw places like the Tada Falls falling victim to anti-social behaviour. “There are broken bottles and plastic waste strewn carelessly around so many beautiful places. We did our first cleanup at Tada in 2009 and 150 of us collected 500 bags of garbage. Then we began cleaning up places within the city too,” he says, sharing their first beach cleanup turned up five tonnes of garbage on a 15 km beach stretch. Over the years, they have started segregating garbage and 85 per cent of the 50 tonnes of garbage from their last Coastal Cleanup was recycled. Besides flash mobs and ‘No Plastic’ challenges on Facebook, the CTC is also connecting with apartment complexes to sensitise people on the need to segregate waste to facilitate recycling. “As of last year, we have tied up with NGOs in other cities who will organise cleanups simultaneously with the Coastal Cleanup,” shares Van Geit, who is expecting 7,000 individuals to participate in their 20 km beach stretch cleanup between 6 am and 8 am this Sunday. “There are 10 assembly points across the city from where we will pick up volunteers and take them to the cleanup spots this year,” he signs off.
Primarily a group of IT employees and college pass outs, they hope that housewives and retirees will also join their endeavour Their watch: Pallavaram flyover and bus stop, Chrompet bus stop Taking on: Chitlapakkam lake, near which a dumpyard is forming
It was not long before Sunil Jayaram and his three friends realised it would take more than setting an example to clean up their neighbourhood, Chitlapakkam. “In 2012, a group of us took up a street corner where people used to dump trash and cleaned it with the help of the municipality. But that did not stop people from continuing to dump there. That’s when we decided to beautify the place and painted the wall with messages — that worked miraculously,” smiles Jayaram, who since then, has used the same formula on the 50 other clean ups that Chitlapakkam Rising has done till date. Some of their projects, like the Pallavaram flyover, take up to seven or eight sessions before they are completed. Luckily, other groups like The Paint Box lend them a hand. “Besides commuters waiting for their buses, even the local auto drivers step in and help during our overnight projects,” Jayaram shares. Inspired by Bengaluru-based The Ugly Indian, Jayaram’s group of now 1,450 members from across the city, are going to spend time on three projects this weekend. “Some of us are joining the Coastal Cleanup on Sunday, others are continuing our Pallavaram flyover work and some will join Mazhaikaga, the group who are planting saplings around Hastinapuram,” he shares plans for the WED weekend.
This group of volunteers plants saplings, teaches children at government schools, spends time at orphanages and lends a hand wherever required Their watch: Government schools in Urapakkam Taking on: A mission to promote biodegradable plastic bags in the city
This summer, a team of youngsters from The Crew were spotted dusting, whitewashing and giving the campus of Karnai Puducherry’s Govt Higher Secondary School an altogether new look. The founder and managing trustee of this group, Mageshkumar N M shares, “We wanted to meet up and also do something worthwhile for the society. So we started visiting orphanages that weren’t well known and supported them in any way we could.” Magesh and The Crew will be joining the Coastal Cleanup this weekend and will also be partnering with Chitlapakkam Rising to work on the Pallavaram flyover. “There were posters stuck all over the walls of the flyover, which we removed. Every Sunday we paint the walls. None of us are artists, so we end up painting simple geometric designs,” he smiles.
● A citizen’s group, Clean Kotturpuram, led by runner Preethi Agarwal, makes it a point to clean different corners of Kotturpuram every Sunday morning. They clean up the trash and segregate the waste as much as possible, with assistance from the Chennai Corporation.
● For two and a half years now, Belgian Virginie Vlaminck has been cleaning up the streets and the beaches in her neighbourhood, Injambakkam. With eight other women who work for the corporation, Vlaminck takes it upon herself to cleanup the stretch between VGP and Akkarai, for an hour every day. “We also try to involve the youngsters whenever we can, so that they will learn not to litter from an early age,” she says.
The Paint Box
You don’t have to be an artist to sign up with this group, who beautify walls around the city with paintings and poems
Their watch: YMCA Nandanam, Senior Citizen’s Park in Besant Nagar, Horticultural Society
Taking on: Roping in low-income artists and giving them a platform to showcase their skills
Given that they purchase the paints and other materials using their own money, the members of The Paint Box don’t have it easy. But with help from family and friends, the group took up their first project in 2012, and painted the walls of their neighbourhood. Now they work around the city and conduct an event called ‘poetry on the walls’. “People are generally intrigued with the work we do. We’ve had passers-by and taxi drivers congratulate us and some of them even offer to buy us food and juice,” says Namrata Ratnam, co-founder of The Paint Box, about the support they receive from locals. With around 15 regular volunteers and others usually joining on the spot, this group will be spotted painting the walls at Marina this Sunday, as part of the Coastal Cleanup.
Environmentalist Foundation of India
Encouraging students between the age group of 12 to 20, they not only clean but restore lakes in Chennai, Hyderabad and Coimbatore Their atch: Lakes in places like Keelkattalai, Madambakkam and Mudichur Taking on: Scientific restoration of six water bodies in Tamil Nadu,
Andhra Pradesh and Telangana
This WED weekend, the Environmentalist Foundation of India (EFI) is hoping to round up 5,000 people in three cities, for eight cleanups. “We are already 85 per cent there with registrations and will definitely have people signing up on the spot,” says a confident Arun Krishnamurthy, who has been organising cleanups of water bodies since 2008. His brigade of students, corporate employees and even senior citizens, have cleaned 39 lakes across Chennai, Hyderabad, Coimbatore and Delhi. “Our core team is 47 members across these cities, but on a normal Sunday cleanup we get 60-100 volunteers and up to 850 volunteers on days like WED,” he shares, adding that they also do scientific lake restoration to sustain waterbodies as biodiversity hotspots.
In addition to participating in the Coastal Cleanup, Paperman is conducting the Chennai Recycle League in view of World Environment Day. The city will be divided into 10 regions and headed by an NGO each (they are partnering with the likes of Bhoomi and Sevalaya). These NGOs will go to corporates, schools, parks and urge people to donate their trash for recycling, in order to support their causes. “Next year, our idea is to start operations outside Chennai. For instance, somebody in Delhi should be able to support a cause in Coimbatore. We are working on it,” says Mathew Jose, who started Paperman in 2010. “Over the last five years that we have been working in Chennai, the city has been receptive to our ideas and we hope that other cities reciprocate too,” he says. Started as an initiative to collect waste paper to support the education of girl children in rural areas, Paperman now collects from homes (you can contact them through their website), schools and offices around the city. “We also work in association with a few kabbadiwalas. Because we feel they are the reason 20 per cent of the recycling takes place in our country,” he says.
n ● Student-led teams of at least 60 people from all eight houses at SRM University make it a point to clean up their campus at least once a month. The students collect litter and separate it into recyclable and biodegradable waste.
n ● Besides yearly beach cleaning drives, students at the Eco Club of Women’s Christian College take the initiative to
clean their campus by collecting disposed plastic bottles. These are then filled with sand and used as makeshift bricks as a part of a recycling programme.
By Ryan Peppin & Mayuri J Ravi