I have just got back from a three day vacation at a resort near Trivandrum! I didn’t have the time to go into the city but the ride from the airport to Poovar, was an eye opener of sorts! Fields and ponds filled with plastic and refuse. Plastics and garbage was dumped everywhere especially on empty plots of land. Trivandrum airport is perhaps the cleanest AAI airport in India. It just goes to show that our cities and our airports are a reflection of the inhabitants that dwell in that area.
The resort was situated in the backwaters and we had to take a 15 minutes boat ride to the resort. The boat wound its way through coconut plantations cutting through the slimy green waters afloat with garbage. The gently flowing backwaters were bespeckled with hawaii slippers, used clothes, paper cups and plates and general refuse. As the boat chugged its way to the resort we could do nothing but sit in stunned silence at the sight before us.
At the resort jetty we were greeted by girls in traditional Kerala attire who garlanded us amidst the din of the chenda played by two energetic guys in traditional clothes. The beat was too foot tappingly bollywoodesque.
Tourism is here to stay in Kerala and the resort had the mandatory Yoga enclosure, Ayurveda House etc to give the foreigners that authentic Kerala experience. In the evening a barbecue was arranged for the guests and the next day morning I saw the Styrofoam plates afloat in the backwater surrounding the resort. Mineral water bottles, tetra packs and other garbage lined the waters edge. The resort was a clean and green oasis in a desert of refuse. It was a little too much for me. I remembered a Kerala, that not so long ago was hailed for its clean and neat people and civic sense.
What has happened to change this overnight? The thousands of resorts that have mushroomed up in Kerala, generate tons of plastic refuse everyday. Recycling as a culture does not seem to exist. I asked a hotel staff what they did with the mineral water bottles as she said that they are thrown away!!
As countries like the US grapple with the problem of garbage disposal and have ship loads of plastic bottles plying the sea for years looking for a port to dump their load, what is going to happen to India with a larger population and no culture of recycling? How long is the land and the environment going to take the abuse? Unless the government steps in and educates the public about garbage segregation and disposal, the Kerala we once knew is doomed to become a giant garbage dump.