Saturday, March 31, 2007

The new use and throw culture

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.


Neihal said...

A sad scene it is. But I think we can make a difference. A post like this, spreading awareness and most importantly a little effort in our daily lives.

mathew said...

really sad..and I have seen the trivandrum of old times..and seen the rot..once proclaimed the cleanest city I feel sad at the filth we see now..

though cant put all the blame on our govt ..civic sense among people have also taken a beating..
The sense of belonginess to a place would defintely make things better.nowadays it is "who cares" mindset that prevails..

Jiby said...

like mathew said tvm was once a small, clean what you said is so true...some time last year i went to the akulam lake in trivandrum and felt real sad seeing its shape...garbage, silt, weed and plastic had clogged up the lake near the shore and just a narrow path cleared up for us to get on a pedal boat and ride.

these days kudumbasri programs collect the garbage from houses and residential colonies in tvm...noone knows if all this goes to the waste treatment plant at vilappilshaala or not.

these corporates who make so much money out of tourism needs to pump back money to sustain the ecosystem that fuels their business...i am sure it is they rather than local people who are responsible for ruining the backwaters.

the govt, schools, colleges, workplaces have all got to become an awareness hub to cut down on this pollution...kerala with its unique social setup sure can get its citizens to act responsibly if we make the effort.

good post!

Alexis said...

I completely with Mathew. But I am fortunate in a way; in my memory Trivandrum is clean and nice. I have not seen the rot and deterioration.

Ganja Turtle said...

tell me about it...and believe it or not, well educated people do this so callously and then say "if not me, others will still do"...its become so bad that I go to the extent of picking back wrappers from friends when i give them.,say a toffee...and all the more so in a lovely land like cant imagine how kerala is abused under the guise of cleared to make roads, resorts....backwaters filled with plastic refuse...sand mined from rivers...every last inch of the pristine coast blocked out by apartments that cost a crore...after the last tourist goes back, what will be left here?

Sandeep Sadanandan said...

we can make a difference.

Not just by doing the right things by ourselves. We have to tell others too. Atleast to all our younger cousins, the close friends, nephews, nieces - just those ones we are sure will listen to us.

Then ask them to do the same with others too.

I'm doing this (not completely successful though)

There was an incident once. During my bachelor days, one friend of mine dropped a plastic cover down at the road. Even after I pointed at it, he was not ready to take it to the garbage. I did it myself and tried to tell him the importance. He didnt learn, but another friend who was with us told me later that he would never do anything of the sort. I was so happy!

We CAN do something. And the best this is to "Catch them young" - teach children.

PS: too long a comment? :(

Sarah said...

There is a way.. teach our children.. that there won't be much left for their kids to inherit on planet earth, if they don;t take care of mother earth.. Tell them the truth that we failed..miserably...

silverine said...

neihal: Bad 'scenery' indeed! :(

mathew: I don't know how Tvm looks like as I had no chance to go into the city. I guess what you have observed makes sense, with so many immigrants into the city, the sense of belonging is absent among the newcomers.

Jiby: Thank you! I am surprised that the commie govt that holds so many bandhs are not protesting the waste dumping by the tourism industry! You are right it is the resorts and hotels that are responsible for the mess to a large extent, but as a cousin of mine observed, nowadays everything comes packed in plastics unlike the olden days when newspapers and banana leaves were the packing material. And these packing materials needs to be disposed for which we have no mechanism.

Alex: Even I have some nice memories of Tvm :)

GT: "after the last tourist goes back, what will be left here?" Wow! Now that is what we have to ask the people to make them see the writing on the wall!!

sandeep: There is no such thing as a long comment on my blogs :) So have your say! Education of children I agree is the way out. Last year cracker bursting during Diwali came down by 40% due to the campaigns run in schools on the dangers of pollution. It was huge relief to the ears :) Children do make a huge difference!

sarah: I agree. Here in Blr, a lot of environmental campaigns involve children... and it is working!

Anonymous said...

Remember last year Maharashtra govt after the mumbai floods ,realised that it is plastic which is choking the drainage system causing such havoc during moonsoon,However the move to ban plastic was short lived and govt scored some political points...This will again be raised when mumbai will be flooded in the next moonsoon.
Maybe gandhigiri wont be such a bad idea.


Anonymous said...

I was just about to ask how come there are no bandhs or protests for all this pollution. But see that it has been brought up. I guess some sort of media needs to ignite the sparks for the news to spread.

It would be sad to see the state of Kerala losing it's natural beauty for the greed of the rich. Even in the matter of the ex-coca cola plant, I came to understand that the people were just as peeved over not getting employment opportunities rather then for the problems associated with water pollution and draining. I guess the first thing to educate the mass is that not everything is about money.


Red Soul said...

When I went to India to visit my parents last december, I felt really weird. I saw all the dust and dirt in the surroundings, and the lifestyle... it all felt so weird and difficult.... Theres so much beauty and brightness in India, but liek u said "with no concept of recycling" I wonder how its gonna happen. Btw, saw nishabd and loved the photography.. i wonder if it was south india :-s

Red Soul said...

it was munnar.. dunno where that is!

Pradeep said...

While a system is only as good as the people who run it, people can run a system only if it can be run.

It's a two-way process. One can't wait for the other. Both have to complement each other. Trivandrum is no different from other Indian cities.

Karthik Sivaramakrishnan said...

just to make sure, you are aware of 'the great pacific garbage patch' right?