Case Studies

Together is how mountains are moved

If you happen to pass by the Othavaadai beach in the early hours of Tuesday morning, you are sure to come across a group of people from all walks of life pulling, plucking and clearing rubbish along its shoreline.

With a very few home-style restaurants and cozy resorts, surrounded by fisherman hamlets,away from the hustle and bustle, Othavaadai beach is a most sought out abode for those who crave some peace and quiet. Sadly, the vast amount of garbage littering its sandy shore repelled the tourists away from this stunning, reclusive haven.

But now, the ongoing initiative spearheaded by Hand in Hand India’s Municipal Solid Waste Management Team, has brought an overwhelming success in keeping the seashore pollution-free; consequently, making it the most preferred destination by introverts.

Mr. Mukesh Panjanthan is a surfer and owner of a seaside restaurant. His family has resided here for generations and is dependent solely on the sea for a living. To them, the sea is a sacred deity which determines their life’s course. From an early age, Mr. Mukesh had a profound inclination to protect the marine ecosystem; as his regular trips to the sea had brought him into contact with the disturbing consequences of pollution on marine life. He did everything in his might to meliorate the situation, but it worked only on a minute scale – going big was just a dream; until, Hand in Hand India’s Municipal Solid Waste Management Team stepped in. Being involved for the past three years, in various ‘Picking the Litter’ campaigns organized by Hand in Hand India, he knew exactly what he could expect.

As a first step of the initiative, a WhatsApp group was created by our Assistant Project Manager, Thomas Alva Edison, to draw together the locals in order to plan and execute a strategy. And as agreed, a small group of volunteers gathered on the beach at 7:00AM on 11th November, 2016, to join hands to preserve the beauty of Othavaadai beach.

Ms. Anna Goetzke, Mukesh’s wife, also keenly takes part in the cleanup along with her husband. “Growing up in Germany, I remember my grandparents instructing us on the importance of protecting our oceans and holding them for the future generations. Here in the Indian community, there is a lack of understanding on the ominous implications of polluting our surroundings. This can be changed with persistent awareness and exposure to the aftermath of pollution”, says the twenty-six-year-old.

Presently, there are about 40 volunteers,including 10 foreign nationals involved in cleaning the beach every Tuesday. As the volunteers’ enthusiasm is infectious, the group is becoming bigger with each passing week. A total of 200 to 250 kilograms of waste is collected from the shore, mostly mixed waste consisting largely of bycatch, fishery plastic wastes, fish-remains, food wrappers and beverage bottles. Forty percent of the garbage collected is segregated and sixty percent of the segregated waste is converted into compost.

In addition to working every Tuesday, the volunteers are ever ready to lend a hand whenever needed. If there is garbage strew non the shoreline, a photo is taken and uploaded on the Whatsapp group along with the address of the location. The volunteers coordinate and remove the waste at the earliest, later posting an ‘after’ photo of the area on the group.This helps them to achieve a consistent litter-free shoreline.

Othavaadai Street present in the 11th ward of Mamallapuram, hosts about 458 households with resident population of 1518 and floating population of 15000; it seized the opportunity when presented, and proved that when people get together to achieve something powerful and meaningful – the unattainable is attained.