We feel blessed to be living in the Nilgiris. Today, it pains to see this little piece of heaven on earth rotting with the amount of non-biodegradable garbage that is dumped on it. Our District Collector has been fighting this menace in full steam. Recently, the Tamil Nadu Government has passed an Order to curb this completely.
Four friends from the ‘Ooty Riders Club’ were planning to go on a trip to end 2018. But this time, we wanted to make it a trip with a larger purpose. We decided to spread awareness among our people about the idea of Green Tourism and how Ooty has become a front runner in this campaign. We wanted to sensitise tourists who visit Ooty to be mindful of what they throw around.
We made a route plan covering many important tourist destinations in Tamil Nadu. Starting from Ooty, we planned to head first to Dindugal, a place famous for its Biriyani and locks. Then towards Chettinad, Rameshwaram, Dhanushkodi, Tiruchendur, Kanyakumari, Courtallam, Madurai and back to Ooty. We planned to cover 1500 kms in about 5 to 6 days. That would be an average of 300 kms per day.
Four friends, four bikes and one mission - to promote green tourism. What followed was a revelation about a much deeper problem - plastic and other Polyethylene products have today become indispensable!
Our first stop was at Dr. Abdul Kalam’s school in Ramanathapuram - there could not have been a better place to start our campaign! The Headmaster was kind enough to let us talk to the students of the school. Coming out, I realised that the four of us were actually using plastic covers to protect our clothes from getting wet while riding. Avoiding plastics is easier said than done! Slowly, we were getting deeper into the problem.
Some people we met on the way, our discussions with them on this issue and their unique perspectives gave us some new insights and a lot of food for thought. One wise old man said, “The solution is very simple, brother. Close down all companies manufacturing Polyethylene products!” Is it that simple? Is that even possible? What will the old lady selling curd on the streets of Kanyakumari do? What will all the numerous small hotels do to pack their Sambar, Rasam, Kootu, Poriyal, etc.? How can our chips and Murukku stay crisp anymore?
We got a part of the answer to this problem from a lady selling Guava just outside the famous Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai. She asks her customers whether they have a bag. Most often, the answer is an irritated ‘NO’. She very politely tells them to carry one henceforth or else they will have to pay extra for the cloth bags!
One positive thing right now is that vendors are aware of the facts about plastics and they are disseminating this information to their customers. But the problem is not with these small vendors. It is elsewhere. We found a mountain of plastic cups stacked behind a local bar. The larger issue is waste disposal and the fact that we still do not have a proper system in place.
So we need a threefold strategy to combat the menace of plastics and to promote green tourism - just like what is being done in the Nilgiris. First, cut down the amount of Polyethylene products coming into the system. Second, provide ample avenues to collect these at various locations. We have a garbage bin at frequent intervals all along the roadside from Kallar to Ooty. Even the distance to the next bin is mentioned! Third, find ways to dispose these with minimal damage to the environment.
Being on the road for 6 days, riding 1500 kms, meeting and talking to strangers about this issue, has strengthened our will to take this fight for green tourism forward. Our journey has just begun…
We express our sincere gratitude to the media personnel from The Hindu, Dinamani and Ragam TV for taking our campaign to the masses. Their kind words and extensive media coverage throughout our ride was crucial to drive home the idea that only a plastic-free planet is habitable. The campaign was appreciated by many and the public response to this noble cause was highly encouraging!