Chennai Coastal Cleanup 2015 - Role Models - Part 1

Friday, May 15, 2015
In this "Role Models" series of the #ChennaiCoastalCleanup we are sharing some mostinspirational stories with you from neighborhoods, companies, individuals with you who are the change:

The #CleanKotturpuramCampaign 2015

Over the past year, our frustration at the sight of the streets in our neighborhood has been feverishly increasing. We spent many months talking to the corporation sweeper, the supervisor, and so on. But the streets remained littered with paper cups, and plastic trash, the corporation bin overflowed with garbage every single day, and to top it all, piles and piles of construction debris and garden cuttings were spread all over our (otherwise lovely) neighborhood. Meenakshi visited Harrington Road and discovered that the residents in that area had taken matters into their own hands, and were ensuring that the household & other neighborhood waste was well managed. They assured us that the corporation of Chennai was largely supportive of Citizen’s efforts in this direction, as long as the involvement from the community was there.

So after many discussions, we launched our ‘Clean Kotturpuram Campaign’ on the auspicious occasion of Republic Day, Jan 26th, 2015. We created flyers to talk about waste segregation, and also planned that we would do some cleaning activity ourselves. We were pleasantly surprised to meet ~30 of our neighbors, many of who were unknown to us (and vice versa). We attacked a particularly egregious street corner that day, and were, to say the least, ‘over enthusiastic’ in our efforts. We unearthed years of debris that was causing much detriment to soil quality. We trimmed some wild growing plants. We cleared the area of trash. While the before and after pictures don’t show a stark difference, what we learnt about waste management, segregation, the centuries long impact poor practices can have on mother earth, not to mention the human angle related to our sweepers and Solid Waste Management workers, was HUGE!

Since that day, we have regularized a Sunday morning street cleaning schedule. It is understood that we will tackle various streets/street corners in our little neck of the city (6 roads; ~100 households, ~250 adults), in turn. We formed a whatsapp group of enthusiastic individuals that we use to make announcements and have discussions. We have trekked over the entire place, visiting every single household (taking turns of course), and spoken to anyone willing to listen, about waste management, segregation, and the importance of binding together as a community. We have now formed an informal resident’s association, and elected various office bearers to help in its functioning.  We have close contacts with the Corporation officials at all levels, and the supervisors just need a day’s notice to mobilise their workers and send their trucks to us to help us in our street cleaning activity. They are also open-minded in listening to the larger plans we have in mind – ultimately, we aspire to be a Zero Waste community, which contributes NOTHING to the municipal land-fill. Of course the first step towards this is clear and precise segregation of wet and dry waste, and further into recyclables, non-recyclable trash, sanitary & medical waste, and not to mention e-waste. We have on speed-dial the various agencies in Chennai involved in recycling, and are working out various solutions through them. Although many households are practicing composting now (using either large garden pits or the Terracota Pots), we also are in discussions to make this a community-wide effort to obtain maximum benefit. We hope to get this, and much more done in the coming months/years!

Much of this in the future. Right now, we are fondly referred to as the “Kuppai Ladies” though we have many men (and several children!) join us in our efforts. We have provided bags at convenient locations for the various people who choose our neighborhood for tea-drinking purposes, to dispose of the tea-cups (‘cause they WILL NOT walk to the trash can, how much ever we beseech them, they will fling them on the pavement – of course our next step will be convince them to move to steel tumblers!). We have allocated a day a week for Garden Waste collection (it requires a larger SWM truck to stop by), and requested households to indulge in their garden activity only on Thursdays. We have blisters and calluses on our palms to show for the various corners we have cleared of generations of trash and leveled out. Perhaps as a result, public urinators now by and large avoid our neighborhood! We have convinced the authorities to provide replacements for our horribly broken street corner garbage bins. We have nearly the entire community behind us, many of them (young and old), participating on Sundays despite the heat & humidity, in email discussions in our group, and in association meetings. The corporation workers, particularly the women, are our friends and work with us happily.

These pictures tell only part of the story, as most of us are wary of touching our  phones while in the midst of the cleaning! We invite all of you to come join us every Sunday at 7:30am – the exact venue is announced on facebook close to the date. Moreover, we hope that you feel encouraged to tackle the important matter of waste management, including source segregation!

Here are some photos from our neighborhood activity

The corner of Valliammai Achi  & Gandhi Mandapam Roads, is being dumped with all nature of trash – including a whole stack of tube-lights! (May, 2015).

This spot used to be among the worst in our neighborhood, with this solitary trash can receiving garbage from far and wide, seemingly. Arunachalam Road, Feb 2015

An earlier photo from the same offending corner. Arunachalam Road, Jan 2015

“Mooh Bandh, Kaam Chaalu’ we say! As we join forces to sweep, segregate, level and get the garbage carted away!
Valliammai Achi Road: Our end-of-cleaning ritual, when we pose for a quick photo May 10, 2015!

We were very excited to clear out this patch (which was really ugly before), and to plant Nochi Plants here. Arunachalam Road, May 2015

Another usually very offensive corner is on Ambadi Road. We strived hard to get the corner to this state one fine Sunday, by separating out all plastic and paper trash!  Ambadi Road, Apr 2015

Another cleared corner – on Ranjit Road, Mar 2015     



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