It was an initiative that was long overdue; Nandi Hills, a scenic spot, was slowly being overrun by plastic trash thrown carelessly by visitors. Several civic-minded citizens got together and decided that instead of just complaining about the plastic litter, they would take positive action to clean up the trash, and more importantly, try to raise the awareness among tourists about the importance of keeping this beautiful place clean.
Yahoo, the sponsor for the event, has an internal team called ‘Purple Green’ 6 7 mths… (‘purple’ being the Yahoo corporate colour, and ‘green’ referring to the environment). So far, the agenda of this team has to do with reducing the carbon footprint in their own workplace. This was the first time Yahoo sponsored an outdoor event. As Deepak Rajanna of Yahoo says, "We started out seeking to establish a permanent solution to the litter problem in Nandi hills. On Sunday I think we took a significant step."
Volunteers from several groups (Bangalore Birds, Clean and Green, Hasiru Usiru, and ASRA from Chikballapur, to name a few) got together and persuaded the helpful District Commissioner, Subodh Yadav to declare the area a plastic-free zone. Through him, they also got in touch with the Forest Office, Youth Services, Dept of Public Instruction, NCC, and the PWD to elicit support. The DC also put them in touch to some advocates who had conducted a sapling-planting program at the foothills; through these advocates, several judges were also involved in the cleanup. Amongst these, Justice Justice Subhash Adi’s contribution was very enthusiastic. The Deputy Forest Officer, Rajasekhar, was also very proactive in helping with the campaign.
Several schoolchildren and NCC cadets participated in the cleanup. It was truly a massive planning operation, and one that was very well executed. Volunteers were picked up by several buses on various routes, and everyone met up at Nandi Hills at about 8.30 AM. The function was inaugurated at the Gandhi Nilaya, but the area was quite crowded….I learnt later that no less than 600 people were present! The judges and Commissioner Yadav pledged their support to the cause.
Advocates Vivek Reddy and Arun, who organized breakfast and lunch, did a wonderful job of catering to such a crowd. Once the meeting was over, volunteers lined up and took the gloves, sacks, and rakes that Yahoo provided, and fanned out over the area, setting to the task with a will. It was often not easy to pull out the plastic from the soil and the plants, but it was done with enthusiasm. Volunteers were unable to segregate all the plastic trash into PET, plastic waste, composites, and so on, but still managed to collect quite a large amount of plastic waste.
Visitors were stopped at the gates, and asked to throw away their plastics, and paper bags were handed over to them. At the shops on the hilltop, shopkeepers cut open packets, emptied condiments into paper bags and handed the plastic over.
At last, Deepak announced that the garbage pickup sacks, and the pickup mini- truck, were full, and that we should desist from our labour and make our way back for lunch. However, when we saw the serpentine queues at the lunch counter, some of us just decided to have a meal at the restaurant at the top of the hill, or at the KSTDC restaurant, instead! However, water was plentifully available, and we took the opportunity of re-hydrating ourselves often.
The hired mini-truck took the collected plastic trash to KK Plastics, a firm that uses the waste in manufacturing road-paving composite material. Apart from this, the Chikballapur Corporation garbage pickup truck came to take the waste to the landfill.
Let’s hope that the enthusiasm and the momentum generated by this first effort will be sustained, and that we will see a resurgence of civic sense amongst visitors to Nandi Hills. Keeping one of our beautiful public spaces- dear to historians, trekkers, naturalists and picnickers- clean and green, is a task that everyone should share, so that-ideally- no more cleanup drives are needed.
For Deepak Rajanna’s account of the campaign, visit the Nandi Hlls Cleanup Drive blogsite at http://cleannandihills.wordpress.com. ⊕