Saturday has always been about breaking the bad, monotonous routine to drinks, family time, a run or a trek. It wasn’t different for me either. I am a regular participant in marathons and during one of these, I decided to try plogging – a combination of jogging and picking up litter. It was fun alright but that one day brought me to realise the amount of plastic waste generated in a single marathon event, where roughly 8,000 folks had participated.
Marathons at an international level generally have 5-6 times this number. The plastic waste would then go to the big recycle machines, owned by the same firms selling us plastic water bottles. If the event would not have been sponsored by a packaged water company, those bottles would have gone to one of the landfill sites in the outskirts of Mumbai like Deonar.
Technically, this is what happens to most of the places accessible by cranes or garbage trucks. At least this makes sure the garbage is collected and disposed of. Sadly, this is not the case with less accessible spots or shall I say, somewhat frequently travelled yet ignored (ironically!) places. I am talking about the beaches, hills, forests and forts in and around Mumbai, which receive a good amount of footfall but are neglected when it comes to sanitation. That’s when I decided to take a step by creating a group of people who love jogging named #SavingTheSahyadris. Later on, plastic waste can be used in making recycled materials like tiles, pieces of equipment etc.
How I Reach Out To Jogging Enthusiasts.
By the way, I am not the only ‘’activist’’ (or a striving responsible citizen) out here. Google the names like Ripudaman Belvi (Plogman of India) who has completed his 50th Plog Run in 2019, Pradeep Sangwan or Healing Himalayas, Malhar Kambale or the Beach Please initiative. Then there are Beach Warriors, who organize mega clean-up drives. I would quote here one of the middle-aged men cleaning up near Diva station along with me in one such clean-up drive- “What do we work for? Our kids and Our well-being, is it? Then how can we not use our body and mind to do it? Keeping the environment clean and healthy is our basic right and duty.” All this did not require million-dollar funding. Instead, it was just a WhatsApp forward asking people to come at their own wish, bringing gloves and a water bottle for their own use. Bazinga! The whole Mumbai Metropolitan Region (forests near major stations and beaches) got cleaned up. There, sprang the idea to me, which I realised later, wasn’t very unique, of course, but in my mind, a good idea nevertheless.
My concept was to create a WhatsApp group and send invites and call for people who love jogging to join me for a hike to the nearby hills/forts that we would clean up, going downhill. The basic idea was to not allow plastics to enter the rivers/streams at the very source. I decided to charge a nominal fee of 100 bucks because, in India, we start taking things seriously when money is involved. This money is spent to buy gloves and jute bags to collect waste. A gallon of water is a must to be carried. It’s encouraging that many trek groups in and around the Mumbai-Pune-Nashik region are rising up to this challenge. Such trek groups see better participation as compared to others because (a) you don’t visit the same place twice and (b) when the purpose has something to do with serving the environment, it appeals to a larger audience.
This Initiative Of Jogging Also Came With Challenges.
It hasn’t been without challenges though – trolling on the way and being called “ragpickers for publicity”, was one. Second, plastic recyclers do not accept our collection because the source of the plastics cannot be traced. So, the only way left for us presently is, to send it to the landfills. Third, and the most pressing challenge, is the permissions associated with the activities. The peculiar thing about non-agricultural lands that do not have common accessibility is, one can throw anything anywhere he/she wants, but to pick it up, he/she needs permission. Combating all of this, we are still planning for a rough estimate of 10 -12 treks this year, keeping in mind the dangers during the monsoon and difficulty to trek during summers. Oh, and we call our group #SavingTheSahyadris.
About the Author:
Mr Prateek Arora is an engineer by education and an environmental activist by choice. He is the Co-founder of Travelling Particle, wherein he undertakes ecotourism activities.