Odisha’s temple town of Puri starts beach clean-up campaign
Mo Beach, which translates into My Beach in Odia, aims not just cleaning up the beach, but instilling a sense of belongingness and ownership among the local bodies, residents and visitors.Updated: Jul 16, 2019 10:00 IST
It’s common for tourists flocking to the temple town of Puri in Odisha to be filled with a sense of piety as much as repulsion once they venture out to its beach.
Plastic cups and bottles, aluminium cans, plastic plates carelessly tossed around by visitors turned the Puri shoreline into a heap of garbage even as signages on the beach discourage littering.
In the last three weeks, there has been some change. The beach near Puri town as well as a dozen other places along the coast of the district are being cleaned up following a campaign involving local volunteers, students, officials, senior citizens and local shopkeepers.
Mo Beach, which translates into My Beach in Odia, aims not just cleaning up the beach, but instilling a sense of belongingness and ownership among the local bodies, residents and visitors.
The campaign, a brainchild of Puri district collector Balwant Singh, has been going on every Tuesday while in the 17 other gram panchayat areas of it is being done on first and third Tuesdays. Singh, who took charge of the district few days after Cyclone Fani struck the town, was dismayed not just by the debris left by the storm, but also piling garbage of plastic on several of its beaches.
“Beaches form the first line of defence against growing sea levels, cyclones and tsunamis. At the same time, beaches are the most desired tourist attraction. If appropriate measures are not taken to protect, preserve and promote the beaches in a sustainable manner the whole ecosystem would suffer severe irreversible damage. I realised a massive state-sponsored clean-up campaign was necessary,” said Singh.
Mo Beach, which started in the last week of June, has so far witnessed about 2,000 volunteers picking up plastic waste, sanitary napkins, scraps of paper, torn clothes, liquor bottles, beer and soft drink cans from the beaches between 6am and 9am on Tuesdays.
Volunteers have removed more than 250 quintals of waste from 19 places along the shoreline of Puri district in the last three weeks and raring to remove more.
They have been drawn from all walks of life though members of Biju Yuva Vahini, a BJD-backed youth force form the bulwark. There are members from panchayat raj institutions, SHG workers, ASHA workers, government employees, NCC and Scouts/Guide members, small vendors and hoteliers along the beach and NGOs.
The volunteers are given gloves and masks during the garbage pick-up. The spots for the clean-up campaigns are decided after a preliminary assessment of localities based on aspects such as the presence of vendors, hotels, restaurants, local markets, fishing and tourists etc and each such location will be cleaned at least once a month.
The project will be executed in two phases.
“While the first phase will focus on beach cleanup the second phase of the project will focus mainly on the sustainability of cleanliness on the beaches and generation of lesser waste on the beaches,” said Susanta Nanda, project director of the Integrated Coastal Zone Management Project that is funding the drive.
“Various preventive measures are being planned, such as local champions for promoting cleanliness, mass communication through mobile messages and public announcements, IEC ?? campaigns to spread awareness among users and strong enforcement including heavy penalties for littering in public areas,” Nanda added.
Renowned sand artist Sudarshan Pattnaik and ambassador of the Mo Beach campaign is happy after the drive started. In June last year, Patnaik had made a sand turtle with plastic bottles at the Puri beach to spread the message against plastic pollution.
“Till now several initiatives have been taken for improvement of specific beaches in and around Puri town, but for the first time the entire coastline of Puri district is undertaken for preservation, protection and promotion,” the Padma Shri winner said.