Monday, September 26, 2016

Go Kayaking, Collect Waste

A Kerala couple is trying to create awareness of the garbage in rivers, and the joys of kayaking

Photos by TP Sooraj 

By Shevlin Sebastian

On a Friday afternoon, in July, I step into a two-seater kayak, on the Chaliyar river in north Kerala. Sitting behind me is kayaking expert Kaushiq Kodithodi, 44. As we move towards the middle, the rain suddenly begins to fall. Soon, it increases in force.

As the rain hits the river, small eruptions of water take place. It is like so many sparkling diamonds. On the bank, thanks to several trees, there is a glorious screen of green. The thick dust on the leaves during the dry summer months is just a memory now.   

Look at it,” shouts Kaushiq. “Isn’t it beautiful?”

It is, indeed.

We paddle on, exhilarated by the roar of the monsoon.

A few minutes pass. And, then, the first shock comes, in the form of an empty Haywards 5000 beer bottle floating by. “Pick it up,” says Kaushiq. I do so, and place it behind me. Thereafter, there is a woman’s slipper followed by an empty plastic brandy bottle. A bottle cap floats by. Then a large blue packet. As I reach out to pick it up, I recoil because of the stench of food waste. But Kaushiq has no hesitation to pick it up.

In 10 minutes you can collect one kilo of waste,” he says. “But the Chaliyar is a less dirty river. In rivers, near major cities like Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram, the pollution is alarming. Most of the [44] rivers in the state have become garbage dumps.”

It is this environmental degradation that prompted Kaushiq to start the Jellyfish Project, three years ago, along with his wife, Ruby, 39. “We want to create awareness among the people to avoid throwing waste into the waters,” says Ruby. “We are also focusing on schoolchildren so that, at least, the next generation will be sensitised about the issue.”

One who is already sensitised is their son, Rayn, 11, who goes kayaking often with his parents. Asked whether he would throw garbage into the river, he says, “Never.”

On July 23, the couple held a 'Catch of The Day' programme at Cheruvannur, near Kozhikode. The 'catch' was the garbage, collected by a few boys. The programme was inaugurated by the local MLA VKC Mammed Koya.

Incidentally, the waste that is collected will be recycled. “We are working closely with a waste-management expert, Dr. Reena Anilkumar,” says Kaushiq.

Meanwhile, apart from waste-collection, the couple want to spread the joys of kayaking among children. “It is the easiest and safest way to explore rivers,” says Ruby. “And it is a far better hobby than watching TV or playing video games.”

As for Kaushiq, he got interested in kayaking when he went to Miami, USA, on a business trip in 2006 and saw people kayaking there. “I tried it and enjoyed the experience,” he says. “Thereafter, I bought my first kayak, in 2004, and have been using it ever since.”

Asked about the technicalities of the kayak, he says, “The minimum length is four feet, but it can go up to 20 feet. A good-quality recreational kayak costs Rs 70,000. The most-expensive one we have is an 18-feet Swedish boat by the name of Point 65 North, which costs around Rs 5 lakh.”

Every month, the Dubai-based financial consultant visits Cheruvannur to keep the Jellyfish project moving forward with a team of hired staff.

They organised a two-day Chaliyar River Challenge 2016 on September 23, in collaboration with the District Tourism Promotion Council and Clean Rivers Initiative Trust. More than a hundred people took part in the event that started from Nilambur town and reached Beypore 62 km away. Participants collected waste from the river.

Apart from this, we organised street plays and musical programmes to create awareness among the people,” Kodithodi says. 

He pauses and says, “Through these projects I want to do my bit for the state and the country.”

(Sunday Magazine, The New Indian Express, South India and Delhi) 

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