Harsha Prabhu reporting from Anjuna, Goa’s iconic hippie beach from the sixties
Close to a hundred volunteers donned gloves, picked up rubbish bags and walked onto Anjuna beach to participate in a beach clean up as part of Earth Day in Anjuna on Sunday.
The participants, including young families with babies and little children, senior citizens and volunteers from the local community and foreign tourists residing in hostels in the area and at least one person from Panjim, over 20 kms away, met at Guru Bar, another Anjuna icon, before they set out for the beach clean.
Yashaswini, who runs a yoga school in Vagator says that in yoga philosophy and practice we are taught to keep our environment clean. ‘It’s a form of meditation, mental hygiene. It’s called karma yoga, the yoga of service.’
Goa has a 105 kilometre coastline and is visited by over six million tourists every year
On a day when the world’s 15 hottest cities were all in India, the karma yogis toiled in hot and humid conditions to collect almost 60 bags of mostly non-biodegradable rubbish, including plastic straws and cups, styrofoam containers, cigarette packets and all manner of plastic wrappers and packaging representing the detritus created by Goa’s tourism industry. Goa has a 105 kilometre coastline and is visited by over six million tourists every year.
Speaking at a forum on pollution issues in Goa after the beach clean, Dr Manoj Borkar, associate professor, Biodiversity Research Cell, Carmel College for Women, Goa, said whatever you throw in the sea, the sea throws it back at you. ‘The dynamics of the sea is such that it will consolidate the waste and return it back, with tax.
‘For every morsel of fish you eat you are also eating micro plastic – which is a carcinogenic – heavy metals, and land based waste that are regularly flushed into the sea, including human faeces. Whatever you throw into the sea comes back to you on your plate.’
‘Three fourths of the planet is the sea. Life evolved in the sea. We are out to destroy the cradle of human origins.
Plastic is terrible. The plastic looks like jellyfish to a turtle. It gobbles up the plastic and the poor creature chokes to death
Dr Borkar also said that in Goa there are two species of whales, bottle nosed dolphins, five species of turtles, including Olive Ridley turtles that come to the shore for nesting. ‘Plastic is terrible. The plastic looks like jellyfish to a turtle. It gobbles up the plastic and the poor creature chokes to death.
‘You’ll find this strange coming from a scientist, but science and technology has done a lot of damage, has insulated us from our emotions. We believe science and technology can work wonders, a panacea for all out problems. We need to get emotional and feel for the sea.
‘We do not own this planet. We are the trustees. We are not the last representatives of the human race, there will be many others after us. We might as well make the earth a little happier, a little cleaner before we quit the scene. Leave as soft a footprint as you travel on it and leave a strong a handprint of compassion, protection and concern for the earth before we hang our boots.’
The forum was also addressed by Ram Doultani from Carry Your Bottle. Doultani spoke of his journey to source environmentally friendly solutions to the problem of plastic water bottles, which are ubiquitous in tourist hotspots like Goa. He first experimented with recycled plastic, but then decided to switch to stainless steel bottles as the best sustainable solution.
Doultani pointed out that plastic takes over 1000 years to biodegrade and, if incinerated, produces toxic fumes. According to the Carry Your Bottle website India generates 5.6 million metric tons of plastic waste annually. Used plastic bottles are seen littered everywhere and a report submitted by the Central Pollution Control Board report to the Indian Supreme Court, which said, ‘We are sitting on a plastic time bomb.’
This industry has the whole planet hostage, creating a mountain of non-biodegradable waste that is going to kill us all
Speaking at the forum one unnamed activist said that plastic is a derivative of the fossil fuel industry. ‘This industry has the whole planet hostage, creating a mountain of non-biodegradable waste that is going to kill us all.’
‘All the major political parties in Goa support coal mining. Coal and oil are also responsible for global warming and human-induced climate change.’
Quoting James Anderson, Harvard climate scientist, who warns of a seven meter sea level rise via the melting of the Greenland ice field caused by rising temperatures, he said ‘All coastal communities like Goa are under threat. This restaurant where we’re having this conversation could well be under water.’
He added that we are in a climate emergency. ‘Even as we speak about it here, people elsewhere are waking up to the seriousness of the issue, especially the young. There’s the example of Greta Thunberg, the Swedish teenager, who has made it her mission to talk about climate change. There’s the Extension Rebellion movement, staging protests across the globe – in the UK, France, Australia, Sweden, New Zealand, Norway,The Netherlands, Italy, Finland, to name a few – staging die-ins in public places to talk about the real possibility of the human race becoming extinct due to climate collapse.
All major political parties in Australia – except for the Greens – support Adani. Like in India, politicians are in the pockets of the coal lobby
‘In Australia, a whole convoy of concerned citizens are travelling to the shores of the Great Barrier Reef to protest the Adani coal mine and port on this World Heritage listed site. All major political parties in Australia – except for the Greens – support Adani. Like in India, politicians are in the pockets of the coal lobby.’
‘While individual efforts at addressing this issue – including our beach clean today – are laudable, we need to recognise it’s a systemic problem. The whole system is unsustainable. Governments and corporations are not going to do anything about it. Along with individual initiatives, mass direct action seems to be the need of the hour if we are going to save ourselves and the planet.’
The evening ended with a jam session by local and interstate musicians.
Doultani has established water refill points in Goa where folks can get their reusable water bottles filled with filtered water for free or via a donation. More at: https://carryyourbottle.com/