Kovalam, Tamil Nadu, India
In July 2015, Appu , a keen surfer from a family of fishermen in a village named Kovalam just south of Chennai, met Michael, a German guy who came to India for a surfing vacation. The wheels were quickly set in motion for some positive environmental changes to come for the local fishing community.
Appu (27) is actually more than just a keen surfer, he is a truly passionate surfer who loves the ocean. The ocean is not just his backyard but a place for hours of enjoyment while it is also the source of food and employment for him and his family. Appu’s family is a fishing family and he has fished the oceans here for 15yrs. Appu’S life and his view of the rubbish on OUR planet started to change when he started to surf the waves of the Bay of Bengal almost 15 yrs ago (on a plank of discarded ply-wood). This was further enhanced when years later he had the the chance encounter with Michael. Michael is a piano builder and tuner from Germany. Michael visited India for the first time that July. He went to Kovalam to meet up with his daughter who had become friends with the local surfers including Appu. When Appu gave Michael his first surfing lesson they started to talk about one of India’s main problems: The waste!
‘BeachOceanLife – Keep our beach clean’ the idea and the project was born soon after July 2015 meeting. Michael said when he visited Kovalam, he loved it but was shocked by the dirty beach. When he got into a conversation with Appu they both agreed that something had to change.
Local surfers of all abilities are now being taught the consequences of waste in their environment here in Kovalam. The fact that the rubbish not only makes the beach and the whole village less beautiful, it destroys vital habitats that supports fish, birds and animals that include themselves and the whole human race. Our youth, our piers and our leaders must advocate a strong message that says.. STOP the waste! We have to be prepared to do whatever it takes to make that happen before it is too late..
‘How can we create more awareness about pollution?’ ‘How can we motivate people to make a start and change something about all the waste?’ These were the questions Appu and Michael were asking themselves and discussing. It is a fact that only the locals can change something about the situation but only once they understand why and then and only then will they want to change something.
In Kovalam so many young people can be found spending a lot of time in the ocean and at the beach and not just because they are surfers. The local young up and coming surfing stars are actively involved in our beach clean ups. They are well regarded and looked up to by the younger generation and we feel this is the catalyst to sustaining responsible long term waste management. Surfing in India is rapidly gaining popularity and with it comes a different attitude towards pollution especially in the ocean. Not only does Appu surf around the Kovalam point breaks, considered the best breaks closest to Chennai Central, many other young guys and girls are quickly falling in love with this exciting sport and are found in the water whenever the waves allow them to surf.
Now once a week a group of around 20 to 30 local young people get together and collect the rubbish on one of the beaches.
Appu says “..it is only the tip of the iceberg but we try to do what we can and we prefer to collect the rubbish when people are about so as to increase the impact on the people around us. All the local Indian tourists who come and go each weekend to enjoy the ocean breeze, the Temples and the beach (but at the same time they throw their waste in the environment (!)) these people can actually help us send the message of how clean our town has become while we teach them how to pick up their (own) rubbish..we can be famous for how clean we are!..wouldnt that be a nice change?”
Large reusable plastic bags and gloves are used to collect the rubbish. Appu is connected with the refuse disposal service which will collect the rubbish after each clean-up even though the truck is small and limited in its effectiveness and bins are next to non existent. The idea is to construct and set up dustbins along the entire beach and then next in the whole village. Continue to go to schools and talk about pollution and plastic and waste to create awareness from the beginning. And Michael’s idea was to give a small token of appreciation to every youth participant and prizes to help generate more support from the locals and the young surfers of this beautiful village. The most important thing is that every participant understands why this project exists and that this message gets sent through the whole village and then beyond.
The initial meeting, with about 10 surfers who where all fishermen like Appu, took place when Michael came back from his travels in north India at the end of August,2015. Appu, Michael and his daughter Pamina presented the idea of ‘BeachOceanLife – Keep our beach clean’ to the group, who really liked it and had many other ideas (such as putting signs on the beach saying stuff like ‘Please keep our beach clean’) and in general seemed really enthusiastic about the project.
Fortunately for the project while it was in its infancy and to date, Michael has been a huge help to the project with some of the finances.
Make the difference
This project has now begun, seed capital has been donated but obviously more money is needed. By using this site we propose to raise money which will be used for building basic rubbish bin systems with locks and concrete platforms, buying gloves and bags for collecting rubbish, engaging/developing more refuse disposal services including dump trucks and eventually a local recycling station, creating new signs to highlight awareness and to help find bin and station locations, continued engagement with local school, community, church, media and government groups plus ongoing support to all the local residents in general to do whatever possible to stop the waste.
Maybe you have already been to India, maybe you have already seen the beauty of this country sometimes being destroyed by of all of the waste.
We want to make a difference NOW.
Everyone tells us that it will not be easy but here in Kovalam we know we have to do something NOW to stop the rubbish or there will be nothing left!!… If you want to be a part of the changes we are making NOW, please support us with whatever you can offer ( your money, time, wisdom, materials, advocacy, referral or sponsorship are all welcome).
Let’s make a start – let’s make a difference.
Go to this link to find Lots of our Beach Clean up pics plus cool surf pics and more on us: Beach Ocean Life Face Book .