Cleaning Coonoor amid pandemic


A group of friends who grew up in Coonoor but subsequently moved to other cities have returned to their native place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and are working on an ambitious project to clean up their hometown.

The group of 10, who were earlier employed in other parts of the country and abroad, have managed to recruit volunteers, team up with local NGOs and remove seven tonnes of waste over the last few weeks.

Divya Menon, a yoga instructor, was working in Goa when the pandemic broke out. She had to move back to her hometown, where her parents still reside. “One day, while my friends and I were out for a run, an Indian gaur was blocking our usual route. So we decided to take a detour through a path less travelled, and discovered huge mounds of waste which had been discarded by local residents in forested areas,” she said.

After deciding to conduct clean-ups till they are allowed to travel again, the group managed to find volunteers, and have succeeded in cleaning up portions surrounding Tiger Hill, Quail Hill, Brooklands and Yedappalli over the last few weeks.

On Independence Day alone, four tonnes of waste were collected during a single clean-up, in which over 50 volunteers took part.

John Rejish, who had been working in Bengaluru and was just about to emigrate when the pandemic hit, said he and his friends had, over the last few months, been exploring the town where they spent most of their childhood. “I did my schooling in Coonoor, and remember the roads being cleaner. All of my childhood memories are linked to the town, and I plan to live here once I retire. We were saddened to see all the waste that was being dumped, and decided to try and clean up as much of it as we can while we’re still here.”

Their efforts have led to a tremendous outpouring of interest from residents, who have volunteered to help.

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Divya Bharathi, who is pursuing her doctorate in botany in Coimbatore, who returned to her parents’ house in Coonoor near Tiger Hill due to the pandemic, said she wanted to help make a difference as she is interested in the study and protection of local ecology.

“I also wanted to help in protecting the environment and raising awareness among residents,” she added. Ms. Bharathi has been talking to the 19 families in her area to raise awareness about proper disposal of waste.

“I am also trying to get school and college students to volunteer in the future, so that they can learn about how harmful it is to the environment to litter, and they can take that message home to their parents,” said Ms. Bharathi.

“They are trying hard to raise awareness about waste management in the areas where they are conducting clean-ups, so that there can be a lasting solution to the problem,” said Samantha Iyanna of Clean Coonoor, an NGO assisting the group in conducting the clean-ups.

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Sagar Biswas

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