The Global Program team in India have been busy working to understand the myriad of local environment issues here, whilst meeting with various groups and individuals from the communities of Vizhinjam and Kovalam. Our introduction to the area has given us a better understanding of the broad range of problems facing the local marine environment, whilst acquainting us with the people who are engaged in building a more harmonious relationship between the ocean and society.
While the sheer scope of the waste problem can appear insurmountable, the numerous schools, women’s groups, NGO’s, government agencies and other groups that are each doing their small part to tackle waste, give us hope that our project can make a real difference. The people of Kerala have an historical connection and dependence on the ocean and there are distinct cultural traditions and dialects of the local language spread in pockets along the coast. Many people are worried that their traditions and culture, as well as the economic benefits associated with the numerous fishing communities across the coast, could be lost due to the increasing amount of waste and pollution entering the ocean.
The growing awareness of the impact that people’s behaviours are having on the environment is spurring many to look for alternatives. We have met many people here who are actively working toward reducing the amount of pollution, especially plastics, in their streets and waterways. So far we have been involved in two waste audits, a beach clean up and several meetings with community groups who are interested in developing ways of reducing pollution along the coastline. The current situation is very positive from our perspective, as we have come at a time when there is widespread acknowledgement that improperly disposed waste is the cause of many of the social and environmental problems here. While awareness of the problems is rising, the internal connection between personal behaviours and outcomes have not yet been made concrete and this is one area where our educational programs can make a real difference.
Much of what we've been told so far reflects that small behavioural changes at the household level, coupled with an efficient community-based waste management system could give the community here an inexpensive way to address the pollution issues that they currently face, ensuring a healthier future.