The map showing various cleaning spots across vallikavu

The hostlers of Amritapuri had risen early in a fine Monday morning, after four days of holidays on 24 September. They had volunteered to take part in a large clean-up drive across the town of Vallikavu, as in association with the Amritavarsham celebrations coming up in the week.

The hostlers, including we first-years and our senior batches, and several staff and members of the Amritapuri ashram, were divided into 7 groups and assigned specific spots around Vallikavu for the drive. I was assigned to Spot 2, and was required to report at the college ground by 6:15am. There we were given masks, gloves, bags and other tools required to clean-up the locality.

Myself, Anoop and Siddarth teamed up during the cleaning drive.

All set, we started off by sweeping off leaves from the road to the roadside. That seemed absurd to us, but however, there was nothing else to do as the place around was pretty litter-free. Then as we moved forward, we came across some swamp lands where litter slowly began catching our eyes. As expected we found large quantities of plastic bottles, wrappers, bags of food-wastes dumped into the swamps. It was time for us to get our hands dirty (not just hands, but legs too).

Picking up the litter, we started spotting liquor bottles lying around the swamp. In the next half hour, I specialised in taking up those alone, and they were in-fact dozens of them dumped into the canals and swamps around. In the absence of a proper waste management system, and since these cant be burned like other wastes, perhaps throwing them in any piece of unused open land seem to be the most viable option.

Liquor and Alcoholism has been always a hot-topic in Kerala. Kerala has one of the highest per capita consumption of liquor in India, with about 8 litres consumed per person annually. No wonder that the taxes on liquor are one of the key source of revenue for the state government. Even during the 10 days between August 15 and August 26, when the state was worst hit with flood, Keralities consumed liquor worth over 500 crore!

The severe health consequences of drinking alcohol, it’s impact in families, and the larger social problems including domestic violence, crimes, and nuisance caused by it have been widely discussed. But, doing this clean up drive, I realised that the bottles are source of a major pollutants.

In the neighbourhood and along the route we were assigned to clean, we had found dozens of bottles, imagine how many of them would be in […] ? Our government’s have tried to ban the bars, raise awareness about alcoholism which may or may not change the mindset of the drinker, or rather free them from addiction. But for sure, we need to be worried of the environmental damage (just these bottles alone) cause due to our addiction. We need to think of ways to dispose them, or perhaps ways to reuse them, or atleast have specific places where people can throw these off.