Grande Island is a popular spot for picnics, boat rides and underwater diving activities. While everyone talks about the island for its picturesque setting , underneath the surface, literally, underneath the water, is a sight no one wants to see.
There was a clean up exercise last year by an NGO called Coastal Impact, that pulled out almost sixty bags worth of bottles, plastic, foil and miscellaneous waste. And, that’s just from the areas on and around the island, they able to access.
This year, on April 30, there will be another underwater and beach clean up that will start from Nerul Jetty at 8 am.
From there,they will head by boat to Grande island, and those who can dive, will do the underwater clean up and those who cannot will conduct the clean up on the beach of the island.
Coastal Impact, a marine conservation NGO established by Venkatesh Charloo, who runs Barracuda Diving India, has been doing this clean up for years, and every year they get local community members involved, to help people understand that they need to take responsibility for their natural heritage and protect it.
The idea behind creating the NGO, was to promote awareness about marine conservation and research and it has been doing the underwater and beach clean up at Grande Island, Goa, annually for the past decade and more.
In any case, most divers do attempt to bring back trash that they notice underwater, on most occasions, but through the the annual clean - up, they work towards involving public participation, as this helps raise awareness about why its important to keep our coral reefs and ocean, trash free.
This exercise, that coincides with the fag end of the tourism season, aims at cleaning and maintaining the coral reef and raising awareness.
Terra Conscious, a company that promotes ethical and responsible tourism, has collaborated with Coastal Impact for this.
Puja Mitra, one of the founders of Terra Conscious had earlier worked with WWF-India and during that tenure, a study had been conduced on the impact of tourism on marine ecosystems, that further confirmed the presence of garbage at the site.
“The main causes as revealed by the study, was opportunistic dumping from picnic boats, plus garbage flowing down from the coast. It is beyond obvious, that a fragile ecosystem like Grande island, is reeling under this continuous onslaught, not to mention it degrades the tourism quality of the site. Who would want to picnic or dive surrounded by trash?” said Puja.
The group also hopes this clean up exercise will encourage the government, to regulate the trash being taken by picnic boats to the island, and ensure, that operators do not dump or allow tourists to dump trash, at this eco sensitive area.
She added that the the government has been given detailed recommendations by WWF-India, including training being held with boat operators, but enforcement is yet to happen.
The group is concerned about the effects of marine trash and point out that it not only affects marine wildlife but it degrades the quality of the site and causes pollution.
“Micro plastics are ingested by the fish, and finally end up in our system when we consume the fish, causing a health risk,” said Venkat.
The core organising team believes that an effective solution to this problem is, if the govenrment and local communities work together with a strong commitment, along with proper enforced regulation.
Venkat added that the community led clean up exercise is a reactive action to the immediate problem of the garbage littering the reef and beach.
“Garbage needs to be brought back by the picnic boats taking bottles and food items there, segregated and properly disposed/recycled on land,” Venkat added, while talking about what needs to be done in the long term.
“We can all enjoy nature and natural spaces, without destroying them through our activities. Its this spirit of responsible tourism that both Coastal Impact and Terra Conscious intend to promote through this activity and other initiatives that we respectively take up across the year,” added Puja.