A group of five divers from Visakhapatnam has taken it upon themselves to clean the plastic waste from the sea. In just 13 days, the group has removed nearly 5000kg of plastic from Rushikonda beach underwaters in Visakhapatnam.
The core team comprising of certified divers – Subhash Chandran, a diving instructor, Padmavati Madipalli, Sachin Sharma, Saragada Appanna and Divya Teja has been involved in underwater cleaning since the middle of last month. They are often joined by volunteers.
“Last month, my friend and I were swimming around the beach in Rushikonda, when we got stuck with net and plastic in our legs. We went back home, got our masks, and we started looking for the plastic down there. It was a heartbreaking scene – we found lots of plastic down there. Since that day, we started cleaning,” said Chandran, while speaking to The Logical Indian. The same day, they had cleared around 300-400kg garbage.
Every day, the team goes to the beach at 6:30 am and picks up garbage from underwater till around 10 am, before going for work. They dive about 100 metres from the beach and go two metres deep. They just wear a mask and free dive to collect the waste. “Wearing diving equipment will cost us a lot of money. We don’t have any funding, we are just a start-up,” added Chandran.
They use net bags that are used for carrying equipment to collect the waste. After collecting the waste, they come up to the surface and remove all the sand.
Unless unfavourable weather conditions prevent them from going into the sea, they do this 4 to 5 times every day, carrying about 80-90kg each time. In a day, they collect a total of around 500-600kg of waste. At present, the group has done 13 such rounds of cleanups and removed around 4,800kgs of garbage from the ocean.
Once collected, they carry the garbage to the Greater Visakhapatnam Municipal Corporation (GVMC) dustbins nearby and dump it there. Most of the garbage constitutes of clothes and packets of flours and food grains that have been lying there for years. As these are hard to segregate and cannot be recycled or reused, they leave them in the dumpsters to be collected by GVMC.
“We are doing this for our own sake. We are all passionate divers,” Chandran added. The 30-year old from Kollam, Kerala, has been diving for nearly 13 years. He had previously worked as a scuba diving instructor in Goa, Karnataka, and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands before moving to Visakhapatnam last year. Unhappy with his previous job, Chandran and his wife – Padmavati Madipalli, co-founded their own scuba diving company called Platypus Escapes in May 2019.
Talking about the inspiration behind his work, he said, “My home, my food, my everything is the ocean. I am a 13-years-experienced diver; I have done thousands of dives in multiple places, I have been to many seas and many countries, but I have never seen this kind of plastic. Here the amount of plastic I have seen is heartbreaking. There is marine life that gets stuck in the plastic and they can’t go out.”
He also added that his wife has been a great supporter of his venture. “She is behind this successful cleanup story. She is our strength,” he said.
Earlier today, the team was part of the beach cleanup drive at R K Beach, where Minister of State for Home Affairs, G Kishan Reddy, was the chief guest. End of this month, they are also organising a week-long beach and underwater programme, for which they are inviting volunteers. They aim to clean up Lawson’s Bay beach, which is also filled with plastic waste.
If all goes well, the team wishes to continue this in the future. “We want to make a special team of at least 3 or 4 people, who can dedicate at least 2 hours in a day for the cleanup. We also want to train local fishermen for this,” added Chandran.