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Beach Cleaning Activities From Bombay To Brazil Are Reviving Beaches And Marine Life

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WhyOnEarth logo mobEditor’s Note: Are you bothered by the drastic changes in our climate, causing extreme weather events and calamities such as the Kerala Floods? #WhyOnEarth aims to take the truth to the people with stories, experiences, opinions and revelations about the climate change reality that you should know, and act on. Have a story to share? Click here and publish.

Back in school, we all learnt about the classification of soil. Since I live close to the Northern Plains, and particularly the mountains, I know how useful a rich nutrient-laden soil can be! As the topography changes, the soil changes, but nutrients are important for any soil, irrespective of the region.

Coming to coasts, who doesn’t enjoy the large expanse of that white sand spread across the coastline? While some build castles, others build nature.

It wasn’t very long ago when turtles were a common sight at many beaches; not only are they a rare sight now but also endangered. The reasons? Too many to name. Turtles lay about 100 eggs at a time but not all get hatched. Those that remain unhatched add nutrients to the sand, replenishing the beach of the missing nutrients, thus building the coastal ecosystem stronger and healthier.

While the green turtle grazes the seagrass bed, making it more productive, Hawksbill turtles eat sponges thus preventing them from out-competing slow-growing corals. Now, this is just one species of the vast marine ecosystem; consider a gazillion more, and if all were to become extinct, how would the environment bare such an inexplicable loss?

The coasts have gems, but unlike other gems, these don’t shine as much; unfortunate yet true. With excessive human activity in and around the coasts and a lazy, sleepy conscience, it was becoming increasingly difficult to see the sorry sight of the beaches that were turning into huge dumping grounds. Recent times have seen an awakening among the people, who have come together in various parts of the world to do what they can, irrespective of fame and laurels. People now realise the difference between the environment which they inherited from their forefathers and that, which they would be leaving for their future generations. The drive has come from within, and people from all walks of life are coming forward to restore what was lost!

Recent times have seen an awakening among the people, who have come together in various parts of the world to do what they can, irrespective of fame and laurels. Image Courtesy – https://keepbrevardbeautiful.org/event/playalinda-beach-cleanup-potluck

The most recent activity which was taken up by our Prime Minister Mr. Narendra Modi at the Mamallapuram Beach highlighted an easy, yet an extremely efficient activity that can be taken up on a regular basis – Plogging (a Swedish discovery, which combines jogging with picking up the litter that comes your way!)

Another pursuit was started 3 years ago, by Afroz Shah, and today, 20 million kg trash later, Versova beach stands cleaned. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) called it the world’s largest beach cleanup. Be it Juhu beach in Mumbai or beaches in Johor, Malaysia – beach cleaning activities are on the rise with community participation and the response has been overwhelming.

Another interesting story is that of Boracay Island, which has been built into a sustainable ecosystem in the Western Visayas, in the Philippines. Brazil is not far behind; here thousands of people are taking part in a huge cleanup operation to remove oil and tar from beaches along Brazil’s north-eastern coast. This is more challenging than a typical oil spill because the dense crude is not floating on the surface and only appears when it washes up onshore.

Such cleanup activities ensure that beach sand and gravel do not get saturated with oil; this would damage the normal vegetation and populations of the substrate biomass. It also keeps a check on the rocks and boulders, so that they are not coated with sticky residue, which would otherwise interfere with recreational uses of the shoreline and could be toxic to coastal wildlife. These activities will do a lot of good to the marine ecosystem, which is diminishing and is affected due to severe air, water, and soil pollution.

Besides the case of turtles and how they help in nurturing the marine ecosystem, the beaches when cleaned up would help restore the marine ecosystem to its former state.

Beach Cleaning Combats Two Issues: Eutrophication And Biomagnification

Eutrophication causes algal bloom, which in turn creates a dead zone by blocking sunlight, and oxygen, and killing the aquatic life. The local nutrient input originating from the litter we create at the shore is washed away by the waves, and lands inside the water, adding to the cause of eutrophication.

The toxic chemicals that get washed away are taken in by the marine organisms; these ultimately lead back to the food chain at higher levels, causing major health risks. This is essentially known as biomagnification.

So, cleaning the beach would mean you are putting a check on eutrophication as well as biomagnification. This would help improve the marine ecosystem. Keeping a check on the number of toxins that get washed away would also ensure that marine animals are not killed. Thus, maintaining their population.

Apart from this, the beach cleanup activities also serve as an epicentre for historical data evidence and collection. For instance, a bottle found at a coast in Andamans may or may not have originated at the same place. This would also help us research more on the waste generation habits of people in and around the world.

The white sands and the gushing sound of water make one happy, and we should be willing enough to restore beaches so that our future generations can experience the coastal life in all its glory! After all, Carl Safina made absolute sense when he quoted:

The coast is an edgy place. Living on the coast presents certain stark realities and wild, rare beauty. Continent confronts ocean. Weather intensifies. It’s a place of tide and tantrum; of flirtations among fresh- and salt waters, forests and shores; of tense negotiations with an ocean that gives much but demands more. Every year the raw rim that is this coast gets hammered and reshaped like molten bronze. This place roils with power and a sometimes terrible beauty. The coast remains youthful, daring, uncertain about tomorrow. The guessing, the risk; in a way, we’re all thrill-seekers here.

― The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World

This post is also a part of YKA's first user-run series, Water Wars, by Zeba Ahsan. Join the conversation by adding a post here.
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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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