Arugam Bay, located in the dry zone of Sri Lanka’s southeast coast is one of the many enticing locations unique to this tropical island. Famous for the quality of its surf breaks, the bay attracts surfers from all over the world and has hosted several international surfing competitions. The deep blue waters, fine sandy beaches and the fascinating flora and fauna surrounding it lures a vast amount of wanderlusty locals and foreigners promoting itself as a landmark for tourism.
Plagued by the three-decade civil war and the destruction caused by the Tsunami, Arugam bay still blooms as a marvel of mother nature, but unaware to most of us, the bay is fighting a war of its own – GARBAGE POLLUTION!
“R e t h i n k T r a s h – Mission Arugambay” a two-day project organized by the Rotaract Club of SLIIT along with Elephants Not Plastic, Arugam bay development forum and with the support of Sri Lankan Army with the motive of clearing selected areas of any garbage and spreading awareness, took place from the 31st of August and the 1st of September 2019.
The goal for day one was to clean up the polluted areas of the Panama jungle. Even after a rough night resulting from a nine hour ride from Colombo, the group of young and self-motivated Rotaractors showed no lethargy, but were full of strength and excitement to face the challenges that were yet to come. They were divided into three groups and started their cleanup sessions at three different locations of the Panama jungle.
The first session lasted from 8:30am to 12.00pm where three fully loaded tractors full of garbage were collected. Back at the Panama jungle for a two-hour evening cleanup session, we managed to clear more polluted areas. While at the jungle some of us even got to witness the presence of a wild elephant who meddled with the garbage that was collected. One of the most striking incidents witnessed during this project was to see how the elephant try to feed itself from these piles of garbage which included polythene and plastic waste which is unhealthy and in the worse case could result in death.
The above fact was justified when we came across elephant faeces that contained shreds of plastic in them. This is a terrible situation in Sri Lanka where the wildlife is disturbed and directly affected by garbage pollution.
This is our country and the animals who live here are our responsibility. It is our duty and responsibility to protect their habitats and ensure that they have the highest chances of survival. The rest of the evening was spent at the beach which brought us back from our exhausted selves into a set of physically active individuals who enjoyed the evening taking part in various group activities along with a great swim.
The goal for day 2 was to extend our cleanup process to the beach during which it was quite upsetting to see how certain parts of the beach were simply marked as dumping sites for nearby hotels and other businesses. At the end of the beach cleanup session we again managed to assemble another huge pile of garbage in just a short period of time with the efforts of everyone in the group. Once again we still had time allocated for some physical activities at the beach which brought nothing but joy and happiness to us and enabled us to initiate new friendships. Furthermore, the bumpy tractor rides in both the panama jungle and in the beach was a totally different experience for those who were part of them.
Once the session for day 2 was completed, the next big step was to handover the collected garbage all of which roughly weighed around 155 kilograms of glass and 750 plastic bottles, for recycling purposes out of all 1000+kg of garbage we collected.
Another valuable experience for all of us was a visit to the recycling center – Wasteless Arugam Bay, where we initially handed over the garbage which we had already categorized and were later detailed on how different categories of garbage were processed and the various outcomes and uses of recycling the different types of waste.
Looking back at what we had accomplished in such a short stay, made us bloom with pride and happiness, but on the other hand we were also ashamed and dejected by how nature has been mishandled by our very own people. As responsible citizens of this country it is our duty to protect whatever nature has gifted us and its high time we dedicate ourselves towards protecting mother nature by adapting to proper garbage disposal methods and encouraging recycling and the usage of recycled products to bring back nature its true dignity and thus paving the path for a better future for all of us; For a better tomorrow!
Rtr. Priyan Jerome & Rtr. Lathushanan Koneswara