Kumarakom, the picturesque village nestled in the backwater landscape of Kottayam, is all set to become the first plastic-free tourism destination in the State.
On the back of a grassroots initiative to clean up the Vembanad Lake and its banks, the destination has committed to go plastic-free starting January 1, 2020. The project, piloted by the Responsible Tourism Mission under the Clean Kerala initiative, aims at uniting various stakeholders of the tourism industry, including local residents, against single-use plastics of all types.
To begin with, stakeholders in the village’s tourism sector such as the staff of various resorts and operators of houseboats and shikara boats are being imparted training in effective waste management and disposal. Further, waste collection units are being established at the houseboat terminals at Kavanattinkara, Cheepungal, and Kaippuzhamuttu, besides the boarding points for smaller boats.
The plastic from these units will be collected with the help of Haritha Karma Sena members, which will be handed over to a recycling unit at the Ettumanur industrial area.
K. Roopesh Kumar, coordinator, RT Mission, said the high-end properties had already avoided single-use plastics and the boat operators had sought some more time. “The plastic waste left behind by the tourism industry invariably enters Vembanad Lake and washes up on its shores. More than a blight, it also poses a threat to the existence of this ecologically sensitive waterbody,” he said.
Earlier last month, the RT Mission in association with the houseboat operators at Pallathuruthy in Alappuzha put in place a common waste management committee for all the 178 houseboats there. Buoyed by its success, the authorities are now set to replicate the model at Kumarakom, where about 120 houseboats are operating.
As per estimates, around 500 kg of plastic waste enters Vembanad Lake through the tourism industry on a daily basis. This is in addition to the plastic waste brought by various rivers that end up in the brackish water system.
Earlier this year, the authorities removed 55 truckloads of plastic waste from the lake bed during the Clean Vembanadu initiative. Last month, the Aymanam panchayat and the RT Mission carried out a one-week drive to clear plastic waste from Cheepungal, where a red water lily festival is currently underway.