Pigs and cows rummaging through the heap of garbage greeted Russian tourist Irina at Colva beach. In her two-week stay in the coastal tourist state of Goa, wherever she went greeted by the scene of garbage being littered all over the place,
Not a pleasant sight to her and charter tourist colleagues.
Coming from a legal background as she was, the prosecutor from Russian town of Ural sought to get to the bottom of the issue on why the garbage is not being handled in a professional way in Goa. She had a number of questions for the shack owner she frequented every day for her meals.
Her line of questioning ran like this: Why do you find garbage been thrown everywhere. Why are there no sufficient garbage bins? Why plastic bottles and plastic bags are seen flying everywhere in Goa. Collecting and managing the garbage will create more jobs, then why are you people not taking the initiative, as shack owners you should be involved in the decision making, you are part of the tourism industry, if foreign tourists stop coming to Goa because of garbage then from where will you earn your bread and butter. Why don’t they just put a dustbin at every shack so we have somewhere to throw it?
Her piece of advice ran like this - labour is cheap, put the beach cleaners to better use. Buy barrel-sized garbage bins or better yet, re-appropriate old barrels, stake them securely along the beach and around the village, and have the cleaners empty them frequently. Create a sorting station and have the cleaners separate the waste from the recyclables.
Now to the ground reality. Eighty percent of Goan tourists are from elsewhere in India; but the twenty percent who come from western cultures are more than familiar with Reducing, Re-using and Recycling. They arrive looking for a place to deposit their bottles and paper for recycling and would do so happily – if it was available. But on Goan beaches and in hotels and restaurants, it’s hard enough finding a garbage bin, let alone a blue or green recycling one.
In their home countries they are fairly conscientious about not only throwing their garbage in a bin, but sorting out the paper and recyclables and disposing of them accordingly.
Imagine their disorientation when they arrive and – like many package tour destinations- discover that trash bins are practically non-existant , just throw it on the ground, a shopkeeper may tell them, recycling is unheard of, both in their hotels and outside, especially for all those water bottles.
Some Indian tourists haven’t noticed that there’s anything wrong in the way they handle garbage. In Goa as in other places, Indian visitors throw their garbage on the ground without even looking for a garbage bin – someone will deal with it, sometime. They buy bottled water like the foreigners.
The shack owner to whom Irina was speaking simply did not have satisfactory answers to her questions, but one answer summed up it all – the government has no political will to do it. State level ministers search for a gold mine in the garbage.
But then why should we be depended on the whims and fancies of our elected representatives from the municipal council level to the Panchayat level to solve the problem of garbage. Cannot we handle our waste at the household level?
Individuals like Clinton Vaz have demonstrated how one can handle, one’s garbage at the individual level at one’s house or at one’s small hotel, the only thing you require is the will to do it.
Can we have a state of the art recycling system in Goa that functions locally without too much of effort. Yes, it’s possible and we can start right now says Vaz.
“The thing is that if we are sincerely concerned and want to recycle our waste, today all we can do is separate our waste into wet and dry. In some cities like Panjim, this separated dry waste actually gets collected and recycled. However, the success of Panjim’s recycling is because waste is collected at source, door to door. If we actually put wet and dry bins on the street, it would never work, not with the people we live with. “
“Mixing waste is not an Indian thing however, it's worldwide. In Portugal and Sweden, some streets and malls had bins with three or four separate waste compartments; however, most of them were mixed. What is needed however is awareness for proper separation, and until that comes, door to door seems to be the only way to ensure that properly separated waste can be collected for further processing. Such a system might seem unbelievable here in Goa, but I believe that we are ready for such facilities are certain areas. In fact, this kind of system is already in existence in four different sites.”
Talking about separation of dry and wet garbage one hotel comes ito mind, Dona Sa Maria Hotel in Carmona-Cavelossim village is a perfect example of how one can treat waste at the local level. Cota is a Goan who runs a spotless 30-room holiday home called Dona Sa Maria with his wife on family property. As president of the Federation of Small and Medium Hotels (FOSAM) in Goa, he sees how tourism affects the beauty of his region, and how big five-star hotels play a part in that.
Cota has mastered the art of sorting. He’s erected huge bins to sort glass, plastic, paper and metal; and sub-bins for different types of glass, plastic and metal. There’s a barrel for bottle caps, pigs for food scraps, and a small pit for burning. Local collectors come from Margao and pay him to pick up the recyclable materials, and Cota says any of the major hotels could do the same if they made garbage sorting a part of their disposal routine.
So if individuals like Vaz can turn garbage into compost and small hotels like Dona Sa Maria can show the way, why not others. So it is time to stop the buck and instead start treating waste at one’s home and help in the collective effort of managing the garbage and stop it from reaching monstrous proportions.