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Meet Samantha Iyanna, Eco Buddy – Coonoor

Updated: Nov 9, 2022




Thank you, Writer Ritambhari for this informative interview……….


NammaNilgiris.org அமைப்பின் சார்பாக மாவட்டத்தில் அரசியல், மதம்,மொழி,இனம் சாராத Active ஆக உள்ள பல NGOs, Volunteers, Trusts, Community and Social Organizations களை பற்றிய விவரங்களை திரட்டி, தொகுத்து நமது வலைத்தளத்தில் பதிவிட்டு வருவது அறிந்ததே.


அந்த வகையில் இந்த பதிவில் " Clean Coonoor" ,அமைப்பின் நிர்வாக அறங்காவலர் ( Managing Trustee) Ms Samantha Iyanna அவர்களுடனான நேர்காணலின் உரையினை பதிவிடுவதில் பெருமிதமும் மகிழ்ச்சியும் அடைகிறோம்.


இந்த நேர்காணலில் அவர் எப்பொழுது, எதற்காக இந்த “ Clean Coonoor ” அமைப்பு தொடங்கப்பட்டது, தொடங்கப்பட்ட 2014 ஆம் ஆண்டு முதல் தற்போதுவ,ரை அவர்கள் இந்த மாவட்டத்தின், முக்கியமாக Coonoor நகரின் அமைப்பு பாதுகாத்தல் மற்றும் பராமரித்தல் “Preservation and Maintanance of Town’s Natural and Cultural Hertage”, “Maintanence of Surface drainage”வடிகால் பராமரித்தல் , மேலும் அவர்கள் எப்பொழுது “ The Resource Recovery Center” னை குன்னூர் நகரின்“Solid waste Management” ற்காக உருவாக்கி, நகருக்கு எந்த நாள் அதனை அர்பணித்தார்கள்.


மேலும் அவர்கள் இதுநாள்வரை எத்தனை டன் திடக்கழிவை மறுசுழற்சி மற்றும் Handle செய்திருக்கிறார்கள். ஈரக்கழிவுகளை எவ்வாறு கையாள்கிறார்கள் போன்ற மிக முக்கியமான தகவல்களையும், தான் எவ்வாறு இதற்காக தயார் செய்துகொண்டேன், தன் வாழ்க்கையில் எப்பொழுது இதற்கான ஆர்வம் வந்தது,அதனை எப்படி உருவாக்கி கொண்டேன், அதற்கு எந்தெந்த அமைப்புகள் எல்லாம் உதவி புரிந்தன போன்ற சுவையான தகவல்களினையும் விரிவாக எடுத்துரைத்துள்ளார்கள்.


பல மைல்கல் (Milesstone) களை மிக சாதாரணமாய் எந்தவித விளம்பரம், ஆடம்பரம் இல்லாமல் தனித்தன்மையுடன் செய்து இன்றும் தொடர்ந்து செயல்படும் “ Clean Connor ” அமைப்பிற்கும் அதன் நிர்வாக அறங்காவலர் Ms Samantha Iyanna விற்கும்,மீண்டும் எங்கள் NammaNilgiris.org ன் சார்பாக வாழ்த்துக்களையும் நன்றிகளையும் பதிவிடுவதில் பெருமிதம் அடைகிறோம்.




Interviewer: Hi Samantha! Could you tell us more about the work you do at Clean

Coonoor?


Samantha: Clean Coonoor started as a citizen’s initiative post-Diwali 2014, when a

concerned individual, upset by the mess left behind by tourists, posted on social media

that she was going to clean it up by herself, and those interested may join. She was joined

by a few, and hence was born ‘Clean Coonoor,’ an informal citizen’s group, which

dedicated its services to regular clean-ups of trashed-up areas within the precincts of the

town. As membership grew, activities diversified to include the beautification of the town,

the creation of awareness, flood relief, and such.


By 2017 the organization had taken up issues such as the preservation and maintenance of

the town’s natural and cultural heritage, care of surface drainage to prevent

flooding during heavy downpours, and as well as held a pilot assessment on the state of the

three streams that drain its slopes. The last included cleaning up a section of the middle

stream as it flows through the major tourist attraction of Sim’s Park, and further

downstream, at the now neglected picnic spot, the Law’s Falls.


These activities pointed to the fact that all the waterbodies of these hills were becoming

choked with plastic, primarily those deliberately dumped in the open as garbage or strewn

carelessly about as litter. This led to a rethink of strategy, as it dawned upon us that the

town, though declared as bin-less way back in 2016, was sadly lacking in a comprehensive

waste collection and disposal mechanism.

As the streams were of primary concern taking into consideration the risk of flooding,

another detailed assessment was held in Mar 2019, and it was inferred that a 0.75 km

the stretch of the upper stream and a 1.25 km of the middle stream, both of which drain the

heart and core of the town were badly choked and needed immediate attention.


With funding assured by an individual philanthropist Mrs. Rajashree of Hyderabad, further

evaluations revealed that cleanup operations would yield anywhere around 15-20,000

tonnes of silt admixed with garbage to be disposed of. The only logical way to safely

deposit and treat this huge quantity was to cart it to the municipal dumpsite located at

Ottupattarai. As the existing dumpsite lacked a facility to deal with solid waste, it was

decided to concurrently open and run a Resource Recovery Centre in a Public-Private

Partnership mode, to deal with the legacy waste accumulated and the daily dry waste

generated.


Operations on the middle stream commenced on World Environment Day 2019 and ended

after 42 days. The upper stream was subjected to de-silting on World River’s Day and

lasted for a fortnight. The intervention was timely as the flash floods of Nov 2019 had minimal impact on the town’s flood-prone areas.

The Resource Recovery Centre was completed and was inaugurated on the 30 Oct 2019,

and became fully operational in February of the following year. As of date the

Resource Recovery Centre has managed to deal with more than 4,000 tonnes of garbage

collected within the municipal limits by sending to recycling units some 1,000 tonnes of

all types of waste, and safely dispose of the rest as per TNPCB norms.


On the Covid front, the organization, along with others, has helped arrange relief packages,

etc. The lockdown periods were taken advantage of with activities such as the painting of

murals and the like, depicting the cultural heritage of the town in particular and the natural

heritage of these hills in general. These activities were solely carried out by volunteers,

mostly repatriate techies working from home during the pandemic.


Of late, the organization has taken up Wet Waste management by operating a composting

the unit, which deals mainly with the more difficult to deal with forms of wet waste, chiefly

butcher residue, woody, and fibrous waste.

The Solid Waste Management initiatives are co-funded by the Gandipet Welfare Society

of Hyderabad, Nilekani Philanthropies and Microland Foundation based in Bangalore,

and Star Chemicals (Bombay) Pvt. Ltd.


It is hoped that our latest venture, the wet waste composting unit, will assist in making

our efforts in solid waste management are self-sustaining. The organization’s ultimate goal

in the long run, has been redrawn as ‘Zero Waste,’ - defined as the conservation of

all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery

of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land,

water or air that threatens the environment or human health.


I: How long has it been since you became concerned with environmental well-being?


S: Growing up in the hills and especially on a plantation, I was from childhood

subconsciously a lover of nature. This interest persisted during my school and college

days. I thank my school for instilling in me a pride of keeping our surroundings clean,

and I was involved with the Environment Club at college, which took us on various

treks, hikes, and such, and I cannot begin to understand how most of the current

generation is not thinking about the kind of damage we are inflicting on mother nature.

Responsibilities forced me not to turn this interest into a passion and to take active

measures in furthering the cause of protecting the environment. On partially

stabilizing my career and with more time on my hands, I decided to pursue

environmentalism more seriously. Traveling to National Parks, marine ecosystems,

untouched habitats, study of locally disturbed habitats, gardening, and such became

more serious pursuits. With these peregrinations came the realization that humanity

was moving away from nature day by day and was abusing the good earth in all

possible ways. These observations made me an eco-buddy to further the cause for

nature


I: Can you briefly tell us what led to your becoming an eco buddy?


S: During my involvement in clean-ups and other environmental activities, I came to

realize that biodiversity loss is currently the biggest environmental threat that the earth

is facing. But, I would rank Plastic Pollution warrants a prime concern. Although I have

realized there’s an acceleration in the way the sixth mass extinction is heading, and the

rate of loss, which would have taken a millennia may now happen in a few decades,

the trend is still reversible. The same cannot be said for plastic pollution, considering

that plastic takes 400 years to decompose, it will be many generations until it ceases

to exist, and the damage done by then, in my opinion, would be quite irreversible.

Plastic pollution can afflict land, waterways, and oceans. With all the data that are currently available, I feel that in a few years, plastics will not only be one of the biggest

environmental problems of our lifetime, but another massive market failure.


I: Have these realizations led to any changes in what you buy and/or consume?


S: Increased consumption of meat products is altering landscapes and contributing

to climate change. I have switched to partial vegetarianism. Currently, I am interested

in purchasing Organic, Rainforest, and Fairtrade Certified products. I try to reduce my

carbon footprint by using public transport wherever possible. I have stopped using

single-use products as far as possible. Have started using natural pesticides for

gardening and have reduced my consumption of electricity, water, and natural

resources.


I: Is there something related to these realizations you would like to see occurring in

the world?


S: To be brief, avoid consumerism and promote a ‘circular economy which is based

on the notion of maintaining the value of products, materials, and resources within the

economy for as long as possible, consequently minimizing the generation of waste

which is produced.

Interviewer: Thank you, Samantha, for sharing your journey and dreams with us, and

for giving some pointers for environmental well-being.



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