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Meet TA Jabarathnam, Eco Buddy – Coonoor

நமது மாவட்டத்தை சார்ந்த Ritambhari அவர்கள் “Nilgiris Eco Seidhagal” என்ற ஒரு “ E- Newsletter” னை மாவட்டத்தின் நலனுக்காக,முக்கியமாக (Environment ) ற்காகவெளியிட்டு வருகிறார்.

அந்த வகையில் இந்த மாத இதழில் நமது மாவட்டத்தில் சமூக சேவையில் மிக நீண்ட அன்பவமும், தொடர்ந்து பல “NGO” களோடு இணைந்தும், தனியாகவும் பல வருடங்களாக சேவை செய்துவரும் சமூக சேவகர், (சூழல் நண்பன்)( Eco Buddy) TA Jabarathnam, அவர்களுடனான கலந்துரையாடல் வெளியிடுவதில் பெருமிதம் அடைவதுடன் அவரின் சேவை மீண்டும் பல வருட காலம் தொடர வேண்டும் என்று வாழ்த்தி வணங்குகிறோம். நன்றி.

The eco buddy we are meeting this month is Mr. TA Jabarathnam, who is the President of the Citizens Forum of Coonoor and was one of the founding members of Clean Coonoor.

Interviewer: Hello, Mr. Jabarathnam! Could you tell us more about the work you do

regarding Solid Waste Management?

Jabarathnam: Apart from being active in the Citizens Forum for over 25 years, I was one

of the founding members of Clean Coonoor, along with Samantha Iyanna, Charles

Nathan, Anita Mathias, Parameswaran, Dr Jose, Dr Bavana Iniyan and Velu Shankar.

Initially, it was meant to be a creating awareness group that began to do cleanups of

Coonoor town, cleaning and painting public spaces. In all our projects we had the active

support of the municipality to bring about a change. Now Clean Coonoor is a trust with Ms

Samantha Iyanna as Managing Trustee and they efficiently manage the waste

management park at Coonoor.

Here I would like to say that I very strongly feel that plastic cannot be done away with

completely because there is no viable alternative to plastic especially for mass production.

That is why in addition to banning plastic and finding alternatives to it, we must emphasize

responsible collection, proper segregation and disposal of it.

Now in Coonoor at least this is quite efficiently done. Door to door collection of segregated

waste resulted in removal of garbage bins, and consequently, we have been able to

ensure that monkeys, dogs and other animals do not spread the garbage around the bins

and nearby areas. Thanks to Clean Coonoor who manage the dump yard, the present

mechanism of collection and disposal of garbage in Coonoor is a role model for other

municipalities in Tamil Nadu to emulate

I also feel that a SWM MASTERPLAN for our ecologically sensitive Nilgiris district needs

to be evolved by the district administration in consultation with service organisations who

focus on environmental issues and aspire for a cleaner district. Common facilities could

be envisaged for cluster of panchayats in the Nilgiris. Investment needs to be made for

the necessary infrastructure. Manpower requirements need to be adequately addressed

taking into consideration the ever increasing tourist footfall. We can adopt a scientific

strategy using internet based tools to map the garbage generated in each village and town

in the district and to be able to strategically locate the common garbage processing and

disposal facilities. The collection mechanism should be more efficient. NGOs should

cooperate with the government to bring about a change. At present we have approached

both the SADP and District Administration to create a SWM master plan.

Here I would like to mention that the attitude of people is definitely changing when

compared to previous years like the 1980s and 1990s.

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

J: I was always very concerned but the major initiative I was involved in occurred in 2000

during the tenure of Mr Sivasankaran, IAS, the then District Collector, when we brought

together the Citizens Forum, Merchants Association, Consumers Forum and Lions Club

and other service organisations to see if we could urge the government to ban plastic

usage in the Nilgiris. Consequently single use plastic was banned in the Nilgiris. The next

Collector was Ms Supriya Sahu IAS, who took this initiative to the next level and set up

ways in which plastic usage could be curbed. The efforts of Mrs Innocent Divya in the

recent years have been praiseworthy.

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

J: The excessive use of plastic and garbage strewn everywhere brought me the realization

that I - as also all citizens - must do something. This began before 2000. I was involved in

public activities for decades, trying to interact with the Municipal authorities on proper

garbage disposal.

I: According to you, which is more important - following a zero waste lifestyle or proper

waste management?

J: Both are equally important. People should reduce waste generation and whatever waste

is generated should be responsibly collected, segregated and disposed and/or recycled.

Getting people to change is a strenuous process. It takes time. In Coonoor, segregation

has become a norm now. However, proper collection is not entirely satisfactory due to

manpower shortage, difficult terrain and particularly when some irresponsible people

throw garbage in the streams, forests, etc.

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

J: As much as possible, I avoid buying things with plastic packaging. I see to it that the

plastic generated in my household and neighbourhood is segregated and reaches the

municipal garbage processing facility. On regular intervals we get in touch with the Health

Officer and municipal authorities to address issues related to better management of solid


I: Is there something related to these you would like to see occurring in the world?

J: I'd like to see more people finding alternatives to plastic. In this too, people and local

bodies should come together. I'd like to see a proper plan set in motion for district wise

collection, segregation and disposal of waste. I'd like the Nilgiris District to be considered

a special zone.

It is good to see the present District Collector, SP Amrith, calling a meeting with bulk

garbage generators like hotels, schools and gated communities. During this meeting we

found that a significant communication gap exists about the role of local bodies and bulk

generators in proper waste management and it was addressed. We still have a long way

to go, but this is a step in the right direction.

Interviewer: Thank you Mr Jabarathnam for sharing your views on the waste management

issue. 😊

Want to be an Eco Buddy?

Here’s what you can do:

1. Refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle, as far as possible, plastic bags.

2. Buy zero waste, as far as possible.

3. Bathe in ½ a bucket of water.

4. Switch from using a shower to using a bucket and mug.

5. Use natural ingredients like gram flour, orange peels, rose petals, and soap nuts to

bathe yourself.

6. Use soapnut solution instead of detergent to wash your clothes.

7. Use homemade bioenzymes to clean your floors and bathroom fittings.

8. Switch from using plastic toothbrush to bamboo toothbrushes.

9. Switch from using plastic hair accessories to cotton ribbons.

10. Switch from using plastic refill pens to using fountain pens.

11. Make the switch to using reusable cloth pads and menstrual cups instead of sanitary


12. Use washable nappies instead of diapers.

13. Turn off lights and fans when not in use.

14. Turn off the tap in between chores like brushing your teeth and washing utensils and


15. Use reusable cutlery and straws instead of using and throwing ones.

16. Carry your own glass and plate while traveling.

17. Minimize material possessions. Be a conscious consumer.

18. Reduce and/or avoid non vegan fare.

19. Give up wearing synthetic clothing. Wear natural fabrics.

Be careful where you throw your garbage. God is everywhere except in the dustbin.

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