For more than 25 years, Ram Nath has lived on the banks of the Yamuna River under a 19th-century iron bridge. Each morning, the wiry man walks a few steps from his makeshift hut and enters the black, sludgy waters of one of India’s most polluted rivers. He is fishing for trash. “This is the only work we have,” said the 40-year-old, sorting through a pile of plastic bottles, bags, and cast-off electronics.
While Nath doesn’t think of himself as an environmentalist, he is one of a handful of Delhi residents waging war against the tsunami of plastic threatening to swamp India. They include a 9th-grade student who convinces posh restaurants to give up plastic straws and a businessman whose company makes plates and bowls from palm leaves.
Some fancy restaurants in and around Delhi are doing away with plastic straws and replacing them with paper straws. That’s largely because of Aditya Mukarji, a student who launched his campaign after seeing a video of two veterinarians trying to remove a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose.
Amardeep Bardhan believes he can make a difference. His company, Prakritii, makes plates and bowls from the leaves of south India’s areca palm trees.
“In this entire process, we are not harming the environment,” said Bardhan. “We are generating something from the waste, people are loving it, and then it goes back as a waste.”
While Prakritii initially made most of its income from exports to Europe and the US, Bardhan said the market for eco-friendly products is growing in India, especially among younger people who value quality over price. His company generates more than $150,000 in revenue each year.
With more than 15 million people, Delhi and its surrounding cities produce an estimated 17,000 tons of trash daily, according to officials and environmentalists. That requires immense dumps, hills of stinking trash that measure up to 50 meters tall.
Tuesday will see numerous official environmental gatherings across India, clean up campaigns along the Yamuna and mall food courts agreeing to forgo plastic plateware for one day.
The hope is that everything doesn’t go back to normal on Wednesday.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines