Say No to Plastic – The Rane Way

There are times in life when we want to change things for the better. Sometimes that means thinking of an entirely new solution. Mr. Gurunath Rane did just that with his organization. His is an inspiring story of an ingenious but simple solution to a grave problem.

 

Mr.Rane left his advertising job in Mumbai and moved to Malvan, a coastal city in Maharashtra, in 2005. He, along with his friends, started an organization to help with the tourist activities in their district.

 

Malvan is a tourist friendly spot with various heritage places worth visiting including beaches, backwaters, temples and 32 forts. Every year almost 4,50,000 tourists visit this town.

 

Rane and his organization, the Kille Sindhudurga Prernotsav Samitee observed that in the Sindhudurga Fort, tourists who came there littered the fort with plastic bottles, eatables and other garbage. There he struck upon an idea that later went on to transform the unseemly state of the tourist sites. Rane along with his group of volunteers would travel by boat and spend three days to clean this fort. They would collect all the waste and bring it back in 5-6 boats. This exercise was naturally quite expensive.

Pictures of Kille Sindhudurga Prernotsav Samitee volunteers cleaning Sindhudurg Fort

One day, Rane went to a workshop conducted by the CEE (Centre for Environment Education) where an NGO from Sikkim spoke about their activities. They were engaged in similar work, though in the mountains of Sikkim. There was more litter in the mountains than in the fort.  What interested Rane was how they were doing it. The NGO was giving big jute bags to tourists and noting down how many plastic items they were taking in.  They made sure that when they came back they brought back with them all that they had taken.

 

This idea immediately appealed to Mr. Rane. He met the Collector of the District and shared this idea with him. With the support of the Government and UNDP, a stall with a total of 3,50,000 jute bags was set up at the entrance to the fort.

An article on Gurunath Rane –  president of Kille Sindhudurga Prernotsav Samitee in UNDP site

http://www.in.undp.org/content/india/en/home/climate-and-disaster-reslience/successstories/making-a-difference–one-bag-at-a-time.html

The idea was that every tourist group would deposit Rs.100 to take a jute bag and collect all their plastic waste like bottles, packets, and other material instead of littering inside the fort. At the end of the tour, they would have to give back all the waste at the counter upon which they would get back their deposit of Rs.100 and could keep the jute bag for free! This idea did wonders for Rane’s organization. The tourists took to this eco-friendly idea and it became a great success.

 

Initially, there was opposition from the local fishermen and businessmen in the fort as they thought that by opening a new stall, the organization was trying to capture their business. But, as time passed they too came to understand the purpose of this organization.

 

The 15 member organization conducts various activities apart from cleaning forts and beaches. They organize awareness workshops in schools, and conduct essay writing and drawing competitions.  Various Government organizations such as the Maharashtra Maritime Board also have supported them in their activities.

 

In Mr. Rane’s words, “Plastic is very dangerous to the marine ecosystem. When tourists litter the beaches, the lives of animals like fish, turtles, octopus, and many more are affected.  The fishermen and the local populace should also be educated about the marine ecosystem.  It is not uncommon for fishermen’s nets to get stuck to rocks, which forces them to cut the net.  The material of the net is so thin that it soon disintegrates into small pieces call mermaid’s tears.  Fish eat this plastic and then we eat those fish.”

 

The organization plans to expand their program to the entire district, to all its tourist places in the near future. They are looking for funding support to be able to expand their footprint.

 

As he signs off with a smile, we realize that for people like Rane, protecting this environment is their responsibility and they fulfill it with happiness. It is so satisfying to be changing the world, one jute bag at a time!