The first time I heard about Nagala West, it sounded like a fantasy land for trekkers. Tucked away in the forest of eastern ghats this small trek had the most serene natural pools. I rarely repeat a trek, but Nagala I had to, to mark the onset of summer and to take my friend Aishwarya to this gorgeous location.
Raj warned me before hand. He said it is very dirty right now because of people treating this like a picnic spot and throwing all sorts of disposable plates, glass bottles and plastic everywhere. He even went on a cleaning drive 2 weeks before our trek to cleanup the place and came back with 10 XXL sized garbage bags full of non-biodegradables ONLY from the camping site.
Maybe I did not give it enough thought, maybe I hoped it won’t be that bad after all. But what we saw was terrible. There was trash everywhere. The first pool was not even worth stopping at. The second pool, my past favourite because of its clear waters and beautiful rocks looked ugly. Paper plates, aluminium foil used to pack take ways, biscuit and chips wrappers, Coke and Bisleri bottles, chocolate wrappers, beer bottles, you name it and all sorts of packaged food wrappers were thrown around.
My heart broke to see my once favourite spot in this condition. The place was filled with people who were shouting and screaming and throwing garbage everywhere with absolutely no respect for the forest. Over 200 people visit Nagala West over the weekends and the hill has no dustbins, no designated spots to defecate, no instructions on dos’ and don’ts’. At this rate, Nagala West will have more plastic wrappers than leaves. Yes leaves and not trees.
It may not be this bad, but more and more mountains are facing this issue. People are taking to trekking in large numbers which is great. It is absolutely wonderful to connect with mother nature. But unfortunately treating the mountain well is not on their agenda. I am sure responsible trekkers are frustrated to see what has happened to their happy places.
And so, we, Intrepid Trekkers have an idea. And we wish to make this a reality. Any inputs, help, assistance from the trekking community, nature lovers or anyone out there would be highly appreciated. Let us save our mountains.
An article on sustainable living directed me to an initiative in Phillipines called Eco Bricks – You basically collect equal sized bottles (lets say 1.5 lt Coke Bottles) and fill them up with non biodegradables. You stuff these bottles till they are completely filled up. Once you have enough number of such bottles, you can use them as bricks and build anything you like using sand, clay and dry hay as binding material. You can read more about this initiative here
The idea is to make such bricks using the trash in the mountains and building dustbins from them. This ends the plastic cycle. We are not sending the plastic to landfills or to the ocean or river or any such foolish places (Land and sea people… We need both of it). We are ending the life cycle of every piece of mountain plastic by putting it to use. These bricks can even be used to build instruction boards at the entrance and changing rooms within mountains if needed (trust me there is enough plastic there to build a room). Ofcourse we would need a lot of manpower to execute this. The initial thought is to seek help from nearby schools.
We want to hear from you. We are planning to pilot this soon and would love for you to join us in this movement to save the mountains in all ways possible. Let us know what do you think of this? And how can we make this better.
Intrepid Trekkers is a Not of Profit Group started by trekking enthusiasts. We go on treks around Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra and Kerala with like minded people. Our attempt has always been to leave the mountains cleaner than we found it and this is our small step towards the cause.