With India estimated to generate 25,000 tonnes of plastic waste every day, media professional Abhimanyu Chakrovorthy, 31, has set off on a 10,000 km crowdfunded motorcycle expedition through India and five neighbouring Southeast Asian countries to spread awareness of its pernicious effects and to encourage people to shun its use.
"I have always been environmentally conscious about issues such as climate change and wildlife, and I used to practice this concept of outdoor ethics called 'Leave No Trace' in the Himalayas where you pick up your own waste and dispose it off properly.
"I am also a motorcycle enthusiast who has toured quite extensively across India. So this presented a unique opportunity to merge my two passions: Motorcycling and addressing the menace of plastic pollution in Southeast Asia and India. Hence this trip from New Delhi, covering more than 10,000 km, travelling to Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Nepal to raise awareness on plastic pollution," Chakrovorthy told IANS in an interview just before he set off.
How exactly will it work on the ground?
During the journey, through tie-ups with NGOs and schools in the five countries, he has planned beach and city clean-up initiatives and will conduct short sessions/presentations with them on the global scenario in plastic pollution and what India is doing to fight it.
"Through these workshops, I will share knowledge about India's waste management system, and also learn from them their solutions to the plastic pollution problem. Some of these countries have taken affirmative action on plastic and I want to understand more of what and how they're doing it. The focus of my work will be on reducing, reusing and recycling waste as much as possible. Through this trip, I plan to document plastic consumption in these countries and their waste management processes," Chakrovorthy explained.
The planning, he said, had been quite a nightmare. For instance, he figured it would cost Rs 70,000 one way through Myanmar and at least Rs 80,000 one way through Thailand.
"At this stage, a friend told me about (crowdoutsourcing platform) Milaap. This presented some hope because I couldn't bear the cost on my own. So I got down to work and prepared my statement of purpose over one week for the trip to be advertised on Milaap.
"The fundraiser is still live on the platform and I am hoping to raise some money through it. My target is Rs 3 lakh and till now I have reached just Rs 40,000 but I am hopeful my story will resonate with people and some funding comes through Milaap. I believe the momentum against plastic pollution is strong and through this trip I will highlight all the challenges that come with waste management in Southeast Asia and India," Chakrovorthy explained.
What about the back-up for the journey?
"I am positive that Plan A will work out, because there's still some time to raise funds (through the platform). I am also in talks with a few potential sponsors who might come on board to help me out with resources. However, the Plan B is to simply skip Nepal and put my bike on train from Imphal (on the return leg) to New Delhi in case I fall short of money. Other than this, I don't see any other issue," Chakrovorthy responded.
What of the future?
"In the near future, I will be organising few more clean-ups in association with embassies and institutions such as Delhi Civil Defence and Delhi Police focusing on communities and societies by asking them to moderate their consumption so that less waste ends up in our ever-increasing landfills," Chakrovorthy concluded.