Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The hills are alive…with the crackle of plastic

The Queen of misty mountains, Kodaikanal, might soon vie for the title of Queen of garbage hills. The lovely green slopes of the Palani Hills are paying the toll for the popularity of the hilltop getaway, and how.

Tourists throng waterfalls (or stalls)
in scenic Kodaikanal.
Tourists leave a growing trail of litter – water bottles, empty packets of chips, biscuits and every thing they can possibly want to dispose off through the windows of buses and cars.

Plastic is banned in markets and around the popular lake, shopkeepers keep a stock of paper bags made from recycled newspapers. But fruit vendors are prone to slip in a banned plastic cover to keep the fruit from getting squashed. Other hawkers dish out food and drink on plastic or paper plates and cups, all of which fall all around and everywhere but in the trash cans, which are very often seen looking forlorn even as the pile of rubbish around them grow.

What is it with the tourists’ seemingly insatiable urge to munch? Go up Coaker’s Walk and you see them, with their backs firmly turned on the tendrils of mist that cloak the mountains, the far off views of distant peaks and the verdure along the edge. No, what interests the hordes that have spent sums of money and time to travel nearly 7000 ft above sea level, is the row of footpath vendors. From henna tattoos to woollen clothing and of course various eatables, the tourists can’t keep away from the hawkers. Scenic walkway? No, thanks.
Ditto on the route to any of the waterfalls. After the idiotic race to the spot, all they seem to do is to rush to the nearest vendor, eating ceaselessly, bargain vociferously and leave the place in a horrific condition.
None question them; a few valiant signs adjure people to Keep Kodai Clean, and most often these are hidden and obviously unheeded.
- Sandhya Mendonca

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