Two years ago, when Ripu Daman Bevli, a regular jogger, wanted to make cleaning litter on the streets a cool thing, he began working with other joggers. However, he soon discovered that cleaning litter while jogging is already a rage in countries like Sweden and that the activity is known as plogging.
“We were wondering how to make this look cool without a cool name. Then we discovered it was already known as plogging,” says Bevli, founder, Ploggers of India. Interestingly, Bevli is also known as the ‘Plog man of India’.
In the past two years, Bevli has organised 300 plog events across 21 cities. He is currently on his way to cover 50 cities as part of his ‘Run to Make India Littler Free’ campaign in 50 days, traversing 1,000 kms. The campaign, which will cover cities like Kochi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kolkata and Chennai, will end in November.
Highlighting the efforts of Mahatma Gandhi to promote cleanliness, he says, “Gandhi promoted these kinds of activities, where he says each of us should be a scavenger.”
Making it a movement
Bevli’s bid to make plogging a mass movement had echoed well in Chennai and the Eco Club of the 100-year-old Women’s Christian College in the city had launched a similar event earlier this year.
Besides, the Greater Chennai Corporation had also launched a plogging challenge in the city by encouraging resident groups to participate in the activity at public places with high footfall and in spots where people gather for workout sessions. The first such event was held along the Elliot’s Beach in Besant Nagar that witnessed the participation of groups like Thuvakkam, an NGO, in the activity to clean the surrounding areas.
Krishna Kumar Suresh, founder of the NGO that focuses on education and environment, says that with over 200 participants it was an extremely fulfilling exercise. “We want to sustain it with more such events. Since it is a two-pronged approach, it becomes all the more useful for both participants and the environment,” adds Suresh.
The second edition of the event witnessed the participation of around 600 people who cleaned up the area around Porur Lake.
The Corporation has touted the plogging challenge as one of the measures promoting source segregation and putting an end to single-use plastic.
Good for health and environment, but beware
Dr. P Nagaraj, a sports medicine expert, endorses the workout technique, but has a word of caution as well. “While the squatting, sitting and stretching movements are good for you, one should also be mindful of the need to recover during such activities,” he says.
“Those working out regularly or even those who don’t, need to take a break after every 15 minutes. Too much of strain while plogging can also lead to dehydration and injuries,” adds Dr. Nagaraj.
Plogging, he says, is a great physical and psychological exercise, and is about “excellent coordination and is beneficial in many ways.” “The psychological gratification is also due to the environmental factor,” he adds.
But, one must also be aware of their bending and lifting techniques while plogging, says Dr. Madhu Thottappillil, team doctor, Chennai Super Kings. “Ploggers should do adequate back and core strengthening work. Bending and lifting put a lot of strain on the back,” says the doctor.
Need awareness, say activists
Meanwhile, green warriors claim that besides undertaking clean-ups, one must also spread awareness to reduce littering on the streets.
“Green marathons and plogging are a great way to ensure that we are in cleaner surroundings, but what about those who continue to litter mindlessly, thinking that someone will pick their garbage up?” questions Sripriya Ramachandran, a volunteer with ‘Namma Ooru Foundation’ that has been batting for creating awareness against littering.
“Shouldn’t we also be emphasising on creating awareness to ensure that people are more conscious about the way they dispose of garbage?” she asks.
And that’s exactly the point, echoes Bevli, to bring about a behavioural change. “I am not just looking at the clean-up. We want to make people understand how simple it is to stop littering. Through plogging, we are aiming at zero waste and giving up single-use plastic,” he says.