Women leaders transform Chinnathurai into a model coastal village

Thanks to 65-year old Delby and her team of 9 energetic women from the fishing community of Chinnathurai, this small coastal settlement in Kanyakumari today is a model village in waste management. The village has become a dengue-free zone since these women have initiated a proper waste management programme supported by an active cleanliness drive.

Coastal areas are among the most densely populated zones worldwide and at the same time subject to rapid environmental changes due to their land-sea interface. Of late, sharp rise in population and land and water pollution, along with a profound lack of awareness, have drastically altered the local environmental milieu of these areas in which the indigenous communities have thrived for generations.

terre des hommes partnered with the HEAL Movement (under the HEAL II BMZ Indien 16-19 project) in Kanyakumari to promote the cause of sustainable development of the coastal areas through coordinated community participation. Delby and her team, who volunteered to devote their time and labour for the betterment of their community, was the first batch to be trained in solid waste management in Chinnathurai under the project. 4 solid waste management units were constructed and uniforms for the volunteers were provided. The local parish council gave land, a shelter for storing recyclable waste, push carts and the waste bins. The 10 women who came forward to take up solid waste management work were appointed as the sanitation workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MREGA Scheme) and were christened as “Women In Lead” group to honour and recognize their service for the community.

As an initial effort the heap of garbage that was piled up on the coast of Chinnathurai over the years was completely removed. Today, as part of the project, waste material collected from 982 households in the village are carefully segregated and dumped in the waste units by the women. The bio-degradable waste is composted and utilized as organic manure for the farms in the neighbourhood while the plastic waste is sold for recycling. The women earn Rs.210 each day under the MNREGA scheme but it’s not the money that matters. “Selling fish in the market would have fetched us more money, but it is the feeling of doing something worthwhile for our community that keeps us going,” they clarify, their voices evoking a sense of pride. Their collective effort as a community has rendered Chinnathurai a dengue free village – a rare feat in Kanyakumari district which has recorded the highest incidence of dengue in Tamil Nadu in the recent years.

The members of the Heal Movement project aim to organize an intensive campaign to motivate the community members to start waste segregation at home, as a next step to a cleaner Chinnathurai. There is also the AVM channel with polluted water near the waste management unit which the women plan to clean and restore joining hands with the youth members in the village.

These spirited women have played an important role in shaping Chinnathurai into a model coastal village. The cleanliness drive and efficient solid waste management programme including recycling of plastic has set an example for and inspired neighbouring coastal communities to reclaim a cleaner environment for a healthier tomorrow.