“Mangrovia” was the first green project we organized and we all were excited about how this would turn out to be. The intention of the project was to clean a polluted forest of mangroves in Attaragoda. On the 29th of January nearly 40 Rotaractors gathered at the University premises early in the morning with the excitement of taking part in the project. The bus came in to the university around 6am and we all hurried and got in to the bus. No matter where we go we make sure that the travelling part is the most fun filled. We UOC FOS Rotaractors have one game which is kind of a tradition and we always do it on the way to our destination; it involves two teams, say A and B. One team member from A group has to act a song which is given by group B without telling what the song is and the members of group B must figure out what the song is.
We got off from Attaragoda around 10am and we were all set to begin work. As we started walking in to the mangrove forest it was very obvious to everyone that the Chairperson for the project Rtr. Isurika (who was the most excited person about the project and the one who took initiative) was kind of disappointed, “There were tons of rubbish here and there the first time I came here, I can’t see anything today”. She was really upset and that was the very first time I saw a person being that upset about not having rubbish in a place!! It’s hilarious though we all loved to see a place clean, don’t we?
We split into groups while walking into the forest and after going half way Rtr. Isurika was more than happy to see around 20 bottles floating on water, “OMG looks there’s like 20 bottles floating over there”. All her sadness went away with the sight of those bottles and there was a big smile on her face, “Someone ask Alwis malli (official photographer) to come and take a photograph of these!” that’s how excited she was!!
“Shall we stop here then?” Rtr. Gayasha suggested and myself, Rtr. Jayani, Rtr. Hansani, Rtr. Nirun, our IPP Rtr. Bhasura, Rtr. Chapa, and Rtr. Shalitha formed a group and that was definitely our destiny. IPP Rtr. Bhasura started collecting those bottles using a rake which we had brought. After a while he said “Seems like there is more under the water” and Rtr. Nirun and Rtr. Shalitha went to help him out. Myself and Rtr. Chapa got hold of a big lot of broken glasses, glass bottles and bulbs and we started cleaning them. Rtr. Jayani, Rtr. Hansani and Rtr. Gayasha were trying to pull out some polythene stuck with soil since there was nothing much to do. “This seems endless” Rtr. Bhasura said all of a sudden and it was true. We girls helped them to get garbage out of the water and all of them came out with a really bad smell. I still can recall that strong bad odor and how stinky they were because I feel like it is stuck in my nose. We all felt puckish but still we were able to clean and collect most of the garbage. Our IPP Rtr. Bhasura did a great job with Rtr. Nirun and Rtr. Shalitha removing garbage from water. As per his own words he wonder if he ever did this much amount of work for a project even during his tenure as the president of the club. While we were cleaning the garbage Rtr. Pavani made and bought us drinks which tasted heavenly that day, that’s how tired we were.
Water was polluted with all kinds of dyes and garbage bags which people had thrown in to it, oil and left over alcohol bottles. We collected as much as we could and the place we cleaned hit the highest with ten bags; four bags which included various electronic waste. One group had found a set of clothes; apparently leftovers from a garment. The garbage we found were definitely from a hotel or a restaurant; it included milk packets, straws, rice, bottles etc. We finished cleaning around and had our lunch sitting in the middle of the forest. Villagers appreciated our work and they were kind enough to offer us yoghurt as desert.
After the garbage tractor from the Municipal Council came, no matter how tired we were we all wanted to go on a ride in that. Those are the little things we enjoy. We helped that uncle to load the garbage we found into the tractor and the project came to an end with a great success. We were able to clean and remove a tractor load of garbage from that mangrove forest.
There is one special person we are thankful to and that is Uncle Micheal. He helped us throughout the day in numerous ways; showing us the way, providing us with water and all the necessities. He was one hell of a kind hearted person.
After the project we all needed to relax so we went to Galle fort for a sea bath. Then we left Galle to come back home with a satisfied mind due to the success of the project.
On a finishing note Mangrove forests are home to a large variety of fish, crab and Mollusca species and mangroves protects shore lines from damaging strong waves and floods. They maintain water quality and clarity, filtering pollutants and trapping sediments originated from land. It’s our responsibility to protect the mangroves. It was my pleasure to support in protecting this valuable resource and I know everyone who joined with us that day felt the same.
Written by Rtr. Akshila Anurangi