The world’s first Marine Cemetery at Kozhikode in Kerala, India is making a compelling statement on the state of the marine life of the country and the world.
Did you know that the amount of plastic we have generated on earth is actually enough to create a walkway to another planet? Well as startling as it sounds, this is true and what is disheartening is that water and plastic pollution along with overexploitation and climate change have caused the extinction of 15 marine species and threatens the lives of 700 more currently.
World Wildlife Conservation Day is celebrated in 4th December every year and this year the southern state of Kerala opened the world's first Marine Cemetery. Made out of single-use plastic bottles the cemetery is located at Beypore beach, Kozhikode. Built by Jellyfish Watersports and Beypore Port department, the effort has been driven by climate activist Aakash Ranison. The idea behind this place is that it aims to spread awareness about the devastating effects of single-use plastic, urban and industrial pollution and overfishing. Aakash Ranison, climate activist says “This Marine Cemetery is built to jolt mankind, to make them realize the blunder they have done. Parallelly we want to educate them about the fact that flora and fauna in and around our rivers and oceans are on red alert and let them know it is time to take steps towards course-correction.” Incidentally more that 50 percent of beach litter is plastic waste. This Cemetery pays respect to eight critically endangered marine species as well as the endemic freshwater fish, Miss Kerala (Sahyadria denisonii). The marine species representing their endangered marine family includes Seahorse (Hippocampus), Parrotfish (Scariidae), Leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea), Eagle Rays (Aetomylaeus vespertilio), Sawfish (Pristidae), Dugong (Dugongidae), Zebra shark (Stegostoma fasciatum) and Hammerhead shark (Sphyrnidae). S. Sambasiva Rao, District Collector, Kozhikode, opined, “the marine cemetery is a reminder of the destruction that we are bringing upon our planet in the name of convenience and this initiative is part of the Clean Beach Mission to spread awareness about the effects of single-use plastic. We also want for Kozhikode to become a sustainable travel destination.”
Jellyfish Watersports, a local organization has been combining recreational water activities with spreading awareness about plastic pollution for the last six years. Over 100 paddlers cleaned the Chaliyar River while paddling a 68 km stretch and pledged to give up one single-use plastic use. Over 80 people collected about 800 kilograms of garbage from Beypore Beach and over 200 people participated online and pledged to give up a single-use plastic with the aim to create healthier ecosystems. The team chose the Beypore beach as the place to set up this Cemetery, since this is where the Chaliyar River merges into the sea. Thanks to the Beypore Port department and Clean Beach Mission, District Administration, Kozhikode, for it was their support that made sure the team got all the approvals and managed to open the gates to this cemetery on the World Wildlife Conservation Day.
NO TO PLASTIC
The organization’s philosophy Paddle to Preserve believes that you preserve only what you love and paddling is a way to build a strong connection with water bodies. Between August and November 2019, they initiated the drive to collect garbage in Chaliyar River Paddle and joined hands with Aakash Ranison a climate activist and involved paddlers and locals to clean the Beypore beach. The team has worked to encourage people to pledge to discard one single-use plastic from their lives as a start. After the devastating floods in Kerala August 2018, Kaushiq Kodithodi, founder Jellyfish Watersports was kayaking in the Chaliyar River and was horrified to see the volume of plastic in the surrounding areas.
“We, humans, are digging the graves for these marine species, literally. We have used and abused single-use plastic creating havoc in our water bodies and rapidly pushing marine life towards mass extinction. So we thought let us show people exactly what they are doing, by creating an installation that acts as a constant reminder,” says Kaushiq. The team wants people to stop and reflect on the damage that we all have done. At the same time, they want to drive people to take action, to reject single-use plastic. The team is encouraging people to pledge to discard at least one single-use plastic item from their everyday lives. “Over 500 people have joined hands in this fight against plastic pollution. Let us all pledge to reject plastic, and let us all start doing it now because our marine species have been waiting for us to wake up from our slumber," signs off Kaushiq. With an aim to spread awareness about the devastating effects of single-use plastic, urban and industrial pollution, and overfishing, the Marine Cemetery is open to the public and there are no tickets for entry.
Bindu Gopal Rao is a freelance writer and photographer based in Bangalore in India. This is her second article in the Wildlife Watch Binocular. Wildlife protection is close to her heart. She is particularly interested in conservation and rehabilitation of wild animals. Her work is documented on Instagram: @bindugopalrao and her webpage: www.bindugopalrao.com