A series of photographs by Kochi-based eco-tourism entrepreneur and photographer Praveen Muraleedharan that depicts plastic pollution in India is on show at Sainte-Thorette till July 4
On one of his routine visits to Valparai in Tamil Nadu, naturalist, photographer and eco-tourism entrepreneur Praveen Muraleedharan saw something 20 feet away from the road that would trouble him for days to come. He committed the scene — a lion-tailed macaque toying with a plastic bottle to his camera. “To see the endangered macaque in the forest, in its natural habitat, playing with plastic was distressing to say the least. Just what are we doing to this planet?”
This image, with many other photographs Praveen took depicting plastic pollution are on show at an exhibition at Sainte- Thorette, France, organised by the Natural History Museum along with ASIE (Association of Solidarity International Education). The solo show contains over 40 images taken from different parts of India that demonstrate how plastic has invaded even forests and water bodies. The theme of the exhibition this year is ‘Plastic Pollution and Possible Solutions’.Praveen’s collection includes images of migratory birds amid what looks like garbage dumps, small mammals in natural surroundings strewn with plastic and beach sides filled with plastic waste. “This is just what we see around us. The pollution extends way beyond our field of vision. Our wetlands, for instance, are filled with trash. Our oceans are the most polluted. Divers often find eels inside plastic bottles and crabs using plastic as shells,” adds Praveen.
A stripe-necked mongoose is seen next to a discarded plastic sheet
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Once, when he was driving down to Kochi from Munnar, Praveen narrates, he caught sight of forest cane turtle, also known as the Travancore turtle, making its way to the stream beside the road. When Praveen closely followed it, he was shocked to see the surface of the stream covered with plastic straws. Awareness about plastic pollution can be created only by talking about it constantly, says Praveen, who has led talks on waste management and conservation across platforms. He recently collaborated with the Kerala Tourism department as director of photography for a coffee table book (Keralam Untold) on the lesser known parts of the State.
The immediate need, he says, is to be mindful of the amount of plastic waste we generate. “A hotel with 50 rooms in Munnar, for instance, uses a minimum of 6,000 plastic water bottles a day on full capacity. So that makes it over a lakh and a half bottles used by a single hotel in a month. Imagine the amount of waste generated by the tourist destination during peak season.” While many are switching over to sustainable and responsible ways of functioning, the message still needs to go out to more people. Praveen’s chain of eco resorts in Kerala, Nectar Experience, does not use plastic on the premises.
Some wedding photographers and couples who flock to scenic spots to get that perfect frame, often don’t take care to clean up after the shoot. “A number of such spots in and around Kochi are filled with trash,” he says. Praveen is planning a showcase of his ‘Plastic Pollution’ photographs in Kerala in association with the Alliance Francaise. The exhibition will be on in France till July 4. Along with the photography showcase, the event includes seminars, workshops on conservation and music.