Six youngsters from Odisha — Soumya, Dilip, Prabhakar, Santosh, Susant and Suman — decided on September 27 to clean the 24 km long Astaranga beach in Puri by picking up the waste with bare hands. They collected as much as five tonnes of waste from the beach.

This is not the first time for these six youngsters. They have been active in raising awareness about cleanliness and volunteering to clean beaches since 2014. They have also started a movement for the protection of the Olive Ridley turtles.

The Astaranga stretch of the Puri beach provides the visitors with an enchanting view of the Devi river meeting the seawater. It is also home to the Olive Ridley turtles, who are otherwise found only in Rushikulya and Gahiramatha.

“The government acknowledges the importance of conservation of these sites, but little gets done on the ground. Moreover, the other beaches get more attention as they have more tourist value. The Astaranga beach gets sidelined in the process,” Soumya said as quoted by The Better India.

“We wanted to make the habitat safer for turtles. At a distance, the beach looks clean. But its white sand camouflages the huge amounts of waste. We use to wake up at 4 am to clean the beach carrying 20 litres of water and some food for the day. We did not return home for meals or breaks,” she explained.

Dilip, another member of the group, joined in by saying: “The first ten days went well as we covered a beach around 7 km long from our homes. But the effort began to increase as we had to walk for more distances to clean the stretch and again return the same distance.”