It’s peak monsoon with Goa witnessing rainfall in excess of 100mm a day on average. The shacks and sea facing hotels have battened down the hatches as the wind howls across.
At first, nothing may seem amiss – after all, beach tourism shuttering for the monsoon is an annual affair. But no sooner does the rain abate and people begin to move out a bit, does the odd foreigner stand out in the crowd. Not unusual in coastal villages of Goa, but certainly uncommon during the peak monsoon months when backpackers from Europe and other parts of the world head back home for the summer or to other destinations.
The pandemic has meant that there were never so many foreigners in Goa in the monsoons as there are this year, with those who have remained behind -- by choice or by fate -- choosing to make the most of their time here.
Pavel Boloyangov, a visitor from Russia, decided to roll up his sleeves and begin collecting garbage at Arambol, a beach village in North Goa that is a popular haunt for foreigners.
“I had arrived in India along with my companion to see majestic temples and holy places, when the pandemic hit. I saw a group of guys gathering plastic in bags and bringing them to a designated area. I started doing the same. Fifteen more people joined. More people from around the world came to the next event. There were many Indians who wanted to join it. More people came to the third event. We cleaned Arambol on a regular basis. This time, I collected a list of 40-50 volunteers from 15 countries,” Boloyangov, who is a professional fighter and stunt performer, said.
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Boloyangov, who is a fitness trainer back in Russia, had first visited Goa in 2017, when he claims to have first noticed unattended piles of garbage in different corners of the tourist paradise. This year offered him the opportunity to do something about it.
“A colleague reported our initiative to Dhiraj Vagale, assistant director of tourism, Goa. The Government responded immediately. Sanjeev Joglekar (an official with the environment department) got in touch with me and offered me help. He sent an officer-in-charge who arranged garbage removal. Besides, he instructed an officer whose company is responsible for cleanliness of the Arambol beach to help us clean Sweet Lake. The Panchayat has provided us with special bags and gloves. Approximately 50 volunteers from many countries including India cleaned Sweet Lake. It took exactly 10 days of hard work,” Boloyangov said.
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