Meet the 69-year-old paralysed man who cleans Vembanad Lake every single day

Paralysed from the knee down, NS Rajappan collects plastic bottles from Vembanad Lake every day to make a living, and preserve the environment.

Single-use plastics have emerged as the bane of modern life, with most of our water bodies used as dumping grounds. And even though governments try their best to curtail their use, there's no real letup in environmental pollution caused by plastic.

Amid this perpetual problem, 69-year-old NS Rajappan is helping get rid of single-use plastic bottles that were dumped in a lake near his home. Hailing from Kottayam district in Kerala, Rajappan hires a country boat every morning and sets out to collect the plastic waste from Vembanad Lake.

N. S. Rajappan (Image: The Better India)

“I won't get much from this. A boat full of plastic bottles will be less than one kilogram. For a kilogram, I get Rs 12. But, somebody should remove the waste from the water. I have been living around these waters my entire life. I am doing what is possible for me,” Rajappan told The News Minute.

Rajappan suffered from poliomyelitis at a young age, leaving him paralysed from knee down. And, this has left him doing odd jobs. For over half a decade, he has been religiously going to the lake to collect the water bottles. He finds it easier to row a boat than to move along the roads.

“I knew to row a boat earlier. I would like to get a bigger boat of my own so that I can spend some more time, and cover more areas to collect plastic,” he told The Better India.

Once he collects the plastic bottles, he organises them into different sacks and waits for the local agency to collect the sacks every two to three months.

Amid the lockdown due to the ongoing pandemic, the amount of plastic dumped in the lake has also decreased as fewer tourists visit the state. Even though the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his income, Rajappan is happy to see a clean lake.

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Edited by Suman Singh


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