It’s funny as well as a thing of shame that a foreigner on the go has to take up the mantle of cleaning up an Indian city. Anastasia was in India on a spiritual quest, but when found locked in the country during the pandemic, she chose to fill her days with cleaning up the plastic-littered spaces in and around the otherwise serene Kasol in Himachal Pradesh
What brought you to India?
I was traveling across some Asian countries and then I bought a ticket to India as my spiritual guru lives here. I was to return to Russia in 2020, but then the lockdown started and I got held up. Back in Russia, I ran a small business wherein I made costumes for shows and events.
What got you interested in cleaning up plastic-littered places?
Well, this isn’t the first time that I have taken up a cleaning activity. During my world tours in the past, I cleaned up oceans, say in countries like Ireland. Every time I see plastic littered here and there, I see mother nature suffering. As humans, we have caused nature a lot of damage. I want to do my bit.
Do you have a team that cleans up spaces in Kasol?
Nope. It’s only me. At times, I find some volunteers. There was this time when I designed the Disco Cleaning Party program to attract local people in helping me clean the garbage spot on river slope and also to invite media attention for an impact. It will be easier for me if I have people helping me or if local authorities support me in whichever way they could. Say, one of the ways I choose to clean up plastic is to recycle it in the form of a dustbin. I have made large dustbins using 200 used plastic bottles that the tourists throw in Kheerganga. The idea was to make dustbins to help tourists in segregating their waste while dumping it. One dustbin for plastic cover, another for glass bottles, so on. However, it’s difficult for me to make so many dustbins. Help could accelerate the pace of the job.
How about the expense that goes into cleaning up a space?
Since the time I have been in India which is a year, I have had no paycheck. I personally live off the money that my friends help me with. For the clean up drives, at times I need money, say to buy materials to make a poster or run a Facebook Ad. This money comes from donations people make.
Do you have a count of how many Kgs of plastic you have cleaned up?
I don’t always measure. But at least 700 kgs of plastic must have been cleared off so far. At least.
You want to say something to the people and authorities since you seem really troubled seeking support?
To people I want to say — please stop buying products that come in plastic. It feels like we are drowned in the ocean of plastic. There is no ecological way to recycle plastic. Even if we are to consider scientific ways to recycle, it requires synthetic chemicals which in turn harm our planet. Kheerganga is littered with plastic bottles that the tourists throw away after drinking water. I spoke to the authorities if we could have a refill station, that way the tourists will not have to buy bottles again and again. The authorities were in agreement but such activities take time, as local businesses resist any initiative that can cause them a hindrance.