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Death by Plastic: Climate Activist Builds Funeral Pyres Out of Bottles to Highlight Pollution

The three pyres of plastic pollution at Freedom Ghat, Rishikesh.

The three pyres of plastic pollution at Freedom Ghat, Rishikesh.

The installation is located at Freedom Ghat, just 50 metres from Laxman Jhula, where tourists will get to see three 'chittas' made from plastic pollution, each highlighting how humans' action may be the cause of the death of our own species.

Do you think twice before tossing a disposable water bottle you bought at a tourist spot? If you're one of the better ones, you'll look for the nearest bin instead of littering, but disposing the bottle itself adds to a much larger problem: Single-use plastics.

Indians on an average generate almost 26 kgs of single-use plastic in a year. 26 kgs which are usually not recycled, get broken down into microplastics and ultimately find their way to our food chain.

Basing his newest art installation on these 26 kgs, climate change activist Aakash Ranison, who went viral last year for his marine cemetary in Kerala, has come up with the idea for his latest exhibition.

"The only way to make people realize the consequences of their actions is holding a mirror up to them" says Ranison in an interview with News18. After Marine Cemetary, the new exhibition focuses on the eventual outcome of plastic pollution: Death.

In Rishikesh, which attracted over 6 lakh tourists in 2018 alone, single-use plastic pollution is very common: clogging the main attraction, the Ganga, littering the Laxman Jhula, and becoming one with the general scenery on streets.

The most common three things of the plastic pollution, according to Ranison were plastic bottles, wrappers and containers. These three became the central theme for his art installation.

Spending over four months in Rishikesh, Ranison along with a team of volunteers, and local NGO 'Clean Himalayas' collected plastic waste from popular tourist sites like rivers, waterfalls, etc and then turned the plastic bottles into three chitta (Hindi for death bed) pyres: each representing the three most common plastic pollution elements.

"I wanted people to see visually, that it's not just plants and species. You end up killing yourself as well," says Ranison. The point of the installation is simple, "To make the invisible killer visible," says Ranison.

Ranison explains why its easier for people to ignore plastic pollution while travelling: "It's convenient to buy a bottle of water and then discard it, than carrying your own and filling it with filtered water," he says. "They don't think twice about it. Maybe holding the reality of it will change it," he adds.

The installation is located at Freedom Ghat, just 50 metres from Laxman Jhula, where tourists will get to see three chittas made from plastic pollution, each highlighting how humans' action may be the cause of the death of our own species.

Interestingly, Ranison's philosophy about 'holding a mirror up' also turns literal - a very little mirror is placed in the center of the pyres, to highlight the fact that the culprit and the cause behind the plastic pollution is only the human himself.