Dirty Work Image Credit: Verve
Dirty Work Image Credit: Verve

Dirty Work

Goan resident Clinton Vaz has been working hard for two decades to instil a sense of civic responsibility in the community, having caught the attention of the local government when he was in his early twenties. Joanna Lobo converses with the hands-on eco-warrior, who is tackling the mounting garbage problem in India’s favourite holiday destination by changing its system of waste management

Joanna Lobo

On the surface, Clinton Vaz, 37, seems like an ordinary man. He lives with his wife, Emma, in Colva, a coastal village in South Goa. He has a nine-to-five job and gets weekends off. He loves travelling and working on farms. He is tall and of slight build, with a shy smile, and wears baggy pants, or jeans and T-shirts. But if you dig beneath, you’ll find that there’s more to him than meets the eye — just like the cause that he champions. For the last 20 years, Vaz has been the face of Goa’s garbage movement, working with municipalities, educational institutions and individuals to help reduce the mounting trash problem.

Vaz’s journey began by accident. When he was a young student of 19, his family moved from the bustling city of Margao to the quieter coastal Benaulim. He soon found that the village had no waste management system. “There were no bins or trucks for the disposal of garbage. Neighbours just told us to chuck it into the fields or river, so I realised that I had to handle things myself,” he says.

He spoke to waste pickers and gave them around 25 per cent of the garbage from his home. A composting course helped him reduce the waste produced by another 50 per cent. Around the same time, he teamed up with a group of Swedish students working on an environmental awareness project in Goa, which led to the formation of the Benaulim Environment Trust (BET). He visited Sweden in 2003, on a three month study tour, and bu

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