Shwe Myintzu Pagoda Cleanup
Shwe Myintzu Pagoda is the largest tourist site in Indawgyi. It is home to one of the four floating pagodas in Myanmar and attracts upwards of 150,000 people yearly to its annual festival. If you have never been to a pagoda festival in Myanmar, it is a combination of serious ritual and prayers along with a great time featuring shopping, an incredible array of food, and often carnival rides. After the visitors leave, however, their marks are left on the land.
A month after the festival has ended, there is still garbage everywhere. It is important to remember that these are not some fairgrounds, but the rice fields of local farmers and the shores of the Indawgyi Lake UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. It’s dry season now, but in only a couple months, the rain will start and anything left on the side of the lake will be washed into it.
During the festival, there were different attempts to keep things clean, but the job is honestly massive and a lack of education and infrastructure both at the event and within the country, in general, has created the fields of waste that litter this sacred site.
So far, we have cleaned nearly a kilometer along the northern shore, around the monastery and some of the main road. We will spend a couple more days out there and we cannot thank the individuals working with us enough.
It is the beginning of the hot season here and the sun is intensely bright even early in the morning and our only tools are our hands individually picking up both large bits of plastic and tiny slivers no larger than a pinky. We all agree the worst culprit is the plastic ties used to hold bamboo structures together. There are thousands flying everywhere around the area.
We know that we are not going to be able to clean everything, but it is a solid start and from this, we have learned invaluable insights to apply to next year’s pagoda festival hopefully preventing some of the plastic waste from accumulating in the first place.
If you want to join us, we’ll be out there until Wednesday afternoon. Don’t forget to bring plenty of sunscreen, water, and if you have a few good jokes to crack while we are there, that’d be great too.