For the first time, a scenic hill station in Kerala has got the protection of “green check posts” and round-the-clock vigil by “green army” in a bid to guard its serene eco-system and keep it plastic-free.

Vagamon, a British era plantation town in highrange Idukki district in central Kerala, has now got five check posts at all its entry points under an innovative initiative of the state-run Haritha Keralam (Green Kerala) Mission.

Known for its lush greenery, misty valleys and splendid meadows, the sought-after tourist destination had been chocked by plastic and other non-degradable waste dumped by the visitors for long and the present effort was to reclaim its beauty and protect its serene ecosystem, officials said.

Haritha Keralam, launched nearly four years ago by the state government, envisages a clean and green state through waste management, organic farming and conservation of water resources with the support of the people.

The check posts at Vagamon were the first of its kind in the southern state and the initiative was an experimental model of ‘green tourism’, conceptualised and implemented by the mission, its Executive Vice-Chairperson T N Seema said.

Elappara village panchayat, where the major part of the tourist hub is located, and the district administration have also joined hands with the Haritha Keralam in this endeavour.

As part of the initiative, members of “Haritha karma sena”, the green army, stop vehicles entering into Vagamon at the check posts and screen whether the visitors are carrying any plastic carry bags or other harmful materials.

The ‘green counters’, attached to the check posts, offer tourists eco-friendly articles like cloth bags.

They can deposit plastic bottles and other materials at the ‘bottle booths’, set up at various points, officials said.

Two material collection facilities are open to keep and segregate waste collected at these booths and the state-run ‘Clean Kerala’ company has been entrusted with removal of the waste at particular intervals.

An amenity centre has also been set up near one of the check posts, the officials added.

“It is part of our efforts to make tourism destinations in the state clean and plastic-free. Visitors used to dump plastic and other harmful materials on the way sides and in the beautiful valleys of the place. We hope that the present effort will surely make a difference,” Seema told PTI.

The mission, with the support of the village panchayat and district administration, had also recently carried out a mass cleaning drive at the tourist hub, she said.

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