Kayaking for a cause

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Clean Rivers Initiative (CRI) promotes the usage of our rivers for recreation and creates a connection to the river with youngsters and tourists. The forthcoming Chaliyar River Challenge 2017 is the third annual event to help raise both awareness and funding to clean up rivers in the country.

Clean Rivers Initiative (CRI) is the dream of three men for whom the river is close to the heart. While Kaushiq Kodithodi is the owner of Jellyfish, the watersports centre that hosts the Chaliyar River Challenge, Kaustubh Khade is a kayaker who’s single handedly kayaked the whole west coast of India and has won Asian Silver medals for the country. Brijesh Shaijal is an accomplished architect and former head of the architects group in Kerala. And all three are looking forward to The Chaliyar River Challenge, one of the initiatives of CRI.

To be held this year from September 22 – 24, it is a 70 km river kayaking expedition which will start from Nilambur, located on the foothills of Western Ghats and in close proximity to Nilgiris and will end at Beypore in Kozhikode district, where the river meets with the Arabian Sea.

The three day adventure, a “leave no trace” camping concept offers opportunities at various levels from beginners, non swimmers to well established water sports enthusiasts. Leave No Trace refers to a set of outdoor ethics promoting conservation in the outdoors. It is built on seven principles: Plan ahead and prepare, travel and camp on durable surfaces, dispose of waste properly, leave what you find, minimise campfire impacts, respect wildlife and be considerate of other visitors.

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Speaking on the the inspiration behind this venture, Khade, trustee of Chaliyar River Challenge says, “CRI is a call to action. We started it as three people who took our waters seriously. All three of us are kayakers from different fields of life who want to promote the conservation of our waters through water sports. But now it’s open to everyone. Anyone who aligns with our goals. Kaushiq and Brijesh have grown up near the rivers and me by the sea. We each had a natural inclination to water and the more we got out (river, lakes or the sea), the more we realised that people need to preserve nature.”

He adds, “The Chaliyar River Challenge will take three days to complete. You surrender yourself to the river and it’s three of the most blissful days you’ll spend this year. We call it a challenge because while it’s a beginner grade event, 70 km is quite a lot to cover. That being said, amidst the conversations, the beauty and the lovely home cooked food, you won’t know when you finish the trip.”

The event will include camping, bonfire, team activities and healthy tummy authentic Kerala delicacies. On the riverbank at Marina Convention Centre in Kozhikode at the end of the challenge, the organisers will host an outdoor music concert. For those on the water for the first time, kayak lessons will be offered on the first day to prepare you for the adventure. Stand up paddlers are also invited to join the SUP contingent. Each participant will be given a one person tent at check in. The team leaders will be around to help out new comers to the world of outdoor activities. The tents will have eco-toilet which is ideal combination of comfort and functionality to accommodate full facilities for everyone who refuses to compromise on comfort and hygiene.

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On future plans for CRI, Khade informs, “We work with various events through the year that are water related. Either directly or through Jellyfish. We want to open up events across Kerala and India that will result in a greater love for our waters. Only when we use the waters, will people be compelled to clean up our environment. Or they will fester in neglect.”

Commenting on involvement of the travel agent community to promote its events, Khade says, “We haven’t reached out to the travel agent community yet, but we are very open to the idea. So far we have enjoyed a great response. In our first year we had 20 paddlers but we have grown more than two times that in the last year. This year we are going to expand to 100 paddlers and we are looking at all channels to take this opportunity to the public.”

Chaliyar was earlier a polluted river from the effluents of nearby factory that destroyed the marine life and caused cancer in the local villagers. The Chaliyar Action Committee fought for the cause of river with the support of villagers which resulted in the closure of the factory. Since then the river has come a long way to regain its original beauty and now the organisation of programmes like Kayak for a Cause is helping in creating more awareness about the conservation of rivers.

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