World Environment Day: Key Areas India must work upon in 2018
As we celebrate India’s commitment to ‘beat the plastic pollution’ on June 5th, let us ponder upon the poor quality of life Indians continue to live due to increasing pollution and lack of hygiene.
Every year, June 5th is observed as World Environment Day- a day dedicated to the interaction of human beings with their environment. Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, the day is celebrated across the world with a new host country and a specific ‘theme’ every year.
This year, India has been chosen to host the World Environment Day, themed ‘Beat Plastic Pollution, if you can reuse it, refuse it’, owing to its commitment towards doing more for a healthier environment through various integrated efforts across the country.
However, India continues to score poorly on the environmental front, with its carbon emissions growing significantly each year and the poor hygiene and waste management systems across the country.
As we celebrate India’s commitment to ‘beat the plastic pollution’ on June 5th, let us ponder upon the poor quality of life Indians continue to live due to increasing pollution and lack of hygiene. It is natural for a rapidly developing nation to produce large amounts of solid waste as by-products of urbanization, but with adequate planning on multiple fronts, we all can achieve a quality of life that is free from waste and pollution. Here is a quick list of things India must check to act upon its agenda of ‘beating the plastic pollution’.
Effective Implementation of NGT guidelines.
National Green Tribunal is a statutory body established to oversee the environment protection measures in India. The NGT has drafted guidelines related to the use of plastic bags. The guidelines suggest that plastic bags having a thickness of fewer than 50 microns must be banned. However, plastics bags of such thickness constitute only 25% of all plastic bags circulated in markets.
If NGT wants concrete measures to curb plastic bags, it must ban all of them. Often, small-scale vendors and hawkers bear the brunt of such bans and they must be included in a framework that allows them to use cheap and environment-friendly alternatives.
Municipal Waste Management Policies
India generates 150000 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per day, out of which only 83% is collected and less than 30% goes to treatment.
It is observed that Indian public realms are often dominated by huge volumes of unattended solid waste, most of which is constituted by plastic, which not only chokes drains, pollutes land and water, but is also hazardous to animals that often end up consuming the plastic waste.
The flagship initiative of the present government, Swatchh Bharat Abhiyan (Clean India Initiative) has been successful in initiating a public dialogue centered around public hygiene and sanitation in India, but the results have focussed more on eliminating open defecation, and have not shown significant improvements in the area of waste management.
India generates 150000 tonnes of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) per day, out of which only 83% is collected and less than 30% goes to treatment. We need to increase our waste-treatment capacity multiple folds to cater to the ever-growing amounts of waste. Our Korean counterparts show us the way. Despite having a daily generation of 53000 tonnes of MSW by a population of 51 million people, they have effectively kept the waste off the public domains through an efficient solid-waste management system that operates mainly on landfill techniques.
Door-to-Door Waste Collection
The door-to-door waste collection, a strategy that can significantly increase the number of plastics that goes to treatment plants, has been recently introduced as part of The Solid Waste Management bye-laws 2018 in Delhi.
While the move is a long-awaited but welcome step, its holistic implementation is a job to be duly ensured by the civic bodies. Mumbai, the third most waste-generating city in the world, has 55% of its population residing in slums. Hence, it is imperative for the door-to-door waste collection facilities to reach out to the slums and other non-authorized low-income settlements that are often excluded from the dogma of development in our cities.
The low cost and durability of plastic bags are the reasons for their popularity, although the same reasons also prove to be toxic to marine life. Globally, plastic is polluting our oceans as high amounts of microplastics have been found in all the five ocean gyres. It is a widely known fact that about 80% of total maritime plastic debris originates from the land.
The Indian government should take cognizance of the increasing contamination of our beaches and riverfronts, and citizen-partnership should be invited for cleaning up lakes, beaches, and rivers. The recent effort of a community beach-clean up drive at Versova beach, Mumbai is a fine example of a community-driven initiative to curb maritime pollution.
Refuse instead of Reuse
Having ensued from recurrent waste management lapses and malpractices and coupled with an ignorant and apathetic human behavior towards the environment, the plastic pollution poses treat to a sustainable future.
Reduce-Reuse-Recycle has been the greatest model of citizen-participation in curbing pollution and promoting health and well-being among societies. However, beating the plastic pollution would require additional measures, as the cheap plastic bags often do not have any reuse value. The citizens should be encouraged to absolutely refuse plastic bags. Social innovation and technology should come together with governance to come up with a cheap, utilitarian, and environment-friendly alternative to plastic bags.
Plastic pollution is a rampant menace in India, and it continues to degrade our environment and quality of life. Having ensued from recurrent waste management lapses and malpractices and coupled with an ignorant and apathetic human behavior towards the environment, plastic pollution poses a threat to a sustainable future. It is high time we sought a collective and interdisciplinary action from governments, people, and other organizations committed to working for the environment.
The increasing plastic usage and pollution is a call-to-action for the youth of India. There is a wide scope of social entrepreneurship in the way of curbing plastic pollution. The younger generations who often are more technologically competent should look forward to collaborations among various disciplines, to work out effective solutions to the plastic menace.