Callousness of Human Species

In the ongoing battle between humankind and ecology, there have been and will be considerable losses at both the ends. For each time humans conceive of something to make their lot easier, it backfires on the nature’s front. The world over hoopla on the introduction of plastic containers and carry bags, till it became highly extensive and the only used product in most countries, is a testimony enough!

That polythene is not capable of degrading in the soil and can reduce its fertility are facts even toddlers seem to be familiar with. The rampant burning of plastic waste near residential places is an everyday sight, even in the most urbanised towns in many developing countries. These onslaughts of polythene popularity were probably reasons big enough to create anger and eventual resentment among the more mindful minds in not just the west but several developing societies as well. Ecologists and environmental scientists have been providing shreds of evidence as well as warnings against polythene, potential enough to cajole a majority of people to adopt healthier alternatives since the last five to six years.

Thanks to the eventual implementation of Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, and The Plastic (Manufacture, uses and Waste Management) Rules, the rampant plastic bag use has visibly tumbled down and the paper or fabric bag initiative of bigger retail brands, the planet over, has been quite phenomenal in the entire country. However, inept and haphazard implementation coupled with a largely indifferent behavior of the community, plastic waste heaps continue to adorn the streets, parks and empty sites across many of our towns and cities. Nothing demonstrates human high handedness more than the assumption that they are the worst affected species due to plastic and polythene abuse. When in fact, the actual victims happen to die every day, unsung and unnoticed. Underfed and abandoned animals and most noticeably aquatic species have been time and again ingesting the plastic poison thrown down by us humans. Most such animal deaths have become too routine to even attract panic from the authorities concerned. Whereas plastic bags have been instrumental in bringing about slow death to the environment and consequently humans, for the ingenuous animal lot it has meant instant choking and tremendous trauma. Despite local and national campaigns world over and several organisations working on solid waste issues, any radical intervention by the community or punitive action by authorities looks rather remote in several such societies.

This is just a melancholy expression of the guilt and sadness that envelops me as I see the rampant use of polythene and plastics products across the city of Dehradun and in the state of Uttarakhand at large. As the monsoon swipes over the once verdant landscape of the hilly capital, large drains and rivulets end up becoming rock bed of debris and discarded polythene waste which stagnates the water, causing grave health hazards later on.

These are further abused by people as open dumping sites for residential and commercial trash. A weekly estimate from municipal bodies on the animal deaths as they graze on these rivulets turned dumping spots and end up choking themselves, would bring to light the misery that inappropriate waste disposal is triggering year after another.

The once prolific Bindal and Rispana rivers, which navigate through several areas of the city, are now being termed as dying rivers due to their utter ossification as construction and residential waste has been trickling down their basins all these years.

Despite State governments whistle blowing and river revival strategies in recent months, a holistic and community participative approach is the only way out, if we are to restore the much-eroded ecosystem of our unique and topographically sensitive state and capital city. Yet the decaying of our environmental heritage makes me cringe at the callousness of my own species, somehow.

During my tenure with municipal corporation Dehradun I developed a close insight into the ecological complications which polythene use and disposal had created. How it endangers human and animal life, by polluting water bodies and choking street animals. Inappropriate burning practices churn up toxic chemicals in the air. This mandates immediate initiatives to curtail and abolish its use. We actively indulged awareness creating mechanisms like organising workshops seeking people participation, attempting a stricter enforcement of rules under the supervision and guidance of district administration. However half-baked law enforcement and lack of community sensitisation has resulted in prolific polythene usage until now. This milestone Government initiative of prohibiting polythene since April 1, 2018 should be received with proactive efforts by people in the State. It is high time this menace affecting millions has to be put an end to. People have to rise up to the opportunity and extend wholehearted cooperation whenever necessary to the authorities in doing the needful.

Environmentalist