Monday, September 1, 2014

Filth, noise and air pollution in Indian cities…a ticking bomb waiting to explode

Author: Sachin Gupta | Find me on Twitter

While we build new townships, luxury real estate projects, branded homes, shopping malls, highways and what not….People are getting wealthier, buying luxury cars..Dining in star restaurants...wearing branded clothes, watches…but walk past the streets in cities and all we see is stockpile of garbage and filth. Open sewers, high level of noise pollution, air pollution and what we have is a ticking bomb waiting to explode and take away all our wealth and growth in just a matter of few years. Yes, few years. You read it right…

Consider air pollution…Half of the top 20 cities in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 were in India, according to the pollution data released by the WHO in May 2014, which included 1,600 cities. PM2.5 refers to the diameter measured in microns of particulates such as ammonia, carbon, nitrates and sulfate -- which are small enough to pass into the bloodstream and cause diseases such as emphysema and cancer.

Noise pollution in the cities and towns is at record high and adversely affects people’s health: hearing complaints, sleep disturbance, cardiovascular issues, deteriorating work and school performance are some of the more serious effects of this deafening sociological epidemic, which is adding layer upon layer to the nationwide milieu of stress and environmental degradation. In a recent survey of the world’s noisiest cities, the capital New Delhi comes in first, with seven million plus vehicles on its streets every day (more than in India’s three other major cities combined), followed closely by India’s richest and most populous city (with 21 million people) Mumbai and then Kolkata.

As far as solid waste is concerned, we are not far behind. The cities alone generate over 100 million tons of solid waste annually, a large percentage of which is plastic (America by comparison in 2010 generated 31 million tons of plastic waste according to ‘Plastic is Rubbish’), and it is estimated that (if urban populations increase at the current rate) by 2045 they will be churning out nearly 300 million tons a year. New Delhi (population around 17 million) produces almost 700 tons of daily waste, much of which is plastic.

So, this is the enormity of situation we find ourselves in. Although, the focus on growth is justifiable in order to lift millions out of abject poverty, but surely, environment can’t be neglected. The polluted air we breathe, the noise around us, the filth around us needs to be controlled.

On his Independence Day speech, Prime Minister Narendra Modi talked about the ‘Swacch Bharat’ or ‘Clean India’ campaign that will be launched on 2nd October 2014. The whole campaign is dedicated to Mahatma Gandhi’s 150th birth anniversary in 2019.

But let us ask ourselves, do we really need a campaign for ‘clean India’? Much of the pollution that we are accustomed to in our daily lives is nothing but the making of our bad habits. In last 3-4 decades we have developed bad and lazy habits and that has destroyed our cities and our flora & fauna.

While government bodies, municipalities, NGOs, and activists may or may not come up with clean India initiatives. The citizens can do their bit by getting rid of the ‘bad and lazy’ habits.

What are these ‘bad and lazy’ habits? We all have read about these habits in our school text books, or watched a documentary or on social media…but let’s repeat them here.

Ok, we can’t move without the car….but can we stop the engine at traffic signal? Can we use the clean fuel? Can we pool the car for going to office? Can we not honk, yes its possible mate? Can we use the metro rail whenever feasible? Can we not throw the chips wrapper outside or any plastic bag outside on the road? Can we stop spitting on the road? Yes, it can be done.

Ok, as a growing company, we will produce waste including solid and liquid….but can we not purify the liquid waste? Can’t we dump the solid waste in accordance with the government or municipalities guidelines? Can’t we show the same kind of exuberance that we exhibit in production?

Ok, as a household, we will continue to buy stuff and produce waste….but can we not use homemade bag for carrying vegetables, fruits, groceries? Can’t we minimize the use of plastic bags? Can’t we dump the waste as per the procedure laid down by the local municipal body?

What the heck government got to do with all of this? Certainly, it’s our duty. Just like we like to live in a clean home….can’t we extrapolate this thinking to whole environment around us? The road outside our house belongs to us, the road on which we drive our car belongs to us, the air we breathe belongs to us, the water we drink belongs to us, then, why this apathy towards the environment around us? Let’s not point fingers at the government or municipalities for all of it.


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