India is the second most populous country, which has about 16% of the world population and 2.4% of the land area. Rapid industrialization in the last few decades have led to the depletion of precious natural resources in India depletes and pollutes resources continuously. Furthermore, the rapid industrial developments have, also, led to the generation of huge quantities of hazardous wastes, which have further aggravated the environmental problems in the country by depleting and polluting natural resources. Therefore, rational and sustainable utilization of natural resources and its protection from toxic releases is vital for sustainable socio-economic development.
Hazardous waste management is a new concept for most of the Asian countries including India. The lack of technical and financial resources and the regulatory control for the management of hazardous wastes in the past had led to the unscientific disposal of hazardous wastes in India, which posed serious risks to human, animal and plant life.
Majority of Indian rivers are polluted because of industrial and human waste. There has been efforts by the state, but they are too little and too late. There has been a sudden increase in the number of deaths of fresh water fishes. The dolphins in the Ganga River have been choking to death in the highly toxic water. “The dolphin needs as much protection as the tiger. It is a flagship species for the river. If the dolphin is gone tomorrow the river will also be dead,” a scientist at WWF, Dr Sandeep Behera says.
The problem is not restricted to rivers or industrial towns. Waste management is a problem that all of us face. No matter how posh an area might be, miserable waste management can be seen. Public parks and roads are often littered with garbage. The processing of the garbage is also not given much thought. It is thrown in the dumping grounds without following the rules required for its management.
Now the big question is, who is responsible? The state or the public?
Public often complain that the government is responsible for clearing out the mess. On the other hand the government feels the citizens are not doing their bit as they continue littering.
The thing is that there should be a partnership between the two, the state should provide the means and the people should take initiative.
In a recent interview Deputy Commissioner of Dakshina Kannada, V Ponnuraj, urged the public to cooperate with the administration to implement the solid-waste management scheme effectively.
He was speaking after inaugurating a workshop on the subject of elected representatives of local self-government institutions, officers and NGO volunteers of undivided Dakshina Kannada district organized by the ministry of municipal administration, state infrastructure development scheme and municipal administration reformation programme here.
Ponnuraj said people have to separate bio-degradable and non-degradable waste at their homes itself so that waste can be managed easily.
In this regard he said that the solid-waste materials should be collected by visiting every household. To avoid pollution, the waste should be directly dumped into the tractors, he said, and suggested involving self-help groups, pourakarmikas, and even outsourcing this work.
Under present circumstances, solid-waste management is a challenge as people have started opposing areas being earmarked for waste management; as they cause damage to the environment. A community-centered scheme involving all would help tackle the problem, he said.
Realising how grim the situation is, the government, NGOs and the local community has been working hard to improve the situation.
India is the first country that has made constitutional provisions for protection and improvement of the environment. In the Directive Principles of State Policy of the Constitution, Article 48-A of Chapter IV enjoins the state to endeavor for the protection and improvement of the environment and for safeguarding the forest and wild life of the country.
In Article 51 A (g) of the Constitution, one of the fundamental duties of every citizen of India is to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wild life and to have compassion for living creatures.
Many state governments are providing free recycling and garbage sorting facilities to local communities. Delhi government has installed many garbage plants and have provided separate dustbins for bio-degradable and non- degradable waste.
NGOs have mobilized people and are working with hospitals to manage and process their waste properly.
The waste management can be a success if all of us do our bit for the environment with full co-operation from the government and NGOs.
The writer is a correspondent at Youth Ki Awaaz
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