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Steps to Start Winning the Losing Battle Against Pollution

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Nitasha Kapila:

Pollution takes many forms. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the ground where we grow our food, and even the increasing noise we hear every day – all this contributes to health problems and a lower quality of life. We need to find out the environmental issues of pollution, what is being done on a global level and what we can do in our community. There are very many environmental problems, but at present one of our major concerns is pollution, on which we need to give a second thought. India is the world’s fifth-biggest polluter; a new study confirmed on April 11, 2010, India is also suffering from the effects of global warming such as rising temperatures and sea levels along its coasts.

As far as India is concerned, environmental problems in India are growing rapidly. The increasing development, globalization and a rapidly growing population that has taken our country from millions to about one billion people today is putting a strain on the environment, infrastructure and the country’s natural resources which are being badly overexploited. Industrial pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land degradation are all worsening problems. Over exploitation of resources be it land or water and the industrialization process has resulted in environmental degradation. Environmental pollution is one of the most serious problems facing humanity and the other life forms on our planet today.

There are a lot many issues of concern, but in this article, I will highlight a few of them, the things we overlook which can bring great harm to us.

Impact of littering: When we travel on highways or embark on a long distance journey, we generally carry eatables along and do not bother while littering waste around. We need to correct our ways and strengthen laws to prevent it. Environmentalists consider littering a nasty side effect of our convenience-oriented disposable culture and once littered, wind and weather move waste from streets and highways to parks and waterways. A study found that 18 percent of litter ends up in rivers, streams and oceans.

Cigarettes butts, snack wrappers and take-out food and beverage containers are the most commonly littered items. Cigarettes are one of the most insidious forms of litter: each discarded butt takes years to break down, all the while leaching toxic elements into soil and waterways.

Incineration of dry leaves: Now it is illegal to burn leaves in so many places as it is hazardous to burn them. Burning fallen leaves has been practiced since long, but most municipalities now ban or discourage the incendiary practice due to the air pollution it causes. The wise thing to do is to gather and pick up these leaves and other yard waste and turn them into compost for park maintenance or for sale commercially. There are other fire-free options as well.

Mainly because of the moisture that is usually trapped within the leaves, they tend to burn and thus generate large amounts of airborne particulates – fine bits of dust, soot and other solid materials. Then these particles can reach deep into our lung tissue and cause coughing, wheezing, chest pain, breathlessness and sometimes long-term respiratory problems. Leaf smoke may also contain hazardous chemicals such as monoxide, which can bind to haemoglobin in the bloodstream and reduce the amount of oxygen in the blood and lungs. A noxious chemical present in leaf smoke has been shown to cause cancer in animals and is believed to be the major factor in lung cancer caused by cigarette smoke.

Moreover breathing in leaf smoke can irritate the eyes, nose and throat. It can really wreak havoc on small children and people with asthma or other lung or heart diseases.

Composting leaves is the most eco-friendly alternative to burning. Dry leaves alone will take a long time to break down, but mixing in green materials, such as grass trimmings, will speed up the process. The pile should be occasionally mixed to keep a good supply of air in the compost. Another option is to shred leaves for use as mulch for your own lawn or to protect garden and landscape plants, which will provide many benefits, including weed suppression, moisture conservation and moderation of soil temperature.

Impact of sugar: The industry is no friend to the outdoor environment. Sugar in present in products we consume every day, yet we rarely give a second thought to how and where it is produced and what toll it may take on the environment. Sugar production does indeed take its toll on surrounding soil, water and air. In fact, sugar is responsible for more biodiversity loss than any other crop, due to destruction of animals’ natural habitat to make way for sugarcane plantations, its intensive use of water for irrigation, its heavy use of agricultural chemicals, and the polluted wastewater that is routinely discharged in the sugar production process.

Though these issues are very minor they lead to major losses; so we should keep a check on them and the government should strengthen its laws and properly implement them. Since pollution has already shown its degrading impact in reference to the issue of climate change, it can be critically observed how just by taking small but effective precautions every individual responsible citizen of this world can contribute in sustaining a healthy environment for our posterity.

image: http://gangajal.org.in/blog/wp-content/uploads/2009/01/river-yamuna-full-of-plastic-bags.jpg

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  1. susmita patnaik

    it is good

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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