Garbage Burning Menace: Smoke Serpents of Toxicity

Posted on August 16, 2011 in Society

By Ateendriya:

With the level of pollution increasing rapidly with each passing day, and the living conditions in nature worsening, one would think people would have finally started to realize the gravity of the situation. What I see every day, though, around me in my own neighbourhood is astounding and contradictory to this basic concept of common sense. The other day I woke up to a foul smell seeping into my room through the open window. Stepping out of the balcony, what greeted me was a fine display of human stupidity. Plastic material, leaves and branches, and all kind of common trash heaped up in a pile and set on fire in the park in our residential campus. The toxic fumes rose up in the air in a sinister way, making their way into the lungs of every person walking around or living in near proximity.

But shocking as this may sound, it is not a scene that surprises me anymore. I first noticed this rampant practice in my neighbourhood when I moved in, some 10 years ago. This practice is not openly condoned by almost all that live here, but also shamelessly practiced by them with no regard for the environment. Almost every other fortnight, the people would dump their non-biodegradable trash around in the park in spite of there being a regular garbage collector in the neighbourhood. This extra trash from almost every household is allowed to pile up for a few days, till the gatekeeper kindly decided to set fire to it and purge the place. Ironic, since he’s probably the one inhaling most of the poisonous fume.

When I realized that this was a regular feature in my neighbourhood, ignorant of the fact that the residents extend their full co-operation to this mission of destroying our planet, I decided to enlighten the gatekeeper about how harmful what he did was. I’m not sure if he realized the graveness of the situation, but out of respect he agreed to not do it again. Several days later- what do I find but more poison making its way comfortably into my home. Enrage I ran downstairs to holler at the gatekeeper. Some angry words later I realized that the meek man was not at fault. The neighbours had asked him to burn the trash to get rid of it. The horror! Educated people, with children aspiring to be engineers and what not, promoting such blatant pollution causing activities! Maybe they needed to be told to re-think their actions. Or so I thought. So I told to gatekeeper to spread the word and refuse to burn anymore trash even if asked.

Some days later, I found more trash burning, and the poor gatekeeper begging me to not make him do things that’d cost him his job. Apparently, this friendly advice that I’d decided to share, benefitting not only me but everyone on the block, had caused a huge uproar among the neighbours. They seemed to have taken it as a personal affront to be told off (in no rude terms) by the gatekeeper and even more so by the fact that a mere child (that’s what I seemed to them, apparently) had dared to cross the oh-so-wise elders. I was confounded, and completely at a loss as to what to do to counter this resentment. As it turns out, there was nothing I could do. Talking to them led nowhere since they just brushed me off. In Sunday-meetings for the welfare of the society no one would pay attention to a 15 year old “kid” or even if an adult offered to present my point of view they would just dismiss it as a “minor” problem. Circulars didn’t help either.

I’m not the kind to give up easy, but admittedly, in this case I saw no option. Calling NGOs or other environment activists wouldn’t help any when the victims themselves are hell-bent on being victims. Some frustrated tries and a couple of months later I eventually, ashamed as I am to admit it, gave up. The least I could do was tell the gatekeeper to try and burn the refuge, if he absolutely must, away from the buildings so it wouldn’t affect the people directly.

This recurring problem in my neighbourhood, which goes on till date without a cure, has made me realize that people have not yet realized the extreme harmful effects of their actions. It is time, I think, for the people who feel enraged, and rightly so, at this act of violence against nature and the present and future generations, to come together and join their voices in protest against the perpetrators.