We discuss problems of waste in day-to-day life but our discussions disappear helter-skelter in cities. We blindfold our eyes, spritzing fragrance, covering up our nostrils to flee the lethal smell of decomposed wastes that we are producing. I wonder how recklessly the municipal communities are ignoring the problem of mounting waste in our cities.
Even schools and colleges have failed drastically to induce an applied ecological etiquette among their students and when I explore reason of such serious educational decline I find that there is a collapse in the structure of environmental education in our academic institutions. Administrative reluctance and academic ignorance have seriously affected communities at different levels of awareness and capacity building. We are becoming adapted to living in a situation of such ecological crisis of towering waste which is now a serious health hazard and a community conflict. Neither municipal bodies nor communities are conscious of different Waste (Management and Handling) Rules enshrined in the Environment Protection Act. This is a grave state of affairs where we are working on uplifting and upgrading the urban quality of life as an integral part of Human Development Index/HDI but standing at 177 among 180 Countries in overall Environment Performance Index/EPI.
Of the amount of waste collected globally, plastic waste comprises 50% and this is the major reason why Sustainable Development Goal number 11 addresses sustainable cities and communities. We have been measuring the high level of plastic waste in our ecosystem every year since 2015. Now, countries have 12 years left to fulfil promises they have made under the SDGs.
I have been writing about how our local self-governments violate Plastic Waste (Management & Handling) Rules 2015 and how even communities don’t know about their rights and duties.
But to say that the entire country has apparently been failed is not true. There are some hard working politicians, policy makers, planners, organizations, youths and communities who are contributing to counter plastic waste.
Our religious places are a prominent source of single-use plastic waste in India where millions of devotees come to pay their trust. There are a lot of religious structures alongside rivers, ponds and hills. Most religious trusts lack the ability to manage plastics and the waste generated therewith.
One Guwahati based organization in Assam comprising of youths from diverse fields of environment, engineering, economics, humanity etc, has been working on eradicating single-use plastics and educating youths, students and communities to generate applied awareness and capacity building to stand firm against the use of plastics.
While talking to Moharana Choudhury, an eminent member of Voice of Environment behind this entire work plan, he replies that they have an official agreement with two major temple trusts – Kamakhya Temple and Basistha Temple through a memorandum of understanding to create a ‘Clean, Eco-Friendly Plastic Free Zone’ within the temple premise. While elaborating the plan, Mr. Choudhury explains that they have made a separate communication with priests, vendors and communities around temples. They nominated volunteers for this holy cause.
Kamakhya Temple is one of the holiest ‘Shakti-Peetha’ in India where thousands of devotees arrive from all over India daily to worship. The organization is working through a chain of volunteers who have been appointed to discharge different duties – standing at all entry gates to pledge visitors not to bring plastic bags inside the premise of the temple. They are using loudspeakers, hoardings, personal pledges and other means of communications to stop plastics inside temple’s premise. The organization conducts an extensive programme of generating awareness apart from picking up plastic trashes in collaboration with Chief Priest (Bor Doloi), Temple Trusties, Other Priests, Municipal Body, Vendors, communities and devotees. Recently they organized a programme on Earth Day in Kamakhya Devi Temple.
Team Voice of Environment organized two of parallel sessions in Temple Basistha, Guwahati and Public Higher School, Karimganj in Assam, on beating plastic pollution on World Environment Day. Basistha temple is located right beside a stream of river Basistha Ganga which flows through Guwahati City as Bharlu. River Bharlu is almost dead and it has become a choked sewage channel now which a huge load of plastic waste of the entire city into River Brahmaputra near Deepar Beel, a Ramasar designated wetlands of international importance.
Dr. Dhrubajayoti Hazarika, ACS and Circle Officer, Dispur, Bor Doloi Grindramohan Sarma, along with Dr. Sulekha Chakraborty, eminent social worker and Temple Police-in-charge, vendors witnessed this occasion which opened the way for the temple authority to impose a strict ban on the use of single-use plastic within the premise of Basistha Temple. Voice of Environment Members Moharana Choudhury along with McDonald Choudhury, Minakshi Dutta and Kanhaiya Poddar successfully presented a collaborative roadmap of a clean, eco-friendly plastic free zone within the temple’s premise. Dr. Hazarika said, “Plastic is a cosmopolitan problem which chokes out our drainage system. We should avoid the use of plastics by carrying a cloth/recycle/jute bags.” The organization will continue monitoring volunteers on a day-to-day basis with a database to be developed that how much decline would be recorded in a quarter.
We need such focused contribution to fuel our communities and make them aware of their basic rights and duties. The role of communities is decisive in forcing our elected representatives when they are fully aware of laws in the fullest capacity. Hopefully, we will continue our fight against plastic pollution and we won’t stop till we come out with an easy alternative which doesn’t deteriorate our ecosystem.