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From Planting Trees To Wastewater Treatment: Tackling Chhattisgarh’s Pollution Crisis

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Chhattisgarh, a state in central India, is suffering from low air quality and air pollution, which is causing a lot of turbulence in the lives of local people. Korba district being the power capital of Chhattisgarh suffers from a significant dip in the Air Quality index due to a rise in pollutants to almost double the level recently. The state human rights commission has demanded a report from the state pollution control board this year stating that the fundamental right to life stands threatened by such a degraded environment.

Also, the National Green Tribunal has directed the Government of Chhattisgarh to allocate ₹335 crores to construct better roads for transporting coal from mines to thermal power plants before March 2021 to minimise air pollution.

Chhattisgarh, situated in the focal of India, has a heavily forested area and is also known for its temples and waterfalls. This state is home to many coal mines and has a lot of coal-fired power plants. Factors like highly polluted air, soil and water have caused residents to suffer for years. Rapidly increasing toxic industrial waste, domestic waste, gas emission from vehicles, etc. can be considered as the vital reason for air pollution in the state capital city, Raipur.

industrial water waste
Water and air samples collected from Kosampali, Kodkel, Dongamahua, Kunjemera and Regaon villages were polluted with a high level of Chromium, Cadmium, Manganese and Selenium.

The report of the Times of India on ELAWs help reveals a severe pollution crisis in this region due to the level of several carcinogenic toxic metals in the water, air and soil not meeting the standards. ELAWs team partner Shweta Narayan with community environmental monitors reached to the villagers to collect the sample of air, soil and water to examine the pollution level from the Raigarh district. And she also stated that villagers were complaining about chronic joint pain, bone deformities, skin allergies, respiratory illness, tuberculosis and many more.

Water and air samples collected from Kosampali, Kodkel, Dongamahua, Kunjemera and Regaon villages were polluted with a high level of Chromium, Cadmium, Manganese and Selenium. The Regaon village even exceeded the Arsenic standards by 1.7 times and Cadmium level by 4.4 times.

Their report found out that 9 out of 12 soil samples from the villages were highly contaminated by fly ash, with Cadmium levels in soil in Regaon village 18 times the safe standard and Chromium levels in Kujemera village more than 3 times the safety standards.

According to research, Cadmium is an insidious toxin that stays in the body for several decades and is the sole and primary cause of kidney diseases. Protecting children against exposure to it should be an urgent priority for everyone. Villagers are demanding the Government to keep a close eye on the emission of poisonous gas’ or particles and the health of the people by cleaning up the contaminated areas.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in 2015 declared Raipur as the country’s most polluted city. The then union minister of environment and forest, A Raja presented a report in parliament based on a study on the presence of suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the air in 52 cities and Raipur ranked the highest.

SPM in the air of Raipur is 250 micrograms per cubic meter (g/m3) while the standard was fixed at 200g/m3, and the concentration of dust particles is 350 parts per millions against the fixed limit is 200 ppm. The respirable particles are 230 ppm; much more than the fixed standards of 100 ppm. It is also believed that the presence of respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) is 3–4% higher than the previously fixed limits. Levels of Iron, Zinc, Nickel, Lead, and Manganese were way higher in the airs of Raipur, causing the city to suffer from poor quality of air.

coal mine
Burning coal in the U.S. and EU may cause more than 10,000 premature deaths each year while in India the number may exceed 1,00,000.

Dr Prabir Chatterjee, director of SHRC Chhattisgarh, conducted a study from December 2018 to January 2019 and took the air samples from different areas such as Kalibadi, Urla, Birgaon, Amlidih and Tatibandh. According to his report, emission from iron and steel manufacturing factories in Raipur and Bhilai are the primary cause of the poor quality of air in Raipur. The high level of Manganese in the air poses a serious risk to the neurobehavioral health issues to the residents of both cities and areas.

And a report by Dr Mark shows that the levels of pollutants from Raipur are comparable and equal to that of Wilmington, the largest and most populated city in Delaware, USA. Burning coal in the U.S. and EU may cause more than 10,000 premature deaths each year while in India the number may exceed 1,00,000.  

Raipur has achieved a reduction in local particulate matter pollution in the last few years. Continuous stack emission monitoring systems were installed in 145 industries and 118 rolling mills. Also, legal restrictions were imposed on particulate matter emission to less than 50g/m3. Further, in 2017, a closure notice was issued to several different industries and 40 functioning mill units for violating the fixed environmental standards. The Government of the state also disconnected the power of several violators and sent notices to others that were out of compliance with air regulations.

Chhattisgarh has adopted an innovative experiment by setting up Gauthanin which a dedicated 5-acre plot is held in common by every village where all the unused Parali is collected through Parali Daan. Then it is converted to organic fertiliser for future use by rural youth. It is an innovative step to mitigate the effects of the stubble burning that leads to a huge climate crisis and pollution in the state.

Measures taken by the Government to curb environmental Issues

  • Officials were ordered to install cloth nets at construction sites. Strong and strict actions were taken against those who didn’t follow this rule.
  • The municipal corporation took several steps to monitor the burning of garbage in open areas.
  • The industrial owner or workers planted 3.5 lakh saplings in the capital industrial region to reduce the pollution level.
  • The state of Chhattisgarh also implemented an advanced, automated solution to deal with environmental and pollution-related issues.
  • Online pollution monitoring machines have been installed in 17 different types of industries which were located near Raipur city in 2016.
  • A helpline number also started to operate where people can lodge complaints regarding violation of noise, air pollutions.
  • Restrictions or bans were imposed on vehicles which are more than 10 to 12 years old.   
  • Private clinics and hospitals were directed to throw their garbage carefully and use more biodegradable products.

The United Nations has made certain recommendations to manage and control air pollution. No doubt from the last few years Chhattisgarh has achieved great success in curbing air pollution. Still, it is required to follow these rules to get better results:

  • Introduce advanced emissions standards to all iron and steel, glass, cement producing plants and chemical factories.
  • There should be special standard rules for road vehicles; heavy and light and diesel vehicles.
  • Do plantation, increase greenery and also put controls to the spread of construction and road dust.
  • Create awareness among people about protecting our environment and strictly enforce a ban on burning household waste.
  • Agricultural residues should be destroyed properly and the Government should ban open burning.
  • Protect the forest and prevent peatland fire through better management of water, forest, land and fire prevention strategies.
  • Start recycling and reusing. Use new initiatives to increase the use of wind, solar and hydropower to produce electricity.
  • Promote the use of electric vehicles.
  • Use clean gases for cooking. Use clean fuels, natural gases, LPG in urban areas and LPG and biomass for cooking and heating in rural villages and substitute coal with briquettes.
  • Motivate people to use public transport more than private vehicles.
  • Encourage people to make their house, office and plants more energy efficient by installing a solar panel on their rooftop.
  • Introduction of energy efficiency standards to all factories and plants.

Due to the insufficient and delayed response from the Government, people are suffering terribly. Here the Government should come forward to take immediate action and measures to control air pollution and to deplete the health of local citizens. No doubt both the Government and citizens of the state are working towards reducing the increasing rate of air pollution; there are still several fields/aspects which they need to give some special attention to get adequate results.

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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.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

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.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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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 psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

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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.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

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.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

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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Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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