BY MUKHTAR AHMAD FAROOQI
Even though the theme of this year’s World Environment Day was Only One Earth with focus on Living Sustainably in Harmony with Nature but when we see piles of waste everywhere, then how come dream of harmony with nature be actualised. Modernisation of rural areas on one hand has limited the migration of people to cities and improved socio-economic conditions but on the other hand has given semi-urban touch to their living styles. Villages on our part of the world have changed from agrarian hubs to business spaces or concrete monsters. Before the advent and use of plastic products we used to experience nature in its true form in rural areas. People from cities would come to enjoy serene environment of these places but pollution has turned them into dumping sites. With the apparent waste generation due to consumerist mind-set/culture, solid waste management has become a necessity in rural areas too.
We all know that our very existence depends on environment of which man is an integral part, yet he is the arch-enemy of it. His quest to make life very comfortable and more luxurious has made him to turn a blind eye to the damage caused to the environment. Self-centeredness has been the most heartening aspect of environmental degradation because motto of people in present ties goes like “If it suits you, carry on and forget about everything else”.
Several nationwide campaigns have been able to create awareness about different types of wastes, benefits in use of toilets, importance of personal hygiene to prevent various diseases, school children about various hygienic practices, waste segregation but as far as rural populace is concerned there seems nothing on ground. Swachh Bharat Mission is one such campaign that has been successful in changing attitudes, mind-sets and behaviours of people towards cleanliness and sanitation. Events like taking the broom to sweep the streets, cleaning up the garbage, focusing on sanitation and maintaining a hygienic environment will have impact when there is some sort of practicality in its execution especially in rural areas.
Solid Waste generated in rural areas is usually of two types viz. bio degradable and non-biodegradable. Bio-degradable includes kitchen waste, cow dung, agricultural waste etc. while non-biodegradable includes plastic, used cloth, tetra packs, hospital waste etc. Reduction in agri based businesses and activities has led to generation of more non-biodegradable wastes than the biodegradable. Shrinking of agri-land due to nuclear family system and subsequent construction of houses on agri-land has altered their behaviours wherein they now throw biodegradable waste on roads whose foul smell becomes a nuisance to pedestrians.
Although there is SBM Gramin for rural sanitation but non-existence of concrete Rural Waste Management policy is proving to be disastrous and is leading to environmental degradation. Waste generation especially plastic waste has not remained confined to cities only but expanded its horizon to non- motorable areas also. SBM demands disposing of garbage in a scientific manner but non-existence of requisite infrastructure has put unjustified blame to households for irresponsibility. Both rural and urban populace is aware about the hazards of throwing waste in open but in rural areas even if the people collect garbage in homes, after segregation/collection they remain in dilemma Where to put the garbage? and throw that on roadsides, alleyways and even in water bodies like streams, rivulets or ponds due to non-availability of garbage collectors/sites and established dumping sites thereby the very motive of this campaign gets vanished .Non availability garbage collection units in villages or for that matter in educational institutions where even emptying a dustbin at times becomes a matter of debate. In contrast urban populace have the option of collecting the waste in dustbins even segregating and then putting it in garbage collecting bins (Refuse Collector) of SMC whereby it then transported to garbage dumping sites.
Piles of waste material especially plastic waste which includes polythene bags, wrappers, plastic bottles, medicinal waste etc. can be seen accumulated on roads, bus stops and agricultural fields making life of those inhabitants miserable. Disposable nappies and sanitary napkins which have become part of normal living style irrespective of the socio-economic condition has become another nuisance which can be termed as diaper pollution. Being single use in nature, these are then disposed in an uncontrolled manner in drains, waterbodies or on roadside which not only has become nuisance in rural areas but have been slowly mixing with agricultural land. These diapers/sanitary napkins not only cause of pollution but can have adverse impact on public health as these become source of several infectious diseases when they are thrown in waterbodies.
There comes the question of ethics when such used diapers or plastic waste is disposed into open but as a citizen one is bound to suffice morality in the absence of genuine facilities. It is pertinent to mention here that govt. is responsible for this whole mess as rural populace have no option but either burn the waste generated which will lead to air pollution or throw that waste everywhere. Reduce, re-use and recycle remains a mere rhetoric.
PS: The people concerned at the helm of affairs or executing agencies need to review policy keeping mind the needs of rural population in to consideration. A well-managed Rural Waste Management is need of hour, if govt. is serious about preserving our rural environment. Keeping in view the already discussed flaws at least one garbage collecting bin (Refuse Collector) like in Municipalities should be kept in every village which is emptied every fortnight at least so that the very motive of sensitization and ultimately any campaign is upheld not just taking a broom to pose for a photograph as has been the case. Despite approaching the concerned authorities through social/print media, nothing seems to be happening on ground in rural areas.
Waste accumulation in inconceivable places like fresh water springs/rivers, school premises, crossways, grazing lands etc. in rural habitations can have serious repercussions in near future if some immediate and practical steps on ground are not taken. To create a litter free and hygienic village, scientific waste disposal mechanism needs to be put in place through a financially sound and expertly consulted Rural Waste Management policy.
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