A Solid Problem: Ignorance Is Not Always A Bliss

The poor India as portrayed near the dumping sites of Dharavi (Mumbai) had garnered worldwide attention in the Oscar winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire”. Far from a pretty picture, it  showed India`s infamous garbage disposal landfills. The cities are drowning in waste with the filling landfills posing a health hazard aggravated by the fire and epidemic outbreaks. It is expected that an average of 310-320 tonnes per day (TPD) of waste is generated at Mangaluru city alone as per the Mangaluru Municipal Corporation (MCC).

“Cleanliness before Godliness” – an adage that got popular with the momentum gained during the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan amidst the political stunts and the recent #Trashtag drive on the social media, we still find our newspapers flooded with reports on the illicit dumping of solid wastes around the city. Few years ago, the concept of wet and dry segregation was introduced, and people accepted it willingly and propagated it proactively. So, we have two different waste collecting bins and we take it out for municipality vans to take them over for safe disposal. But does it get treated separately? The formidable question hangs in ignorance subjected to no or less attention than it deserves. What is the point of segregating the waste when it is not looked after for safe treatment and proper condemnation? Last year, Indore was endowed as the cleanest city in India but as per Center for Science and Environment- the Swachh Survekshan had acknowledged only the cleanliness aspects, but not the process of treatment and recycle of waste.

Mangaluru city corporation has identified and proposed two dumping sites- at Kunjathbail and another at Kannur which are yet to be approved by the State Pollution Control Board. Disposing of garbage at NH 66 specially around Kuthar has been irrevocably condemned due to the stench and menace emanated with the heaps and piles of decomposing fly-ridden garbage lying unattended along the sides of the highway. The dumped trash can be looked upon as a grave threat to the well-being of the entire civilization. Given the pace of changing lifestyle, urbanization and constant hunger to remain updated, can only set a conundrum of a devastating events leading to a vicious cycle of disease and infirmity.

The trash not only harbors a source of endless communicable diseases such as malaria, dengue and other vector-borne diseases but also can add to forming leachate which is any liquid that, in the course of passing through matter, extracts soluble or suspended solids, or any other component of the material through which it has passed and houses inorganic toxins of varied intensities. There has been considerable evidence regarding the carcinogens present in the toxins liberated through the degradation of the waste. It should be a wake-up call for all the civilians to act fast else the day is not too far when Mangaluru would be known for being “the garbage city” than for its green coastal line.

Although it is already late to address this endearing issue of saving our planet for the next generation, we can collectively address it locally with our collaborative and intersectoral approach. A 100% door-to-door collection of the garbage should be kept under constant check under the supervision of a local manager under each of the 60 wards of MCC. Non-recyclable wastes should be sent to the cement plants and thermal power stations for its incineration and conversion into fuel. Strategic placements of waste bins around public places at regular intervals should be made. The sanitary and medical waste should be collected separately, and its safe disposal should be ensured by monitoring authority. Fervor steps should be taken to clear the already existing landfills by treatment of the waste in accordance with waste management guidelines.  The successful models should be adopted, improvised and implemented from the top 5 cleanest cities of India.

Henceforth, we should keep an optimistic but perseverant approach towards achieving a more sustainable goal by treating the waste problem not any less than a stare-at-death threat. The most plausible way to tackle this nightmare would be to collaborate with communities and local bodies/ organizations and work towards creating a more livable environment before we perish. For, the best gift to mankind has been the environment which sustains us and should well so be preserved for the future generations. Change is but inevitable, but we as individuals can at least make attempts to halt the progress of this fury of destruction if not its reversal.

 

Surabhi Gitika Priya

Second Year MPH
Department of Preventive & Social Medicine
JIPMER

CHD Group

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