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waste management

Written on: Friday July 4th, 2008

A journal entry from: YIIP - summer 2008 in INDIA

Garbage?Being an environmental studies student there is probably nothing that drives me crazier than garbage, which is everywhere and anywhere in Bangalore and India in general.

Garbage is discarded on the side of the road?and the only visible recycling program is the giant cows that go diligently through it every morning. In my street in particular, it?s a black cow and I think it?s the biggest and dirtiest one in all of Bangalore! It eats absolutely everything, and when it?s done with the mornings fresh layer of garbage, the pile seems to have reduced by half. That at least takes care of the organic waste.

Every river or creek I have seen so far is completely clogged with, what seems to be, an endless number of plastic bags. The water has simply turned into black sludge under which an occasional plastic bottle bubbles up. This of course creates immense problems for sewage systems, especially in cities like Bombay which is known for its notorious monsoon seasons. During such times the city floods, the water is almost waist deep and every year people die because they drown. This is especially hard on the poor who live in slums as they almost always live near the gutters and ditches. When the rain comes, its buckets coming down and the water, it seems instantly, turns the street into a flowing river which has nowhere to go because sewers are completely clogged.

Now metal?that seems to be about the only part of waste that somehow never ends up on the garbage pile. Miraculously, people have found use for every single piece of metal. There are neighbourhoods that remind me of a scene from a Mad Max movie?its basically little narrow streets where all you see is little shacks/houses in front of which are piles and piles of metal scraps. Man busy as ants are banging, melting, cutting, taking apart and doing all sorts of other things to scrap pieces of metal I can?t even begin to describe. The best part of it is that it?s all used again for one purpose or another.

However, it?s not all that bad. Recently, there is a number of new NGO?s who are involving poor communities (specifically geared towards women employment) in garbage segregation which results in 0 waste (all of it gets recycled or reused one way or another!!). This creates income for communities and it also eliminates the immense garbage transportation costs and of course no air pollution

Besides solid waste I have been really enjoying the black diesel sooth scent coming from million rickshaws and ancient buses. This is especially fun when you get stuck in traffic in a rickshaw because the surrounding rickshaws, busses and cars exhaust ends up directly in your face which causes a pleasant mild high. No complaints there!

But all in all, considering the fact that India is a nation of over 1 billion people in which toilet paper is abundant as raindrops in the Thar Desert?I cannot help but think of all the environmental benefits this breeds. No tree cutting, no production, no transportation, no waste, think of all the CO2 that?s staying in the trees! Lovely! Have I adopted the habit, being the good environmentalist that I am??? I am sorry, I fail here?

Another good thing about India?there is virtually no take away crap in fast food joints and juice/coffee bars. I get a freshly squeezed juice every morning at the most amazing juice bar in the world and even when I am late for work I am forced to jug it down right there and then because they only have glasses. Same thing with coffee, for you coffee drinkers, you gotta sit down and enjoy your coffee ? the way it was meant to be in the first place! No fancy paper cups and plastic lids so you don?t spill coffee while you are running to get to work?no, no, you got to sit down and have it in a proper coffee mug.

There is one more excellent example we, in the west, should take away. Some restaurants in India serve food on banana leaves or if they have plates there are made of dry leaves. How brilliantly environmentally friendly is that??!! Even when you throw it out it doesn?t pollute and best of all, you have not used any resources to make the plate in the first place. And of course, for some of us who are not so kitchen savvy, no dishwashing.

Now for all of you back home in Canada?start picking maple leaves and see how you can convert them into plates.


From Danielle on Jul 4th, 2008

Hey Ana, I enjoyed your blog. I also appreciated the banana leaves in India and have noted similar relationship to take away here in Istanbul. There is a big problem in India with the cows and garbage because of plastic bags. The bags get entwined in the cows' stomach and cause serious problems...not so good. I recently read that China has but a ban on thin plastic bags as of July 1st! Thought that was an impressive precedent. Hope you are enjoying Ä°dia, Danielle

From Ian on Jul 6th, 2008

Hi Ana, Nice post. I'm also an Environmental Studies student, and the place I'm in can drive me crazy sometimes with all the waste that's made. I had a good conversation with a colleague a few weeks ago, though, who told me that poverty has a strange way of encouraging sustainable ways of life, since the people have no choice but to re-use everything, grow their food locally, etc. I thought it was an interesting perspective..

From Larissa on Jul 7th, 2008

Hey Lady with the nice pictures on facebook. Good post. Definitely get a good idea of what the situation is like. I recall a project that was proposed and received funding from the Canadian government, not too many years ago, to do a recycling project in some part of India. There plan was to have locals gather plastic bottles and such for processing and revenue generation. When they actually put feet on the ground, they discovered this was already being done by scavengers in dump. Classic "let us show you how to do it" development. Sigh. I am curious to know what local people feel about the environment. Is it on their radar? Are they making demands on their government to do something? Have fun on the rickshaws.

From Adnan on Aug 1st, 2008

WOW! You know I was hoping to eat off a banana leaf in an Indian Restaurant in Hong Kong, but sadly, at "Curry in a Hurry" they have resorted to eating from plastic plates. I love how most Indian food places in Bangalore don't use plastic plates and such. It also maybe that small food stores do not have adequate money allocated to plastic utensils so they have to use glass and ceramic ware.