Whether one likes it or not, pollution is one the most ignored concept in the modern world and experiencing and ‘creating’ it every day I don’t think anyone needs pollution to be defined.
Now, from the phrase ‘Minor forms of Pollution’ I mean littering, spitting, draining water,peeing in public places, festive pollution, etc. These are not the sources of pollution which are actually minor. They have major effects, just like the ‘Major Issues’,its just that these are the sources which are considered to be less harmful or are taken for granted being almost like customary practices in India which makes addressing this topic all the more important.
India has a reputation to preserve in the international sphere. It does lack in many fields however it has laurels in many too. Not forgetting it being listed in lists like“top countries with the most polluted cities and states”, “The countries producing the heaviest amount of air pollution and water pollution”, “The countries with the worst air quality” and many more of such kinds. Some facts to support the statement would be –
- Approximately 100 billion cigarette buts are thrown on the streets of India every year which ultimately end up in the water reserves of the country causing a serious threat to the marine life by clogging such rivers and lakes and also sucking up the oxygen in the water resulting into mass deletion of marine life due to suffocation. Further, the air pollution emitted by cigarettes is 10 times greater than diesel car exhaust, suggests a controlled experiment, reported in Tobacco Control. Still a ‘minor issue’?
- It is amazing that 94% of people when surveyed identify litter as a major environmental problem and yet people still litter.
- In India, 627,000 premature deaths are attributable to ambient, or outdoor PM 2.5 exposure. (When household or indoor pollution is added to this figure it rises to 1.6 million)
- India has the dubious distinction of being home to 22 of the 50 most polluted cities globally.
- In 2014, a global analysis of how nations tackle environmental challenges has ranked India 155 among 178 nations.
- Currently, mixed waste is collected and sent to the already clogged dump sites in Delhi, or waste-to-energy plants or compost plants. The rate of segregation in the city is not more than 2%, while over 10,000 metric tonnes of municipal solid waste is generated in Delhi daily out of which almost 30% is collected from the streets littered. Imagine what happens all over India over an year or a decade. Too hard to calculate? Or maybe it is not that important!
- According to the National Commission for Irrigated Water Resource Development of India, the water shortage problem we face arises not due to lack of it, but due to wastage and poor management. You’ll be shocked to find out that as much as 50% of fresh water is wasted in the country as a result of leakages and inefficiencies in the water management system!
So coming to the solutions, first let’s compare our environmental laws with the other countries’ which could probably guide us :-
The need for protection and conservation of environment and sustainable use of natural resources is reflected in the constitutional framework of India and also in the international commitments of India. The Constitution under Part IVA (Art 51A-Fundamental Duties) casts a duty on every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures. Further, the Constitution of India under Part IV (Art 48A-Directive Principles of State Policies) stipulates that the State shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country. Some of the important legislations for environment protection are as follows:
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.
Sadly, none of these major legislations on environmental laws talks about the issues under consideration here. The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations etc has elaborated on a few ‘rules’ for the solid waste management however it is not comprehensive and engulfs only a few specific types of wastes. Few cities like Maharashtra and Gujrat have also tried their hand on creating state level legislations and bye-laws. The Maharashtrian law made in June,2017penalizes the first time offender with a fine of Rs. 1,000 along with performing community service at a public office or government office. The penalty increases for the second time offenders with a fine of Rs. 3,000 and 3 days of community work. Whereas, the third time offender shall have to give a penalty of Rs. 5,000 and perform community work for 5 days. But unfortunately, they have not been taken seriously, neither by government nor by the people. Taking a step towards efficient implementation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, the government is drafting a law under which spitting, urinating and throwing garbage in public spaces will become punishable offences. However, the government has decided to draft a model bill and not a central law, which according to the Legal Affairs Department of the Law Ministry will be difficult to implement. Hence, the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry is working on a model law, which will allow the states to implement it according to the local requirements. Above all the mantra for anything to work in India is Seriousness and proper execution by the way of fear of law.
Comparing our laws with other countries’ laws –
- All states in the U.S. have anti-littering / pollution laws. Be it a can of soda, gum, a box, a TV, chemical waste, or a company's trash, to varying degrees, all U.S. states have laws prohibiting littering. Link to penalty structures in different states of the country.(http://www.ncsl.org/research/environment-and-natural-resources/states-with-littering-penalties.aspx)
- Singapore is notorious for it’s litter laws. In fact, they’re so determined to stay clean and liter free, they’ve banned chewing gum. To put this in perspective, throwing a can of soda onto the ground could land you an immediate $300 fine - if you’re a first time offender. Next time you get to appear it court… yikes. (https://www.goabroad.com/articles/study-abroad/singapore-laws-to-know-before-you-go)
- In North Korea laws have somewhat been smartly executed. Laws encourage trading in things like 5 glass bottles for one bottle of beer. When children roam garbage dumps looking for coal, cigars, and week old food to eat, you’ll find there isn’t much of mess to clean up in the first place.
- Similar to the U.S., laws have been created in the past few decades to slow down mounting trash. Although not vigorously enforced, don’t drop a cigarette butt out your window or next to a cop - you could end up with a fine. If worst comes to worst, you could end up with a 1000 pound fine. If “duty bodies” fail to clean highways, parks, forests, or just flat out refuse to do their job, you can expect the court to demand an easy-to-pay 2500 pound payment.(http://www.kingdom.co.uk/articles/what-does-the-law-say-about-littering/)
Many other countries are developing with their laws for the overall betterment of the standards of living and for India it is high time that proper creation and execution of strict and practical Environmental laws be considered with the interest and sensitivity that we pay to our Bollywood and Political controversies.
Few highlighted and simple suggestions to start with would be –
1. General awareness and education – the first and foremost step would be parting education and understanding to the children, adults, the illiterates, etc about the environmental laws and the sensitivity of the topic and the effects of our activities polluting the environment. The biggest problem in India is the ignorant mindsets. I have seen people standing near a dustbin but stillthrowing garbage on the road, railway track, even on the ledges of the houses. So the onus is on us to tell them to stop it and tell them what is right and wrong despite the sheepish grins and counter advices. Kids have to keep their luxuries and cool quotient aside and adults have to keep the lazy and ignorant attitude aside and work towards the cleanliness. They should understand that carrying the garbage in the car or in the bag until a dustbin is available would be a more appreciable and cooler option than throwing your Mac wrap out of the window or the foil from the tiffin on the railway track. The citizens fond of different mouth fresheners like pan and pan masalas should also consider wet waste dustbins as an option and laws penalizing spitting should also be made and implemented in an offensive approach.
2. Rigid but flexible laws – not intending to confuse my readers here but in a country like India standardized things and offers rarely work out well.Petty crimes cannot be strictly dealt with. The people who litter/spit are often unaware that they are doing something wrong. More importantly, they will not be in a position to pay fine for their deeds, and in such a case, what can the police do? Lock him up, right? But if it's 20pc of a whole crowded railway station, then what? It will translate to public anger. So the laws should be strict enough for the public residing in different cities and more importantly, these laws should be properly and seriously executed. For example the idea behind the model law made by the Maharashtrian Govt. to have the offender work in a govt. office to prick his ego instead of wallet can also be adopted by the other states which could be a decent start.
3. Logical optimization of religious festivals – Keeping in mind the famous image of “land of festivals”, Article 25 of the constitution provides for freedom of conscience and the right to freely profess, practice and propagate religion by all the citizens of the country. But it should also be noted that the article also provides for reasonable restrictions like the practice of religion should be subject to public order, morality and health. This constitutional provision seeks to strike a balance between the fundamental right to freedom of religion of citizens and the need to secure public order and health by the State. However these festivals are a major ‘minor’ source of pollution for the country acting as a heavy bonus on the pollution already there. The authorities must come up with proactive measures to curb pollution during the festivals by considering the Article 25 in letter and spirit. The burning of crackers on Diwali, wastage of water and Holika Dahan in every street of India on Holi, Immersion of various idols and religious materials on Ganesh Chaturthi and many other such festivals have shown their effect on the air and water quality. Last year the apex court banned the sale of firecrackers till 1st November 2017 as the quality of air had dropped 14 times in the last to last year after Diwali. “The wastage of water is high during the festival. Nearly two crore (20 million) litres of water is wasted in a small city and one can imagine the quantum of loss for a big city like Lucknow,” C.K. Chabbra of the Institute of Environmental Entrepreneurship, Research, Education and Development was quoted as saying about the capital of Uttar Pradesh state.. One can only imagine the amount of water wasted in the big cities like Delhi. This wanton wastage of one the most precious and scarce resource in an age like now is something that we cannot afford. People have to understand that even the Lord Rama and Goddess Durga and Holika would appreciate if we celebrated the festivals in a more decent way. Therefore, provisions for compulsory motor alarms and penalty on wastage of water should be added to the legislations and their execution should be properly kept an eye on.
4. Proper machinery for waste collection, segregation and disposal- Indian municipal authorities have been fairly successful in the collection forte, however, segregation and disposal of necessary waste on the streets and from the households systematically by specialized authorities with adequate staff and technology is still a far cry. Moreover, these institutions should be awarded with more respect and perks as the work they would do is far nobler than the job of a CEO of a food chain or any multinational company. Private outsourcing can also be considered as an option by the govt. Also, there should be dustbins installed in every locality for wet and dry waste and people should be made responsible for the waste secreted by their pets on other’s doorsteps.
Once these steps are followed, half of the pollution issues would be resolved and the rest would be easier to eradicate. I would request my esteemed readers to practice, preach and spread this message to everyone they can and contribute in their capacities because each person understanding that we need environment more than it needs us would count as a big step towards a better and healthier future. We have to develop a strong sense of reciprocity and gratitude towards our environment and planet as a whole as it is what we came and developed from. If not, the day is not far when we would be counted amongst all the other extinct species of earth.