Saturday, April 24, 2010

I am worried about a more serious problem...

After reading an article in The Hindu, a couple of days back, I feel that I should forget worrying about this:

The government will appoint some 'one-man commission' or 'three-man commission' which will 'investigate' the IPLgate scandal, which will run for 10-11 years, all the necessary payments will be done and will be forgotten.

I am not worried about this too:

Nithyananda's scandal,  the papers say that he has got signed agreements (non-disclosure agreements) from 'volunteers' for his 'tantric' experiments! The volunteers signed the papers with their eyes open.  If people still go behind these types of godmen, only GOD can help them!

This article in The Hindu, gave me more tension than the other 'important' incidents, which were covered by the news channels and print media. 

I know that we have to segregate our garbage - red basket should have plastic and non-degradable materials and green basket should contain bio-degradable materials like vegetable waste. I follow this method promptly too. Our Panchayat vehicle comes and collects these bags/baskets in our door-steps everyday.

We are living in the outskirts of Chennai (Tamilnadu) and when we built our house, 14 years back, this area was said to be the dumping yard of South Chennai.  But we were told that the government will stop dumping waste here (now, they have stopped this, too).  A number of houses were already here and my sister-in-law was living near the area for more than 5 years and they didn't find anything wrong.  After we shifted to this house, I noticed that a printing press at the parallel road to our house was regularly pouring used printing ink in the ground outside their building.  I know that the printing ink is full of lead.  I was worried and gave our well water for testing and the result was not very bad.  I tested again, a couple of years back and nothing seems to be 'very' wrong, though the water is not good for drinking.  I buy canned water for drinking and now have started using it for cooking too.  Who will educate these business people about what they are doing to our water resources?  This can be taken care of, while issuing the licence for this type of business, advising them as to how to dispose off the used ink etc.

The article I mentioned, states the hazardous effects of e-waste. 

Now, to the article:

Citizens at Risk tells a chilling story about e-waste. Made by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Chintan Environment and Action Group and Arjun Bhagat/IMAK, the short film details what happens when computers from “US, Malaysia” come to the bylanes of Delhi to “die”. In the middle of mountains of e-scrap, barefoot children, standing on a street of lead-coated broken glass, perform the last rites. Covered in toxic dust, they smash screens with hammers, while women tear apart electronic components, boil and wash them in acid with bare hands, for money-earning metals. Acid pools are everywhere. The commentator talks of toxic hydrogen chloride fumes.

Breaking computers is a billion dollar industry. The Printed Circuit Board has minute amounts of gold, silver, copper, palladium, aluminium and platinum. On its flip-side, e-waste contains toxic chemicals zinc, lead, cadmium, mercury, hexavalent chromium, PVC and arsenic compounds. When the waste is burned, heavy metals are released. With water and acids, they seep into groundwater. The complex, informal system of recycling is peopled by rag pickers who know no techniques, have no protective gear.

The MAIT-GTZ e-Waste Assessment Study says we'll be creating 4.7 lakh tonnes of this special waste this year. Add to this 50,000 tonnes coming from abroad (“Not allowed,” says Prabhu) and those dumped in the name of charity/reuse from the West, you can visualise the e-mountains we build. What gives the issue urgency is the speed of discarding — e-gadgets get obsolete before you have completely unpacked them.  This reminded me of the movie WALL-E

Geetha Padhmanabhan, who has written this article has given some easy solutions too.  The main solution is re-cycling as far as possible.  Please read the article here.

Thank god, due to water-harvesting method, which was started by our ex-CM, Jayalalitha, has improved the water table in Tamilnadu, esp. Chennai.  Now, we have to take some steps together to stop this e-waste from contaminating our water resources.

This picture shows how we might one day struggle to get a drop of water, if we don't wake up soon.

Photos and cartoon courtesy: The Hindu

Edited to add (26.4.10):  Manju Joglekhar has sent this link, thank you, Manju.  The article in The Hindu clearly states how much importance should be given to 'Waste Management'.  The article says: 

The discovery of radioactive Cobalt 60 sources stored as scrap in New Delhi's Mayapuri locality by the Department of Atomic Energy and the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board is a clear pointer to the need for a stronger mechanism to monitor such dangerous waste. 

The system of tracking and control of possession is obviously far from foolproof, although there is a lot of apprehension that these materials could be used by extremists to make “dirty bombs” (that can scatter radioactive materials). Many so-called sealed sources containing radioactive waste are going off the map and turning up in scrap yards, “orphaned.”

Please read further from the article.  We should treat our electronic gadgets as God as well as Satan.  My brother-in-law always says 'vellaikkaaranai kaiyedutthu kumbidanum - yevvalavu nalla vishayangalai kandu pidichchu koduththirukkaan!' (we should do pranaam to the white man.  He has invented and given us so many good things!).  Good and bad things have come together.  It is in the way we utilise them, isn't it?

Edited to add on 27.4.10: One more news connected to this issue, is in the latest 'Outlook' Magazine.  Read here.  Worried more now.


Anonymous said...

Good article, Sandhya. Like you say, there are more serious problems that have plagued us, and the city/country that we live in!! Btw, there are loads of such mindless people as you have mentioned here. People who carelessly throw their garbage OUTSIDE the garbage bin, people who spit red paan on the roads, unmindlful of passers-by...and these are just small everyday examples.

Sandhya said...

writerzblock: Yes, you are first, Pal! Ou

Our Panchayat has kept dust bins in street corners and they have arranged to collect garbage also, but the dust bin is empty with the garbage strewn everywhere near the bin! The panchayat lorry sweeps and collects that garbage also but by evening, the whole area is full of plastic bags and other wastes. I have seen batteries and tube lights also thrown on the roads. The Panchayat had distributed notices of 'what to do and what not to do' list twice in one year to every house!

Unlike North India, paan chewing/spitting is less here, in Chennai!

Anonymous said...

This is certainly a serious issue, Sandhya! And generally people don't know much about the hazards of wrong disposal of e-waste or other types of contamination.

There was a case a few days ago in Delhi where some scrap-dealers became very ill due to radioactive waste-

kanagu said...

Wonderfully written... A great post.. :)
We are still not aware of the dangers of the e-waste and considering the rate at which our software industry grown in the last 10 years which keeps growing and there's going to be lot of wastes in the coming years for sure..
And also lot of wastes were coming from western countries also illegally... Lots to be done..

BK Chowla, said...

This is a problem we have to understand and solve at the community level.There is just no point expecting the Govt to come forward to help. They just might sanction funds and siphon it the next moment making the situation worse.

Sandhya said...

Manju: Our local TV too had showed how to dispose off plastic, batteries etc., i.e. never to put them in the normal waste basket. They were discussing about water contamination and Sun TV news, where they showed, is very famous here. This is the first step to improve our environment. Electronic items come later on, for ordinary people.

What type of action can be taken for educating the scrap business people, how to segregate their scrap. Nobody would have told them how to do it or how dangerous e-waste is. Another Delhi incident might happen again.

Thank you for the link, Manju. The article in that link is very important.

Kanagu: I understand WIPRO comes first in e-waste management. Even mobile manufacturers can insist on returning dead old mobiles and offer some token money.

Our country has become the dumping ground for all types of waste. All types of greedy scrap collectors are here to make money without thinking about anything or anyone else.

vimmuuu said...

Wonderful post Sandhya !

The worst part is when the educated lot performs these dumping acts ! I have a few colleagues and the moment I speak to any of them on these lines, I get ridiculed big time. Im sure they will realise it one day, but that day, I hope, isnt nearing !!

radha said...

e waste disposal has to be done in a scientific manner. But then, who cares? We really do not take care of preserving our resources. Then we contaminate whatever there is. And we are supposed to have evolved!

Anonymous said...

That was such a relevant post!

And such an apt timing as well, when we seem to be bothered about 'high profile' issues which have no direct impact on us and other such important issues are ignored.

Waste disposal in the correct manner makes so much of a difference. Here, in some areas, the council even provides us with bags to dispose of recycle-able things separately, educated people still prefer to ignore it. Unless all of us do our bit, we face a lot of very dangerous issues.

Sandhya said...

vimmuuu: No one thinks that these acts by us, public, will boomerang on us in the future. As Chowlaji says, everyone/everything cannot be monitored by the govt. Only we, common people should take the responsibility, which is good for us.

Your friends might ealize one day after the reactions start.

Chowlaji: Sanctioning funds and cyhoning off is the usual trend in politics - the excuse is, the party cadres also should make money, otherwise they might not 'work' for the party. Hmmm...yes, we citizens should do something about this, Sir.

Radha: I knew about e-waste vaguely all these days. Only now I know how dangerous it is.

wordsndreamz: Our Panchayat people also distributed red and green baskets, for storing waste things.

Aparna said...

Wonderful post Sandhya. One of the scrap dealers of Delhi has infact died, it came in the news paper. You must have read it.
We have to educate our people, and that include all the scrap dealers, slum dwellers and not so literate people who do not know about waste management but are dealing in them every day.
Recently had gone to a small town and was appalled to see the dirty river. That was the only source of water in the town and people were indiscriminately throwing all kinds of waste in it.

R. Ramesh said...

excellent meaningful piece yar sandhya...gr8...and how u doing? greetings to yr fmly..:)

SG said...

Very nice post. We all should be concerned with this. However, if we can get anything done by bribing the proper officials then there is no chance for improvement.

Indian Home Maker said...

This is scary.
This article after I read this in the newspaper - take a look,

Anonymous said...

I read the comments and realised others have already mentioned this news here. I think we need a lot more awareness for this.In the past there have been blasts (and I think deaths also) due to careless handling of waste material - the blasts were in Ghaziabad (NCR).

There was a film on Discovery Channel about how many people kept falling ill and dying in a town and everybody thought it was allergies or sickness for years! Even when they found out it was lead it took years to take action and close the factory that was ruining the ground water.

Sandhya said...

Aparna: It is sickening to note that everyone is after making money without knowing that they are hurting others and themselves by mis-handling these types of scraps.

Many waterways in our country are polluted and people continue to use them because there is no other go. Only people should come together and take action, I feel, Aparna.

Ramesh: Thank you. All of us are fine and am sure your family is well too.

SG: If government is involved, then bribery will be there at all levels, SG. This has become a common thing now.

IHM: I didn't know about the Discovery channel programme, thanks for mentioning it here.

One more article pertaining to this issue is in this week's 'outlook' magazine. I think we are sitting on top of a volcano. When this will start giving visible disastrous problems, no one knows.

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Anonymous said...

A very pertinent post Sandhya! Its so frustrating to see educated people acting so callously. I totally agree with you when you say we need to find ways to stop e-waste from contaminating our resources. Otherwise the day will not be far when our country will turn into a dumping yard fr the whole world.

The situation has become so grave that people are having to pay wth their lives. I'm sure you must have read the news about the death of a man due to radiation exposure in Delhi. How much more dire can a situation get?

Saritha said...

Very thoughtful post.Recent news of radiation leak and delhi university selling scrap is heights of negligence.Everyone knows radioactive materials are very dangerous and people working at the scrap dealers handle those things without any protection.

We had a neighbour who used to leave his drainage on the road,everyday it was very difficult to cross his house in the morning,then my father complained,they were not ready to spend money and leave there drain into the common pipe,later municipality sent a notice to them to do it,its the people that too educated people to blame.

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