We Asked: Why are open spaces and green patches, including parks, treated as dumping grounds? What is the mentality involved and how can we change it?
Since 1950 urban population has been growing very fast. Cities attract people for many reasons especially for employment and prospects of better life with improved living conditions. The dynamic urban growth generates significant stress on city administration who need to provide necessary infrastructure and public services. As a result of incapacity to provide these, part of the population lives in extreme poverty and under criticality neglected living conditions which is often forced to sleep on pavements and going for open defecation, thus causing severe health challenges to themselves, their families, surrounding communities and to the environment. With speedy urban growth consumption rates are also on steep rise. Worldwide cities generate over 800 billion tonnes of waste every year. In cities people mostly rely on heavily packaged food, significantly adding to the quantity of waste generated every day. Waste is not yet perceived as a critical challenge to the city administration. The city administration does not gear itself against the pace and challenges of basic amenities required for the increasing heterogeneous increasing urban population and consumption behavior thus forcing people to use open spaces and public places as dumping grounds. The modern urban style contributes to higher waste generation not only in homes but also outside. The food service industry particularly thrives on disposables. The apathetic and indifferent attitude of the city administration and planning become a major cause for getting the public places and open spaces as dumping grounds. To handle this situation there should be proper arrangement for collection and disposal of the domestic as well as commercial waste and at the same time there must be strict rules regarding disposal of waste and these rules must be enforced and any person or entity doing against the rules must be dealt with according to law. The authorities responsible for enforcing the rules must also be held responsible for littering. The irresponsible behavior and apathetic attitude of the concerned authorities makes a person non-observant vis a vis disposal of wastes whereby the tendency of spreading wastes and littering in open spaces and public places in urban areas become frequent. These illegal dumping is a matter of great concern that is responsible for air and water pollution besides destroying the beauty of the city and causing inconvenience to the city dwellers. -VP Srivastava, retd income tax deptt official
Bracing winter weather and the exuberance of festivals and holidays is upon us. It is the time for the outdoors – picnics, road trips, fairs and day-long football and cricket matches. Public parks and open spaces are teeming with people. Unfortunately, these spaces are also heaving with litter that will increase as the season progresses. What is it about us that does not see the ugliness of plastic bottles and wrappers and rotting left-over food? Environmental awareness is a far cry; a lack of basic civic sense seems to define us. While we are proud of our private spaces, public areas suffer from an absence of ownership and accountability. Since these places are under the aegis of this abstract entity called government and are owned by another abstract concept called community, we consider ourselves absolved of individual responsibility. We never pause to ponder whether our garbage will ever get picked up and by whom, or when. A lot of our desensitization stems from laziness and thoughtlessness. It seems too much trouble to carry along empty bags in which to put our waste and bring it back home for proper disposal. Many well-meaning individuals simply succumb to laziness, accompanied by a deep sense of guilt for the lapse. However, it is important to remember that individual action will not only check littering, but also send out a strong message to onlookers that small independent actions can make a difference. The existence of litter is a strong provocation for further littering. Hence, placing of garbage bins in public spaces cannot be overemphasized. When they are placed within short distance intervals and interestingly crafted, they tend to be used more frequently. I have seen people gravitate towards sets of bins at airports that are differently coloured and labeled – recycled, dry, wet waste. Perhaps they do so out of curiosity, but end up using them. We need to begin small by sensitizing people to the visual and olfactory revulsion of strewn garbage. Then gradually bring in the larger picture of the environment. – Navanita Lahiri, visiting faculty, Keyes College, Secunderabad
Topic of the month: Do you think development over green cover and open spaces is a good idea, especially when it is totally confined to highway constructions and industrialization bids? You may send your views (either in Hindi or English) in 300 words at treetakemagazine@gmail. Please also attach a colour photo of yourself.