L H Thangi Mannen
Now that the election hullaballoo is over, it is time to for both the Government and the Public to face one of the emerging challenges with which we are being plagued today. It’s a challenge that is all pervasive and an undeniable reality to our survival. There is global movement to address this challenge as the world is being gripped by an avalanche of plastic pollution. About 8.3 billion tones of plastic has been produced since the 1950s, which is roughly equivalent to the weight of a billion elephants. Where do these plastics go? No-where. Every single plastics ever produced still exists in some form or other today, negatively impacting our environment, soil, water, wild life, domestic animals, make verdant forests uninhabitable dumps, and ultimately effecting humans.
Nagaland does not have any specific data on its total waste generation. But from the scanty data collected, it is estimated that from Kohima, as per the KMC, around 80 tons of waste is generated everyday. That would be approximately 28,800 tons annually. Dimapur generates about 100 tons per day (DMC) and Mokokchung about 1800 kgs per day (MMC). These figures are only of the municipal areas. There is no data about the other 16 ULBs and the villages and rural areas where plastic pollution has penetrated as well. More than 95% of these non-biodegradable waste are plastic trash.( taking the yardstick of the Himalayan Clean Up Report of 2018). Most of these trash are multi-layered plastics (mostly popular junk food, chip packets, sweets/biscuits wrappers, gums, gutka etc), Single use plastics /styrofoams (cups, plates, spoons, forks, plastic bags, ) PET Bottles (packaged water and soft drinks) Tetrapaks, (juices and milk), and others like cigarette butts etc.
LIFE, a Dimapur based NGO, has done the waste auditing/assessment of Chumukudima town, and of all the wards in Dimapur, with the support of the DMC. Their findings has been compiled and could be a good reference to a better understanding of the type and volume of waste that is being generated. Such efforts need to be lauded and Government could use these data for their plan of action on solid waste management for the state. Without an in-depth assessment of a situation there cannot be a practical attempt to a solution.
Nagaland a resource crunch state, does not have the means to handle and mange the waste that is being generated. The Kohima (Lerie) Solid Waste management (SWM) Unit, costing Rs.45 crores as loan from the Asian Development Bank is the only SWM unit in the state. The facility was commissioned in February 2016, but how effectively the Kohima waste are being tackled is yet to be visible. Recently the Government had constituted a Kohima Solid Waste Management Authority (KSWMA), under the KMC, for taking up the operation and maintenance of the facility. We hope in the days to come there will be a visible facelift of Kohima to a really Smart City, in every sense. It is doubtful, whether such facilities can be replicated in other cities/towns of Nagaland, especially in the commercial city of Dimapur, where it is most needed. We may have to wait a long time. The setting of such facilities are not only exorbitant, but requires technical skills and competence, continuous power back up, adequate manual force and public supports for effective waste segregation at source.
In the meantime without any proper disposal mechanism, the waste accumulation is increasing at an alarming scale. In any case plastic waste can never be disposed, it can only be up scaled/recycled, that too only a very tiny percentage, the major junk of it will continue to remain in our environment. Major portion of the plastic waste are the “single use plastics”, such as the plastic carry bags, pet water/soft drink bottles, and Styrofoam dining items. All the garbage litters that we see around us, mostly comprises of these items. These are the waste products of a “throw away culture”. During festive seasons of marriages, and other celebrations these pile up are even more prominent.
More than 99% of plastics are produced from chemicals derived from oil, natural gas and coal- all of which are dirty, non-renewable resources. A whole lot of carcinogenic, neurotoxin and hormone disruptive chemicals are the standard ingredients and waste products of plastic production. Many plastic items never disappear, they just get smaller and smaller (micro-plastics). Many of these micro-plastics, are swallowed by farm animals or fish who mistake them for food and thus can find their way onto our dinner plates. Micro-plastics also been found in a majority of the world’s tap water.
These garbage pile ups are not only an ugly sight, but plastic waste causes a plethora of problems when it leaks into the environment. Plastic bags can blocked waterways and exacerbate natural disasters. By clogging drains and providing breeding grounds for mosquitoes and pests single use plastics can increase the transmission of vector borne diseases like malaria/dengue etc. There is evidence that toxic chemicals from plastics items transfer to animal tissues eventually entering the human food chain. Styrofoam products which contain carcinogenic chemicals like styrene and benzene are highly toxic if ingested, damaging the nervous system, lungs and reproductive system. The toxic in Styrofoam items can leach into food and drinks. Plastic when burned causes air pollution.
Water shortage is already a concern in many parts of the state, but this water is in great danger because of leaking plastics . If you’ve ever seen a garbage dump, imagine what happens every time it rains – then imagine that being in your drinking water. Groundwater and reservoirs are susceptible to leaking toxic chemicals from plastic. Our rivers have become garbage dumps. Thus water and air, the most essential elements on which all life depends, have become garbage cans. 99% of plastic also causes climate change (WWF)
Everything suffers: tourism, recreation, business, the health of humans, animals, fish and birds—because of plastic pollution. The financial damage continuously being inflicted is inestimable. To clean up the plastic mess will be very expensive and unaffordable for want of resources and technical skills.
The Government of Nagaland, last November 2018, notified the ban on single use plastics, but this ban has remained on paper only. One does not see the reduction of any single use plastic anywhere. The Budget Speech 20018-19 of the Government of Nagaland, categorically states, that “the state will formulate an anti-plastic policy in a practical and a realistic manner” . but as of date there is no such policy. The recently notified Nagaland Integrated Solid Waste Management Policy (ISWMP) 2019, does have a section on Plastic Waste Management. Will this be promise of the above statement of 2018-19 budget speech? The
Rules on plastic pollution will have to more elaborate, with strict penalties. Hopefully this crucial Policy will not gather dust in the government achieves as is the case of many policy documents.. The Government’s Budget Speech 2019-20 however does not make any reference on the issue of plastic pollution or solid waste management. For any policy to be made effective, adequate budgetary provision will be required. It is time this issue of plastic pollution and waste management be taken as a priority sector in the government’s planning.
The Government alone cannot act in tackling this challenge. The public also need to realise that as consumers we need to reduce our plastic usage in our daily life., and make life-style changes from a throw away mentality to responsible consumers. Refuse plastic bags, by carrying re-useable bags for shopping. Carry your own drinking re-useable water bottles. Avoid using the disposable Styrofoam dinner aware in all evens/functions. Do not throw garbage in public places, drains, rivers etc. but segregate and responsibly dispose them. Changes must come from the people and as concerned citizens of the state we must demand from our lawmakers for stricter plastic regulation policies.
Extensive advocacy and awareness generation in spreading the harmful effects of plastic pollution at all levels is needed. In this the Church, which has the largest out-reach net work can be an effective means to be a part of this challenge and make it as one of their mission activity. After all loving the environment is also a Christian responsibility for God entrusted us with the care of His creation.
We all need to come together to make our world a better place. We must come to gather for the future of our children and the NEXT GENERATIO. We owe it to ourselves and to the FUTURE.