Treatment of liquid waste, segregation of solid wastes and environment-friendly disposal of wastes are still alien terms for common people of India. Most Modi fanatics are not very fond of his Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, if at all they understand the mission. They hardly remember Modi while throwing an empty plastic water bottle or a packet of potato chips from a running vehicle! Besides the main thrust of Swachh Bharat is on open defecation, which is hardly a menace in the North-east. Bidya Balan’s popular TV ad ‘Jaha Soch Waha Sauchalay’ makes little connection with the minds of the people of the region. In fact, travellers from North-east are often shocked by scenes of men and women defecating near the train tracks in states like Bihar. While NE is on the upper hand in terms of open defecation, the region fares poorly in waste disposal as urbanisation has gripped it fast.
A villager, by default, practises proper way of waste disposal. The waste water from his kitchen is eaten up by soil within the campus itself. The waste does not go out. However, with increased use of plastics, oil and detergents, even villages are no more Swachh. Busy with teaching cleanliness to urban people, government authorities and NGOs are yet to focus on villages. It’s time they be taught how to dispose of wastes, especially plastics. Thanks to rampant dumping of plastics, village markets are nowadays filthier than those in towns. Putting garbage bins and appointing cleaners for these markets is still a far-fetched idea. Although there are village administration bodies like panchayat, their priority is limited to building village roads, footpaths, drains etc. After Swachh Bharat, they are also engaged in building toilets etc. But there is nothing on the front of inculcating clean behaviours among the people. No lessons on disposal of plastic wastes. In most villages, plastic wastes are burnt as there is no common place to dispose them in scientific manner. The burning emanates poisonous gas, posing health hazard.
The maximum damage to the ecology was done by urban wastes. Governments have still refused to the threat the liquid and solid wastes are going to pose in coming years. Hardly any government in India has encouraged its residents to dispose at least the liquid and bio-degradable solid wastes within the campus itself. However, it is quite a challenging task. Stern measures as well as great motivation will be required to convince an urban dweller to spare an open space, which can earn thousands and lakhs in rent, for waste treatment and disposal! But there is no other way to clean the rivers and stop flash floods! Governments and people need to realise this. Sooner the better!
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on August 5, 2016)