Rajkumari Sharma Tankha
There is a man living in Ghaziabad who sends me the photographs of burning garbage and leaves almost every second day. This man, Vikrant Tongad, is a member of Hindon Jal Biradari (an organisation that works for water conservation) and has been working relentlessly, for the last six years that I have known him, for environmental causes.
“Ma’am they burn garbage every day, sometimes I see flames at others its just smouldering garbage. The entire area is full of foul-smell, its difficult to breathe. Something must be done to stop them,” he tells me. Sharma tells me that he has complained to the municipality scores of times, but to no avail.
And that sets me thinking. Why can’t everyone be as concerned as Sharma is about the issue of garbage burning? Why do municipal authorities as well as horticultural staff burn the garbage and green waste with impunity, almost every single day. Do they not know the perils of doing such a thing? Or don’t they know that the laws prohibit such a thing.
Apart from the stink that it gives to the environment, burning of garbage is a serious health hazard. The poisonous gases it releases in the air chokes the respiratory organs of all living beings, humans and animals and affects plants as well.
Garbage burning releases toxic gases into the air. It is the largest source of dioxin emission. Dioxins are highly toxic and can cause reproductive and developmental problems, damage the immune system, interfere with hormones and also cause cancer. Isn’t it alarming enough?
Burning of leaves is equally bad, in fact more so since leaves could be used in a variety of useful ways. Leaves have a high mineral content and fibrous organic matter and digging these directly into parks, vegetable gardens, and flower beds would lead to reduction in the amount of water the plants need from outside (a way to conserve water). Further, leaf compost is a useful soil conditioner and it also reduces the dependence of plants on chemical fertilizers.
By burning leaves we not only lose the valuable manure we could get out of these at no cost, but we end up adding huge amount of respirable suspended particles, soot and carcinogenic gases into the atmosphere. Upon breathing all these gases go into our respiratory system and settle in the lungs. The resultant health problems range from asthma, bronchitis, coughs, allergies, headache, watery eyes, skin irritation, clogs the lungs, hampers the nervous system, lessens the blood’s ability to transport oxygen to reduced visibility and leads to sluggish responses.
Is someone out there listening? I hope so!!