Air Pollution in Trivandrum – Issues and Solutions

What is air pollution?

“Air pollution consists of chemicals or particles in the air that can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants.” (National Geographic)]

Trivandrum’s Air Quality Index for November 7, 2018 is 134. (AQICN.org)

How is it harmful?

Apart from the obvious breathing issues it can cause, including bronchitis, “conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and lung disease can be made worse by exposure to air pollution”; further, it can cause “long-term damage to people’s nerves, brain, kidneys, liver, and other organs.”

Having observed the issue keenly during my stay in this city, I have identified three main sources of localized air pollution :

  1. Open burning of waste
  2. Dust from unkempt and broken roads and muddy lanes
  3. Exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles.

These three sources, if left unchecked, have tremendous potential to pollute the city to the level people feel uncomfortable walking in the open. This is despite the green cover, that this city, has at present.

Another upcoming source of air pollution is the unmanaged and ever increasing construction activities.

As Kerala is being rebuilt and the state endeavors to retain its natural charm, it is very important for administration and residents to be aware of these dangers.

What are the solutions at hand?

  1. To minimize burning of waste, people need to be made aware of the harms of open burning of waste and be incentivized to separate recyclable waste.
  2. Buyers of recyclable waste needs to be roped in to collect it from the residential and commercial units at regular intervals.
  3. A separate community awareness drive needs to be initiated towards reducing use of one-time plastic.
  4. People need to be educated on composting of wet waste.
  5. Municipal corporation/municipality/village panchayat needs to step in to enforce rules for stopping open burning of waste.
  6. To minimize dust from unkempt roads and muddy lanes, municipal corporation/ municipality/village panchayat need to ensure watering of roads and regular cleaning. At a comprehensive level, scientific planning and construction of roads needs to be undertaken.
  7. To minimize exhaust fumes from diesel trucks, carriers, buses, and other vehicles, regular inspection of vehicles (made possible through yearly or biannual registration check) and imposing fines at the spot by traffic police personnel (or better, a specially deployed “pollution control personnel”) on erring vehicles are possible solutions.
  8. At the government level, all subsidies on diesel should be reduced (except a few sensitive categories like water pumps for farmers) as it is the most polluting fuel. Specially for public carriers, such engines must be designed which are low maintenance, high performing, and least polluting.

All need to work towards it…individuals, private players, administration, and Government.

 

 

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Exhibition on Zero waste by Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM, or commonly called BMC), 9-11 September, 2017

Yesterday, I visited the BMC organised exhibition on management of solid waste. The venue, of the exhibition which is on today also, is Samaj Kalyan Kendra, Dahisar East, Mumbai. Through photos and remarks, I wish to give you  a peep into the event. Going by the number of visitors, it could be made out that the ordinary citizen of India is waking up to the need of efficient solid waste management…at last!

 

  • About 15 companies had put up their stalls, to showcase their latest products and technologies related to waste shredding, compacting & composting, and biogas production.
  • Following is the list of companies who participated:
    • Bhor Engineering
    • K.B. Engineering
    • Ferds Engineering
    • Asmita
    • Solwearth Ecotech
    • Sustainable Resources
    • Shree Aastha Mahila Bachat Gat
    • V Kwality Composting
    • ERS
    • Sanjeevani
    • Ecoman Enviro Solutions Pvt. Ltd.
    • Panchtatva Technologists and Services
Products on display

Products on display

  • Products on Display: They were generally in the category of bio-composters, ranging from a basket by Asmita Group, priced at Rs. 350 to the tumbling ones by Mahatech Orgi Compost, priced around 12-23 k for a pair. Then, there were mechanised organic waste composters, with the price range of Rs. 0.4-0.6 Million per machine. Apart from composters, bio-gas digesters, bio-tank, and waste shredders were also on display.
  • Posters on Display:
Posters on Display

Posters on Display

Besides, useful information about composting, like in photos below, was also highlighted.

Collage 2017-09-11 13_15_35

What to compost and what not to?

 

I conclude that I appreciate this initiative, and hope that it brings positive change in the field of Solid Waste Management in Mumbai and India.

Waste Segregation – Need of the hour (World Environment Day, 2017)?

I was searching for inspiration on how I can play my part for the World Environment Day, 2017 (June 5). I could not do much; however, on my visit to Trivandrum, I discovered that the society we stayed in had robust waste segregation measures in place.

Every flat of the society was allotted two garbage bins – a green and a blue one, with lids. Rules regarding waste segregation were posted in the lobby area of each of the building of the society. Wet waste needs to be put in the green bin and the ‘other wastes’ in the blue bin. Clarification was provided regarding ways of disposal of the latter which included a wide range of household waste.

Among the rules was a critical line – the non-segregated waste will ‘NOT’ be picked up by the door-to-door waste collection personnel.

I was impressed with the efficacy of the system.

Further, I decide to see what happens to the segregated waste. I was further surprised that the society complex had an in-built waste treatment system in place. I was told that while the food waste is composted, the other waste (that which cannot be recycled) is incinerated. There was a sewage treatment plant as well, all built in the basement of the building. (See the pictures below) The use of incinerator for combustion of household waste can be debated; however, recycling is definitely a safe, sustainable option.

The bottom line is that pro-active, futuristic buildings have already starting doing their bit. Waste here is treated as a ‘resource’ as food waste generates manure for the up-keeping of the park area of the building. Further, the  recyclable waste fetches some revenue; and this way, the entire bulk of household waste is prevented from becoming an eye-sore in some part of the city, as well as a social and environmental nuisance (remember, gases from waste decomposition in landfills contribute to the dangerous ‘climate change’).

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan in India has already made ‘Waste Segregation’ a theme for this year’s World Environment Day. The real difference will be when this is done in every household and every building in our country. and our world..!

…Wishing a very happy and inspiring ‘World Environment Day’ to all!

 

 

Why open burning should be discouraged in Trivandrum, and other places?

Hi…I was so happy to see the view from our balcony—only natural beauty and no smoke fumes coming from between the trees.

This is a rare sight, I must tell. Our house lies beyond the Municipal range in Trivandrum, Kerala. In this area, people in stand-alone houses burn their household waste in the open.

This practice is so prevalent that it can potentially be a major air pollution issue.

Further, it is not so only in the areas outside the Municipal range. Even in the main city, this practice is followed. Even though it is an age-old practice to burn waste in the open, the issue becomes serious in today’s times as waste has a dangerous mix of wet items and plastics, among others. When burnt in open conditions, it releases gases and particles – it can adversely affect the respiratory system and contribute to global warming, respectively.

The more the practice is followed, the more implications it will have for public health as well as environment. It needs to be replaced by an alternative waste management strategy.

The question is that how can individuals be convinced to change to an eco-friendly waste management way?  The municipal corporations or gram panchayats need to step in.

Waste segregation, and thereafter, collection and disposal, is the way out. A ‘carrot and stick policy’ will help.

While the first step needs to be performed at the household level, the remaining two steps must be performed by public sector, private sector, or both.

Both, public and environmental health need to be accorded top priority.

When the national emphasis is rightly placed on “Swachh Bharat”, thanks to our PM, we need to have a “Swachh Trivandrum” as well.

Can India go the Europe way in waste management?

  • Less than 1 per cent of Swedish household waste was sent to landfill last year or any year since 2011.
  • 5 Cool Waste Management Ideas From The World That India Can Adopt
    • Meet Mr Trash Wheel From USA
    • Make Way For BigBelly And SmartBelly Bins From Australia
    • Germany Is Showing The World How To Deal With The Plastic Menace
    • Brazil Shows How To Redecorate Your House By Reusing Plastic Bottles
    • Columbia Is Giving Rewards To People For Giving Back Their Plastic Waste
  • Germany recycles more than any other country Germany has the best recycling rate in the world. Austria comes in second, followed by South Korea and Wales. All four countries manage to recycle between 52% and 56% of their municipal waste. Switzerland, in fifth place, recycles almost half of its municipal waste.
  • Plastic Ban: What India Can Learn From Other Countries Currently, India generates around 56 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually, where Delhi alone accounts for 9,600 metric tonnes per day. Currently, cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Karwar, Tirumala, Vasco, Rajasthan, Kerala, Punjab and now Madhya Pradesh to name a few have the ban on the plastic bags in place. But, its enforcement and effective implementation is an issue.
    • France passed a ‘Plastic Ban’ law in 2016 to fight the growing problem of plastic pollution in the world which states all plastic plates, cups, and utensils will be banned by 2020. France is the first country to ban all the daily-usable products that are made of plastic. The law also follows a total ban on plastic shopping bags. The law aims at cutting the usage of plastic bags in the country by half by 2025.
    • Rwanda, a developing country in Africa is plastic bag free since 2008.
    • Sweden is following the policy of ‘No Plastic Ban, Instead More Plastic Recycling.’ There is one simple reason behind this – Sweden has world’s best recycling system. Mostly all the trash in Sweden’s system gets burned in incinerators.
    • Ireland passed a plastic bag tax in 2002. Within weeks of its implementation, there was a reduction of 94 percent in plastic bag use. And, now plastic bags are widely unacceptable there.
    • China instated a law in 2008 to deal with its growing plastic woes. China made it illegal for stores (small or big vendors) to give out plastic bags for free. End result, after two years of the law implementation, usage of plastic bags dropped by a whopping 50%.

World Environment Day (WED) 2018

Today is an important day for all environment lovers…today is WED 2018! A day to generate awareness about environmental conservation! It is the same environment that gives us air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat, and security to carry on with our day to day chores.

However, in our fast-paced life, we forget or ignore that what we take as granted is increasingly coming under threat by our very own actions

We live as if there is no tomorrow. However, there is…for us and our future generation!

Celebrating WED is a way to remind ourselves of the need to live in a sustainable way.

It is not as difficult as it seems…we just need to add a few points in our daily to-do list.

  1. Refuse (or atleast reduce use of) disposable plastics, like plastic bottles, plates, cups, spoons, and carry bags.
  2. Reduce shower time…turn off taps when not in use…replace leaky taps and shower caps…save precious water!
  3. Turn off electric points when not in use…hunt for energy saving appliances, when buying new ones
  4. When throwing off an old thing or daily waste, give a serious thought to the possibility of its reuse…Consider reuse, making something out of it, donating or selling it, or otherwise, dispose it off responsibly! Best waste management mantra is…to reduce waste… in the first place!
  5. It’s time to take note of the activities that are recklessly damaging our environment. We can put collective efforts to curb those activities.

India is the global host of WED 2018. The theme, this year, is ”Beat plastic pollution!” We can do it…can’t we? Happy WED 2018!

Govt has made ‘serious’ efforts to curb air pollution: Environment ministry responds to WHO report – Firstpost

https://www.firstpost.com/india/govt-has-made-serious-efforts-to-curb-air-pollution-environment-ministry-responds-to-who-report-4454305.html

According to WHO Report, in 2016, India’s 14 cities ranked in the top 20 polluted cities of the World (based on the PM2.5 levels)…This is a startling revelation! We all need to be better informed and proactive towards resolving this issue!

Thiruvananthapuram’s two faces of sustainability…!

Growing environmental awareness on one hand, evident by markings on roads and public places…while fumes smelling of mixed garbage, emanating now and then from between the lush green cover…these are the two contrasting scenes as one travels around Thiruvananthapuram (or Trivandrum), the capital city of Kerala.

While initiatives like the Red FM Plastic Challenge are aiming at creating awareness on recycling plastics, plastics are being mixed up in household garbage and burnt up…

We have initiatives by the Corporation of Trivandrum, like the Green Army, Green Protocol, bio-composting bins and others , which are meant for including all sections of the society into the process of solid waste management. Further, all major supermarkets promote use of cloth bags while use of plastics for the purpose of packing and carrying stuff have been minimized. (Source: Corporation of Trivandrum)

These developments show that even though waste management in Thiruvananthapuram is not ideal, the city still has a chance to save itself from going down the way, like most other Indian metros… It can still be a city NOT weighed down by its own waste!

 

Life is all about change…

Well, it was about an year back when we moved back from a foreign land to India, our home country, specifically to Mumbai.

Mumbai is a vibrant city with lights, colors, opportunities, and of course, lots of people :)! Time flew by, as I got into the process of making adjustments for myself and family…be it in terms of work or caring for children or helping them adjust in new environment at home and school…not to forget, participation and enjoyment in multiplicity of festivals and social events.

However,  travelling in Mumbai felt like a challenge due to air pollution and poor quality of roads. Local trains are still the most efficient mode of commutation…yet, they are reserved only for the millions of  brave-hearts commuting daily, especially during rush hours.

My children faced ups and downs in the process of growing up…and I must admit, some phases were particularly difficult, this year.

The new school of my daughter was not up to the mark. Sadly, everywhere, the schools being not up to mark has become a trend, rather than an exception. As a parent, I tried to proactively collaborate with school authorities to make necessary improvements.

My other child started going to playschool. However, it was tough for him…and needless to say, for me to get him adjusted! After a month or so, things started looking up!

I took up a ‘work from home’ freelancing work opportunity! However, while freelancing gives the flexibility required by a mother with two small kids to take care of, it is also difficult as there is no ‘free time’, one can reclaim for work purpose. Somehow, slowly, things improved.

And, while all this was happening, we shifted to a new city! 🙂

Basically, two years, 2 countries and 3 cities…Life is all about change…! Looking forward to another fascinating journey of life…

Thanks for reading!