Category Archives: Climate Change

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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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%.

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!

 

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!

 

 

Today, the 25th of March, 2017, is Earth Hour, 8:30 pm to 9:30 pm

Dear Friends, today, at the above mentioned hour, people from as much as 178 countries, may come together to switch off non-essential lights and power equipments. The idea is to show that we care for our planet and our sustainable living. It may be just a symbolic gesture, given the short span of ‘switching off’…It may lead to limited power savings, as some would argue; others would say that we would need to do much more that just this…I agree, but in this one hour, we get a time to ponder- how important it is to save electricity from fossil fuels; and how each one of us can directly reduce carbon emissions and limit Climate change.

So I am going to try switch off at 8:30 PM for an hour…!

‘Smoke’ in Mumbai air – Why and what it means for us!

(Please note the image above is indicative and does not specifically relate to Mumbai)

Startling it may be for most of us who live here in Mumbai. but we may be ignoring it in our daily chores – Whenever we check weather for the city (in any app – Google, Lenovo, iPhone), it shows temperature etc. and…’Smoke’. Why are we forced to breathe in smoke, day in and day out?

I just went through related posts on the Web.

Reasons range from burning trash, vehicular pollution, using coal for cooking, occasional big dump yard fires, industrial emissions and so on. All of this can be curbed with proper awareness and regulations.

If this continues,  what are the implications for Mumbaikars?

“…Industrial smog can in fact create major health risks, including asthma, lung tissue damage, bronchial infections and heart problems.” (Dawn, 2016)

“…Smog can irritate the eyes and throat and also damage the lungs—especially of people who work or exercise outside, children, and senior citizens. It’s even worse for people who have asthma or allergies—these extra pollutants only intensify their symptoms and can trigger asthma attacks.”(NRDC, 2016)

Also, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrofluorocarbons, which are major air pollutants, also aggravate ‘Global Warming’ and ‘Climate Change’.(NRDC, 2016)

Can we take the first step and acknowledge the problem?

Next, we can try find out the different reasons behind the air pollution.

Finally, we can try on different ways to get the air pollution reduced…!

Let’s do something about this.Thanks for reading!

References:

Dawn, 2016 – http://www.dawn.com/news/1159190

NRDC, 2016 – https://www.nrdc.org/stories/air-pollution-everything-you-need-know