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Use and throw…. Use and dump…. Use and dispose….

The world has become a large dustbin where we use things for our convenience and dispose them without caring for safety or with a concern for this earth.  This summer I got to spend nearly a month’s time in Odisha. There are a lot of changes in the state — some positive and some negative. There are now large well-maintained streets in Bhubaneswar and other places. The village roads under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana are made of concrete and are often better than the city by-lanes. However, the suburbs of Bhubaneswar are extremely ill-maintained and the privilege of street-lights or a decent by-lane devoid of potholes is still a dream. Once monsoons arrive these streets can be the breeding ground of mosquitoes and other water borne diseases. In fact, recently I saw a news-piece on a regional news channel (OTV) regarding the large potholes right in front of the Fakir Mohan University in Balasore, where waste water remains deposited even in summers. Now, you can imagine its lot in the monsoons!

Roads or no roads, what is peculiar about not only Bhubaneswar but also all other places in Odisha is the lack of an awareness regarding the need for dustbins or dumping yards or waste-collecting vans. Though, there are waste collecting vans in Bhubaneswar that charge around Rs. 50 per residence in Sailashree Vihar, but the number of people who avail this facility is absolutely meager. Even well-to-do, educated citizens carry a notion that when they can take the waste basket and throw it near the open fields or besides the pavement or even in front of their large marble bungalows; where is the need for paying a waste-picking van? People who spend thousands of rupees for dresses, for weddings and for personal maintenance are incapable of paying Rs. 50 to the waste-picking vans!   The lack of awareness in people as well as in the municipal bodies regarding the disposal of wastes is severe. People throw anything at any place without even caring to look back at it for a moment.

The condition of villages is no less precarious. Even though the streets in villages are made of concrete and appear really clean but you will not find a single community dustbin at any point. So is true of the cities like Bhubaneswar or Cuttack. If you go to Sailashree Vihar or any other suburb residential area you will not find a single dustbin for disposal of wastes. As a result, polythenes, papers, dirty bags, food wastes and other such toxic substances are found on the roads. Cows and Oxen come near these pavements and graze away these toxic polythene and other garbage and fall prey to several diseases.

There are a lot of pan eaters in Odisha and the way pan-thook gets deposited in the corners of hospitals and other public places is something which has to be really studied. You can find amazing patterns of red betel spit on government buildings, colleges, offices, medical colleges and even homes. The luxury of eating pan is such that people refuse to let the residue of their pan-eating charm fade from public memory. Thus, the red betel spit speak the history of tobacco and betel-nut flavor and give the legacy of Pan in Odisha. But, my contention is that why does the luxury of a chosen few has to become an inconvenience for many others?

I intend to bring to focus another point regarding this dumping business. These days, at a distance of every few yards there is an industry in Odisha. Some manufacture steel, iron ore, some red bricks, some coal, some synthetic, some sugar while others are into small-scale manufacturing business. If you go to Angul and Dhenkanal Districts you will find indiscriminate number of large and small scale industries. Odisha Govt. distributes license to these industries as if it is distributing sweets. When we were children, Dhenkanal was no less than a hill-station with a climate that many would envy. A rare kind of wind current would blow during the summers keeping the temperature at its optimum. But, gone are those days. If you come here now you will be welcomed with a relentless hot summer and malaria. The reason — not only global warming or global climate change but also climate change induced by the hazardous smoke and water disposed by industries in and around this place. The plight of Angul and Talcher, less said the better. I do not know if the weapon of RTI regarding pollution control and pollution testing has been used in these places as yet.  Who issues these industries permits to start functioning? How many industries should be located in a certain place? What are the pollution control measures being carried out by these industries? These are some issues which the general public in this state still does not concern itself with. The lack of education mixed with the lack of awareness is partly responsible for the impending climatic dangers over this state. My personal opinion is that people believe industries are a boon because they provide employment and money and that’s where the story ends. The need to understand ecological concerns is neither different nor isolated from the importance of industrialization. I am confirmed that the number of people who will read this particular blog post from outside the state would far exceed the number of people reading it from within Odisha.

I gave one state as an example  of this dumping business. I am not capable of explaining the position of other states because of a lack of first-hand experience. However, there is a commonsensical aspect which makes me generalize this plight of dumping — we all love to enjoy and we love to have the luxury of using things or producing things but when it comes to the settlement of the garbage or the waste-products our responsibility ends there. The proper disposal of wastes is something that one has to inculcate internally as well as through proper social conditioning. Garbage disposal should be a part of social responsibility as well as individual ethics. If we use a certain thing, it is also our responsibility to see to it that it is properly disposed so that others do not suffer the toxic by-products of that waste.

When the earth is struggling for its survival, when the entire global community is striving to generate awareness against pollution and global warming Odisha is one such state which is going through a topsy-turveyed change. This state which is famous for its natural resources, which is endowed with the bounty of natural heritage is going through a late industrialization that threatens to take away its beauty and charm.

There is a firm necessity of honesty, accountability and awareness to protect whatever nature has gifted….