October 2, 2018 will mark the mark the start of Gandhi Ji’s 150th birth anniversary. It is also the day Swachh Bharat (Clean India) Mission completes 4 years of being a historic Jan Aandolan (Mass Movement) aimed at fulfilling Bapu’s dream of a Clean India. Yet another move to honour the Father of the Nation is the ‘Swachhata Hi Seva Movement’ which commences on 15th September. This is a great way to pay tribute to Bapu.
It may be mentioned that on Prime Minister, Narendra Damodardas Modi’s Birthday- September 17 which is also being observed as Seva Diwas across the country, a volunteer group in Delhi called ‘We Mean To Clean’ planted about 600 ecologically valuable trees in the national capital. Now Swachhata Hi Seva Movement is fast becoming a movement that the people themselves are running, many such organizations run by common people is the feature of the overall Swachh Bharat programme- citizens becoming inspiring leaders, owning the movement.
A statement of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation stated that the enthusiastic cleanliness initiatives among the people have become a feature ever since Modi launched the Swachh Bharat initiative.
Lending further impetus towards a cleaner India, Modi had appealed to the nation during his recent monthly Maan Ki Naat address to dedicate the last few weeks of September towards Swahhata Hi Seva, an initiative to pay a real tribute to Mahatma Gandhi on Gandhi Jyanti.
But at ground zero, as the Jan Aandolan completes 4 years as one of the flagship programmes of the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government has cited a UNICEF survey carried out in 10000 households across the nation to claim that the Swachh Bharat Mission is meeting its targets, after three years of its launch. The survey, conducted across 12 states, says that 85 percent members of the households studied were using toilets. These claims received a setback as United Nations has warned about the health and environmental dangers from the processing of e-waste, the discarded electronic and electrical material, by the informal sector in India without proper safeguards.
Clean India till date is still a photo opportunity for politicians, while clean habits are yet to sink into the lifestyle of the general public. Even the Non-Governmental Organizations who have taken up various cleaning projects are facing hurdles from different quarters. At the same time, most of the urban sectors still do not have proper facilities for disposal of waste which has resulted to accumulation of waste all over.
As the respective state governments are still working out solutions for waste disposal and collection, the report published by Global E-waste Monitor 2017, said that domestically India produced 1.95 million tonnes of e-waste last year, which is about 1.5 kg per person, and it also imports it from developed countries.
The report also stated that E-waste includes a whole variety of small and large appliances, and electronic equipment including cell phones, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners, computers and lamps, small appliance and large appliances, lamps. Last year, the world produced 44.7 million tonnes of e-waste or 6.1 kg per person, which is four times more than the e-waste produced by each Indian. Only 8.9 million tonnes or 20 percent of total global e-waste was recycled.
The same report estimated that the value of recoverable precious materials like gold, silver, copper, platinum and palladium contained in last year’s e-waste was $55 billion and much of it was going to waste. A formal e-waste recycling sector is now being developed in major Indian cities and under the country’s rules producers have extended responsibility for the handling the waste that ultimately results from their products.
According to the UN, severe health impacts and environmental damage are widespread in India, due to the final step of the e-waste processing by the informal sector, a report by the International Telecommunications Union and the UN University released on December 13, 2017 stated that over one million poor people in India are involved in manual recycling operations, but most of these people have very low literacy levels with little awareness of the dangers of the operation.
Hence, the dangers come from: improper and unsafe treatment and disposal through open burning or in dumpsites. The main features of the regulations are a refundable deposit scheme that incentivises recycling and parallel to that is the creation of Producer Responsibility Organisations to handle the waste, it said.
The report has also specifically mentioned that the lifestyle in India has demanded the production of cheaper cell phones and other equipment which are now available, which is bound to create further problems through e-waste of such nature.
The need of the hour for India is to figure out systems to safely handle e-waste and recycle it more than the formality of cleaning up our respective surroundings. In most cases the exchange or the popular buy back schemes should be made mandatory for all electronic and electrical material which can be sent back to the manufacturing units to scientifically discard them.
In the last UN convention, all the nations have pointed out that air conditioners and refrigerators are among the main equipments contributing to climate change, and one can imagine when the same are being discarded it will further endanger the health aspects of the society.
The scientists, designers and manufacturers in India must confine themselves to producing eco-friendly products will be the first step towards restoring healthier environment and which are also human friendly.