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60,000 metric tonnes of e-waste generated in Gurgaon annually, but just 10% gets recycled: Ruchika Sethi Takkar

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By Nishtha 

Gurgaon: Citizen activist, Ruchika Sethi Takkar regularly collaborates with citizen groups and civic administration to develop and implement sustainable solutions.

In a conversation with NewsGram, Sethi talks about e-waste management, her initiative – ‘Why Waste Your Waste’ and the impact of ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’. Excerpts from the interview:

Nishtha: As a citizen activist, you are passionate about saving the environment among other important issues. What made you take up this cause?

Ruchika Sethi Takkar: It is the civic and civil apathy which pushed me out of my comfort zone. This was sometime around March 2013. I felt that neither the civil society, nor the civic administration are doing their part for our planet. There was a big gap between the policies created by the government and its implementation on ground. There was a total lack of cooperation from the civic authorities when it came to sanitation work. Seeing this condition, I realized it was time for me to take charge and work towards the betterment of the environment. It was time for me to take responsibility for my surroundings.

N: You have been doing a lot of work for e-waste management. Could you tell me about your initiative and whether enough is being done to promote e-waste management?

RS: The biggest challenge in today’s time is that most of the electronic gadgets have a short life of three to six months before a new model hits the market. What happens to the older junk? If in a working condition, the gadget is passed around and it turns into a game of passing the parcel. Ultimately, it becomes junk, and lands up in the landfill sites.

I had attended a workshop on waste management and heard an executive from GIZ (an international organization) speak about the need for e-waste safe disposal. I did my research on this topic and subsequently formed a group of like-minded individuals to raise awareness about e-waste and its segregation.

E-waste contains toxic and hazardous materials including mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants, which have the potential to leach into our soil and water.

It should not come as a surprise that most of the Neuro-Developmental diseases are on the rise, and somewhere, the lead and mercury are entering the food we eat and the air we breathe.

Government of India has issued policies for safe handling of e-waste. Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change’s e-waste handling and management rules (2011) call for correct disposal of the e-waste.  There is hardly any awareness in  government departments, and absolutely no enforcement .

N: Bandhwari plant, which is about 15 kms away from the Gurgaon-Faridabad Road, and was supposed to serve as a treatment plant for recycling around 900 Metric Solid Waste (MSW) every day, is still shut. As the garbage continues to pile on, what is the current situation at the plant?

RS : Currently, no processing of waste is taking place at the plant. More than 6.5 million tonnes of untreated MSW has piled up on this eco fragile zone. It is impacting our ground water, as well as releasing noxious green house gases such as methane into the atmosphere.

Gurgaon is the growth engine for Haryana and is also one of the most rapidly urbanizing cities. This urbanization brings challenges and consequences – the large quantities of municipal waste generation being one of them. The problem is further compounded with multiple civic agencies trying to handle civic sanitation functions. It is the responsibility of the city to implement a decentralized MSW plan to solve the impending crisis. 

N: You have started an initiative called, ‘Why Waste Your Waste’ and have tied up with the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon (MCG). What is the initiative all about?

RS: The ‘Why Waste Your Waste’ (WWYW) citizens campaign is creating awareness among the civil society and civic administration about the surmounting problems. WWYW campaign is extending its full support to the MCG to design and implement decentralized pilot projects in HUDA sector 31 and Ashok Vihar phase -2 (areas in Gurgaon).  The MCG commissioner, Vikas Gupta has initiated a scientific survey for the first time in Gurgaon, to see the quantity and classification of waste generation at the source.

Ruchika

The objective of waste mapping, is to help MCG monitor the quantities of waste being generated and handled by other civic agencies and their contractors and to make them fully accountable for its scientific management and disposal; and also, to prevent the rampant open dumping as well as to look at the decentralized model of waste management.

The message from municipality should be very clear. Its time all stakeholders of the city start to look at their role in waste management. The waste mapping only validates the large quantum of waste generation in an urban household, and the need to scientifically process the Organic waste in complexes inhibiting the production of greenhouse gases like Methane from untreated organic matter. WWYW is also focused on waste diversion and reduction.

 

N: Do you think ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ launched by Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has actually managed to make any difference?

RS : For the first time in our country, priority is being given to sanitation and our living surroundings. In fact, the very first Municipal Solid Waste guidelines, were only drawn up by MoEF in 2000; a good 53 years after independence! Yet, they have not been implemented by all the states. The civic needs were in the lower rungs of priorities of every government, so far. Yes, the cleanliness drive has inspired citizens, but, there is a huge gap between the prioritization and implementation of this campaign.

I sincerely hope it does not remain a mere rhetoric. The seriousness of the administration can only be gauged if the civic administration too starts rolling up its sleeve, and identifying the main inhibitors for clean surroundings, and basically begins to bring about a paradigm shift in its approach and methodology to execute the civic and sanitation needs of a city.

N: What is the message you would like to send across to people regarding e-waste management?

RS: With changing pace of technology, the shelf life of electronic items has become limited. Most of the e-waste is managed by the informal sector which sometimes burns the e-waste to retain precious metals such as Aluminium and Copper, among others. As I said earlier, e-waste also contains toxic and hazardous materials including mercury, lead, cadmium, beryllium, chromium, and chemical flame retardants, which have the potential to leach into our soil and water. This is why it is important that e-waste is safely disposed through government certified recyclers and dismantlers.

For example, more than 60,000 metric tonnes of  e-waste is generated in Gurgaon annually, but just 10% of this gets recycled in a safe manner.

So, in order to strike a balance between technological advancement and depleting natural resources, each consumer needs to indulge in safe disposal method . The authorized dismantlers will ensure that the environment is not harmed during the recycling process.

Also, the consumers should find a way to increase the longevity of their electronic items.

  • Parimal Bardhan

    Its a true status of Gurgaon as mentioned by Ruchika, and of other cities in India.Who cares about managing waste in our cities?But for the ragpickers,the landscape of our cities and around the cities would be worse.Does it really matter to anyone? We are so good at engaging people with pompous policy announcements that the system continues to remain in perennial sloth.Solutions to this menace are quite obvious and people and administration would often talk about them very passionately but putting them into action remains a mirage.Unfortunately, we are caught in a vicious cycle of (policy) announcements, (resource) allocation and no action.This 3As syndrom will swamp us with garbage and swachh bharat will remain a mythical concept.One however does hope that Ruchikas and such other non-pretentious and concerned persons in the society will keep our optimism high.

  • Aakash Mandyal

    These are the only people who are taking initiative .. Rest is bragging.

  • Parimal Bardhan

    Its a true status of Gurgaon as mentioned by Ruchika, and of other cities in India.Who cares about managing waste in our cities?But for the ragpickers,the landscape of our cities and around the cities would be worse.Does it really matter to anyone? We are so good at engaging people with pompous policy announcements that the system continues to remain in perennial sloth.Solutions to this menace are quite obvious and people and administration would often talk about them very passionately but putting them into action remains a mirage.Unfortunately, we are caught in a vicious cycle of (policy) announcements, (resource) allocation and no action.This 3As syndrom will swamp us with garbage and swachh bharat will remain a mythical concept.One however does hope that Ruchikas and such other non-pretentious and concerned persons in the society will keep our optimism high.

  • Aakash Mandyal

    These are the only people who are taking initiative .. Rest is bragging.

Next Story

Women of America Are Stepping Up As Nuclear Energy Advocates

Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources

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Engineering manager Kristin Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear. VOA
  • The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years
  • Nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources
  • Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear

San Francisco, August 26, 2017: Kristin Zaitz is confident that her nuclear power plant is safe.

Zaitz, an engineering manager, was at Diablo Canyon Power Plant during both her pregnancies and has scuba dived to inspect the plant, which hugs the California coast. Zaitz wears a pendant with a tiny bit of uranium inside, an item that tends to invite questions.

“We all have our perceptions of nuclear,” Zaitz said.

In a few years, Diablo Canyon will close, part of a trend nationwide. The availability of cheap natural gas and greater energy efficiency has reduced demand for nuclear energy in recent years. Add to that ongoing concerns about public safety, such as those raised by memories of disasters at nuclear power plants in Fukushima, Japan, Chernobyl in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) and Three Mile Island in the United States.

Nuclear is ‘cleaner’ than fossil fuels

Supporters of nuclear energy say that when a reactor-based generating station closes, not enough wind and solar power is available to make up the difference. They lament that energy companies tend to turn instead to fossil fuels — coal and natural gas — which produce environmentally harmful emissions.

Zaitz and her co-worker Heather Matteson, a reactor operator, started Mothers for Nuclear, their effort to get the word out that nuclear power is clean, safe and better for the environment than some alternative energy sources.

“I went into the plant very skeptical of nuclear and being scared of it,” said Matteson. “It took me six to seven years to really feel like this is something good for the environment. I don’t want people to take six to seven years to make that decision. We don’t have that long.”

Matteson, too, wears the uranium necklace as a conversation starter. “Nuclear is fun,” she said. Is there any radiation emitted by the pendant? “There’s slightly more than from a banana,” she conceded.

Also Read: Indian nuclear industry growing fast, says former Atomic Energy Commission chief

Women seen as powerful advocates

Industry experts say that women who work in nuclear power can be powerful advocates for nuclear. They can help change attitudes of other women who tend to be more skeptical than men about nuclear energy’s benefits.

At the recent U.S. Women in Nuclear conference in San Francisco, women working in the industry talked about how more should be done to make nuclear power’s case to the public, and how they may be the best suited to do it.

“As mothers, I think we also have an important role to play in letting the public know that we support nuclear for the future, for our children,” said Matteson. “And we don’t know other mothers supporting nuclear power in a vocal way. We thought there was a gap to fill.”

Young women say they look at careers in this industry because they are socially minded.

‘Do something good for the world’

“I went into this wanting to do something good for the world,” Lenka Kollar, business strategy director at NuScale, a firm in Oregon that designs and markets small modular reactors. “Wanting to bring power to people. There are still more than a billion people in the world who don’t have electricity.”

Critics of nuclear energy say it doesn’t matter who is promoting it.

“Using mothers’ voices to argue for a technology that is fundamentally dangerous and that has been demonstrated by disasters like Fukushima to be not safe for the communities that surround the power plants or even cities that are hundreds of miles away is disingenuous,” said Kendra Klein, a staff scientist with Friends of the Earth, an environmental group.

While the future of nuclear power in the United States may be uncertain, the women here say they have a positive story to tell. (VOA)

Next Story

Street View Car Map by Google Locates Methane Gas Leaks

Colorado State University biologist Joe Von Fisher helped enable a street view of Methane leaks in the city with the help of Google maps

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Colorado State University
Gas Leak. Wikimedia

August 04, 2017: Finding underground methane gas leaks is now as easy as finding a McDonalds, thanks to a combination of Google Street View cars, mobile methane detectors, some major computing power and a lot of ingenuity.

When a city’s underground gas lines leak, they waste fuel and release invisible plumes of methane, a potent greenhouse gas. To find and measure leaks, Colorado State University biologist Joe von Fischer decided to create “methane maps,” to make it easier for utilities to identify the biggest leaks, and repair them.

“That’s where you get the greatest bang for the buck,” he pointed out, “the greatest pollution reductions per repair.”

Knowing that Google Maps start with Google Street View cars recording everything they drive by, along with their GPS locations, von Fischer’s team thought they would just add methane detectors to a Street View car. It turned out, it was not that simple.

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“Squirrelly objects”

The world’s best methane detectors are accurate in an area the size of a teacup, but methane leaks can be wider than a street. Also, no one had ever measured the size of a methane leak from a moving car.

“If you’ve ever seen a plume of smoke, it’s sort of a lumpy, irregular object,” von Fischer said. “Methane plumes as they come out of the ground are the same, they’re lumpy squirrelly objects.”

The team had to develop a way to capture data about those plumes, one that would be accurate in the real world. They set up a test site in an abandoned airfield near campus and brought in what looked like a large scuba tank filled with methane and some air hoses. Then they released carefully measured methane through the hose as von Fischer drove a specially equipped SUV past it, again and again.

They compared readings from the methane detectors in the SUV to readings from the tank.

“We spend a lot of time driving through the plumes to sort of calibrate the way that those cars see methane plumes that form as methane’s being emitted from the ground,” von Fischer explained.

With that understanding, the methane detectors hit the road.

Also Read: This fiber material can sense odorless fuel leaks


Turning data into maps

But the results created pages of data, “more than 30 million points,” said CSU computer scientist Johnson Kathkikiaran. He knew that all those data points alone would never help people find the biggest leaks on any map. So he and his advisor, Sanmi Peracara, turned the data into pictures using tools from Google.

Their visual summaries made it easy for utility experts to analyze the methane maps, but von Fischer wanted anyone to be able to identify the worst leaks. His teammates at the Environmental Defense Fund met that challenge by incorporating the data into their online maps. Yellow dots indicate a small methane leak. Orange is a medium-sized one. Red means a big leak – as much pollution as one car driving 14,000 kilometers in a single day.

Von Fischer says that if a city focuses on these biggest leaks, repairing just 8 percent of them can reduce methane pollution by a third.

“That becomes a win-win type scenario,” he said, “because we’re not asking polluters to fix everything, but we’re looking for a reduction in overall emissions, and I think we can achieve that in a more cost effective way.”

After analyzing a methane map for the state of New Jersey, for example, the utility PSE&G has prioritized fixing its leakiest pipes there first, to speed the reduction of their overall pollution.

“To me that was a real victory, to be able to help the utility find which parts were leakiest, and to make a cost effective reduction in their overall emissions,” von Fischer said.

Von Fischer envisions, even more, innovation ahead for mapping many kinds of pollution… to clean the air and save energy. (VOA)

Next Story

Our Culture of Environmental Protection has long been Forgotten, says Union Minister Harsh Vardhan

The Environment Minister at the Union, Harsh Vardhan, stated that India has forgotten its important culture of environment protection

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Union Environment Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan. Twitter
  • Harsh Vardhan, India’s Union Minister, stated that environmental protection, which is a part of the country’s culture, has been fading away
  • The Environment minister blames the modern lifestyle behind this problem
  • He also stressed that the issue of global warming is taken seriously and attempts are underway in all organizations

July 08, 2017: During a plantation drive at a District Park in Paschim Vihar that marked the beginning of ‘Van Mahotsav’ celebrations, the Union Minister Harsh Vardhan stated that Environmental protection is a significant part of the Indian culture.

Blaming the present and modern day lifestyle habits, he notes that we are forgetting our culture and letting the environment concerns eliminate from it.

Stressing the importance of scientific research, the Environment Minister urged science to solve the basic problems such as water and sanitation. He suggests the scientists to “start from the grassroots level”

ALSO READ: Sahel: Climate Change May Turn Africa’s Most Dried Region Green, say Researchers

He also claimed that India could have set up a big example for the whole world had it stuck and continued with environmental protection in accordance with its culture. He reminded us that water, forests, air, and land are a matter of serious concern.

Dr. Vardhan also expanded that the issue of climate change and global warming is a burning issue and that all organizations of the government are making sincere efforts to take effective actions.

In times of potential danger to humanity, the minister said that ‘environmental soldiers’ are necessary for the country.

ISRO is working in the field of carbon emissions. The International Solar Alliance (ISA), with the cooperation of France, is a Prime Minister’s initiative to address climate change.

On this special occasion, the efforts of Anil Madhav Dave, a former environmental minister were also acknowledged.

– prepared by Saksham Narula of NewsGram. Twitter: @Saksham2394