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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.

Click here for reuse options!
Copyright 2015 NewsGram

  • 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

Temple, Mosque, Gurudwara Join Hands In This UP Town

In another incidents, last year in September, when dates of Durgapuja and Muharram clashed, Mishra and Muhammad Rizwan, Haneef's son, took charge

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All religions joined hands together to clean the polluted river. IANS

With inter-community violence reported from many parts of India in a society increasingly polarised on religious and caste lines, a small town in Uttar Pradesh is setting an extraordinary example where a temple, a mosque, and even a gurdwara, have joined hands to clean a polluted river while bringing their communities together.

About 100 km from the state capital Lucknow is the town named Maholi in district Sitapur. Here lies an old Shiva and a Radha-Krishna temple along with Pragyana Satsang Ashram and a mosque, all at a stone’s throw of each other.

Tirthan River is beautifully calm and you'll find many different kinds of fishes in it. Wikimedia Commons
The river in Sitapur is really polluted. Wikimedia Commons

Along the periphery of this amalgamated religious campus, passes a polluted river called Kathina, that merges into the highly polluted Gomti River, a tributary of the mighty but polluted Ganga. Often used as dumping site by dozens of villages and devotees, the stink from Kathina was increasing daily. The solution — Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb (a term used for a fusion of Hindu and Muslim elements) – of Awadh.

“The river belongs to everyone. Hindus use it for ‘aachman’ (a Hindu ritual for spiritual purification), Muslims use it for ‘wazu’ or ablution. Due to lack of awareness, people had been dumping solid and bio waste here, and also doing open defecation. The situation was worsening. Only solution was to start cleaning it ourselves,” said Swami Vigyananad Saraswati, head of the Pragyana Satsang Ashram, as he inspects the river stretch along with Muhammad Haneef, head of the mosque’s managing committee.

Swami said that once the ashram and temple administration began rallying volunteers for the cleaning drive, the mosque also came around to help. Even Maholi’s Sikh gurudwara committee came forward and brought along many volunteers from the Sikh community.

“Once the communities came together, number of volunteers multiplied. The initiative has now become a kind of an environment-movement which is being driven by religious fervor and bonding. Watching our efforts, the local administration also offered help, and other unions like traders and Sikh gurudwara committee also joined hand for cleaning the river,” Swami told IANS pointing out the potential of possibilities when different communities join hands for good.

Ujagar Singh, a member of the Sikh gurdwara committee, equated the effort in cleaning the river with ‘sewa’, an important aspect of Sikhism to provide a service to the community. “Keeping our rivers clean is our duty and we will continue sewa whenever required,” he said.

The temple and mosque, near the town’s police station, were both built in 1962 by then Inspector Jaikaran Singh. The communal fervor is shared since years. During ‘namaaz’, the ashram switches off its loudspeakers and on Hindu festivals and special occasions, the mosque committee helps the temple with arrangements. Still underway, the joint Hindu-Muslim team began cleaning the river from March 14. According to the volunteers, it took three days alone to get the river front cleaned of defecation.

Also Read: All Religions Flourished In India: Modi

“Many villages do not have toilets and volunteers had to stay here round the clock to stop people from defecating or throwing waste. The work was divided. Muslims volunteers would take over the Muslim majority areas and Hindus would tackle other areas, convincing people to stop pollution further while we clean,” Muhammad Haneef told IANS.

The actual cleaning of the river began from March 17, when about 400 volunteers got into the waters, while about 700 of them cleaned the shores. “Several trolleys of garbage — that included plastic, polythene, shoes, rubber, animal carcasses, human waste, glass and ceramic waste, and even some old boat wreck — were taken out of the river.

“Apart from that, several trolleys of water hyacinth, an invasive species of water plant, was removed. It obstructs the flow of the river,” Sarvesh Shukla, executive officer of Maholi town told IANS. Stating that such drive is not possible unless people come together, Shukla said that since ‘mandir-masjid’ joined hand, it was very easy to convince people to cooperate. However, with poor garbage management system of small town, Swami and Haneef looked up to the administration for help.

“Few days back, some butchers were taking waste towards the river. We stopped them and there was a heated debate. Soon other elders of the community joined and we did not let them dump the waste into the river,” said Haneef, pointing out that stopping people without proper management could be daunting in future.

Swami said that they would need disilting machines to clean the river towards the second phase. According to Abdul Rauf from the mosque committee, the work is only half done. “The challenge is to maintain the cleanliness. We could clean only a small stretch of the river. We will rally again and take movement to second phase once we get directions from our elder brother Swami ji,” says Rauf. Nearly one kilometer of the stretch has been cleaned. The volunteers are aiming to clean another kilometer of it. However, be it river or communal fervor, the challenge, as residents of Maholi find, is consistency of the good.

Rohingya refugee
All came together to clean the river.

“There are bad elements everywhere. Few weeks back, a fringe group named Vishwa Hindu Jagran Parishad entered a Muslim-majority area and started hurling abuses. Before they would do more damage, the Hindus of that area came forward and retaliated. The group never returned since,” said Shailendra Mishra, a local resident and member of temple committee. In another incidents, last year in September, when dates of Durgapuja and Muharram clashed, Mishra and Muhammad Rizwan, Haneef’s son, took charge.

“All we had to do was keep a few notorious people from both communities at bay. About 5,000 strong Hindu’s Devi Shakti procession and about 2,000 strong Muslim Tazia procession of Muharram used the same road at the same time. Not a single untoward incident happened,” Haneef said. IANS