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Our Senseless Consumerism Hurting Environment

Let’s pledge to restore our pale and sickly environment to its vibrant greenery.

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Fireworks, environmentalists
SC permits bursting of only green firecrackers. Pixabay

By Salil Gewali

The festival of light – Diwali – representing the symbolic good over evil, light over darkness, and victory of righteousness and knowledge over ignorance is approaching. Well, the colorful displays of fireworks are popular traditions during major celebrations, not only in India but also in advanced countries. Despite its popularity, the air and noise pollution emitted by fireworks contribute to the degradation of our precious environment. Also, the harmful effects of chemicals and metallic particles used in firecrackers adversely impact human lives.

Although fireworks are a part of celebrations of almost all countries in the world, their use is limited to occasions. But, in India, particularly during Diwali, we celebrate this popular “festival of lights” predominantly by bursting fireworks. We set off rocket bombs thinking they vanish into thin air but Newton’s law gravitation brings them all back in the form of smoke and toxic ashes.

fireworks
We have to reform our culture and tradition for the sake of saving the beautiful creation of God.

India is one of the most polluted countries in the World. Our extended periods of use of fireworks cause irreparable damage to our whole animal kingdom. In the name of Diwali, our children, with all merriment, play with various types of fancy firecrackers almost two weeks in advance causing deadly pollution, both sound, and air. For newly born babies, each burst of firework is a “nightmare”. They can’t even cry against the frightful noise.  This is nothing but our uncaring cruelty towards them.

Fire hazards are common occurrences. Needlessly to say, smoke from fireworks containing metallic particles causes severe health risks. Is it the “price” one has to pay for this mockery of enjoyment by bursting crackers? Are we aware that the different colours and light effects produced in the firework displays are achieved only by mixing “poisonous” metal powders to gunpowder? Cases of burn injuries are very common during fireworks displays among our children, as they do not keep safety tips in mind while playing with deadly firecrackers, rockets, and sparklers.

Fireworks
For newly born babies, each burst of firework is a “nightmare”

The rotten egg smell that one gets during fireworks emanates from burnt “sulphur” which is the main ingredient of many fireworks. The fireworks that explode producing purple colour basically contain some amount of explosives and potassium compounds that cause extensive pollution in a very short period of time. Barbarous fireworks leave metal particles, harmful chemicals, smoke, and toxins in the air. These dangerous toxins do not disintegrate or break up for several days. They remain in the environment, poisoning the surroundings. People vulnerable to lung and respiratory illnesses are at a high risk of complication. Children fall sick with fever, skin irritation, vomiting, etc. The noise pollution is more dangerous than air pollution. Noise limits beyond 120db on all consumer fireworks are illegal in many countries, but in our country, since there is no voice of protest from any quarters, the products sold here are far above the permitted decibel.

Is it not a sheer stupidity that dangerous bangers, air bombs, and jumping jacks are indiscriminately produced and set off senselessly, thereby turning the festival of lights into the festival of disaster? Is it the way we welcome our Goddess Lakshmi and seek Her blessings?

Fireworks, environmentalists
The ban would be in force throughout the year. These conditions would also be applicable to marriage festivities. Pixabay

Yes, with a bang, the firecracker industries have been put on notice by the Supreme Court through a verdict on the 23rd of October, 2018 restricting them from manufacturing harmful fireworks. We all should welcome it. Further, the judgment on the “reduced time” of two hours between 8.p.m. and 10 p.m. for bursting crackers during festivals like Diwali and 11.55 p.m. and half past midnight during Christmas and New Year is doubtlessly a very positive move. But when will Supreme Court announce the strict regulation to restrict the plying of motor vehicles on ever-increasing roads and setting up of factories and industries which are only “blackening” the very face of Mother Earth. Since the environment has been intensely battered by the toxic heat from our senseless “consumerism”, now is the time that a “clause” should be incorporated within our “CONSTITUTION” that Government, each and every citizen and the business houses should ensure the sincere participation in cleansing the environment. We have to change our lifestyles. We have to reform our culture and tradition for the sake of saving the beautiful creation of God. HE will be very happy and bless us with more bountiful and nourishing vegetation. So, let’s pledge to restore our pale and sickly environment to its vibrant greenery. We can’t throw the caution to the wind and our “activities” ending up in smoke any longer!

Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’.  Twitter: @SGewali.

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The Flamboyant Plastic Waste Boat Reminds The Global Policy-Makers The Urgency To Address Impact Of Plastics on The World’s Marine Environment

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plastic waste
The plastic waste was melted, shaped and carved by the team of traditional dhow builders exactly as they would do with wood. Pixabay

This flamboyant nine-metre-long dhow, made from 10 tonnes of plastic waste collected from Kenyan beaches and roadsides, sailed more than 500 km from the idyllic island of Lamu to Zanzibar this year with a message to eliminate single-use plastics.

And it also reminds the global policy-makers the urgency to address and lessen the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.

The Flipflopi dhow was positioned right at the entrance of the conference venue in the UN Environment headquarters in Nairobi where over 4,700 delegates from 170 countries gathered for the week-long UN Environment Assembly, the world’s highest-level decision-making body on the environment.

“Marine plastic litter pollution is already affecting more than 800 marine species through ingestion, entanglement and habitat change,” UN Environment’s coral reef unit head Jerker Tamelander said.

“Waste continues to leak from land and coral reefs are at the receiving end. They also trap a lot of fishing gear as well as plastic lost from aquaculture. With the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems already significant, the additional threat of plastics must be taken seriously.”

pollution
“Marine plastic litter pollution is already affecting more than 800 marine species through ingestion, entanglement and habitat change,” UN Environment’s coral reef unit head Jerker Tamelander said.
Pixabay

The majority of marine litter – between 60-80 per cent – is composed of plastic.

Only nine per cent of the nine billion tonnes of plastic the world has so far produced has been recycled.

The overwhelming majority of plastics – comprising drinking bottles, bottle caps, food wrappers, grocery bags, lids and straws – are designed to be thrown away after a single use, ultimately ending up in landfills and polluting the environment.

“The first leg of the journey is over, but the journey continues,” Kenyan entrepreneur and Flipflopi project leader Dipesh Pabari told reporters here.

“When you are on the boat and you come to know that it’s made from your toothbrushes and Pet bottles. You will ask how and that is the real story,” he said.

Coming from a family of carpenters and dhow builders in Lamu, an island off the North Coast of Kenya, Ali Skanda is intimately familiar with what goes into building a dhow – a sailboat that has been used in East Africa for more than a thousand years.

On its maiden 500-km-long sojourn, supported by the UN Environment’s Clean Seas campaign, the Flipflopi stopped at towns and cities to sensitize the communities on ways to cut down use of single-use plastics.

A report, Plastics and Shallow Water Coral Reefs, released at this UN Environment Assembly, which focus on innovative solutions for environmental challenges, identifies a number of knowledge gaps that must be addressed to strengthen the scientific evidence base for action on marine plastics that impact coral reefs.

Inspired by 15-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg, activist Rebecca Freitag, 26, a UN delegate for sustainable development from Germany, told IANS that the youth should be given participation in environment talks as they comprised 25 per cent of the global population.

Before coming to the UN summit, she collected the plastic waste from roadsides of Kenya, which introduced the world’s toughest laws on single-use plastic bags two years ago, and got her dress stitched to spotlight solutions for the growing impact of plastics on the world’s marine environment.

plastic
“Waste continues to leak from land and coral reefs are at the receiving end. They also trap a lot of fishing gear as well as plastic lost from aquaculture. With the impacts of climate change on coral reef ecosystems already significant, the additional threat of plastics must be taken seriously.” Pixabay

The Flipflopi is now ready for a voyage next month for a greater political and social awareness of the issue of plastic pollution.

“Now we want to build a 20-m long boat that is capable of sailing to South Africa and beyond,” Pabari said.

For this, $1.5 million is required.

The Flipflopi team has had to pioneer new techniques to craft the dhow’s various components.

Also Read: Biotechnology Can Meet The Growing Energy Needs Of Rural India

The plastic waste was melted, shaped and carved by the team of traditional dhow builders exactly as they would do with wood.

Every single element of the boat has been constructed by hand and the whole boat has been clad in colourful sheets of recycled flipflops.

These flipflops have been collected on beach cleanups on Lamu’s beaches, where they are among the most prolific items found. (IANS)