• Check environmental pollution: Nittoor

  • Picking `wealth' from dumping yards

  • Check environmental pollution: Nittoor

    THE HINDU [5 AUGUST, 2002]

    BANGALORE Aug. 4. How environmentally conscious can a man in his 100th year be? Much more than anyone else, if that person is Nittoor Srinivasa Rao.

    The former Chief Justice of the Mysore High Court and the first Central Vigilance Commissioner told a gathering of advocates here on Sunday that he was now, more than ever, conscious of the need to preserve our fragile ecology.

    At the valedictory of a two-day workshop on "Judicial enforcement of environmental law" at the Karnataka Judicial Academy (KJA), Mr. Justice Rao said that some 30 years ago even educated people were unaware how important the environment was and how necessary it was to have an environmental law.

    He toured the Kudremukh region when plans for an iron ore plant were afoot. "At that time, we did not foresee its consequences."

    The effects of the mining were now visible on the rivers there (the Tunga and Bhadra), he said. But he was happy that, when the time came for KIOCL lease renewal, there were widespread protests.

    With time, the law courses had also changed. There was now more opportunity to go out into the field, he added. The Karnataka High Court judge, H. Rangavittalachar, who is also the Governor of the KJA, in his presidential address, stressed that environmental pollution threatened the very survival of human beings.

    The judge traced environmental consciousness down the ages. Early man lived in harmony with his surroundings but later he separated human and natural culture. And Mr. Justice Rangavittalachar quoted Jawaharlal Nehru as saying that "only an acceptance of collective responsibility (by citizens, institutions, Government) would save the world's environmental future." The courts could not devote too much time to laying down orders to protect the environment, that work had to be done by the public.


    Picking `wealth' from dumping yards

    THE HINDU [5 AUGUST, 2002]

    Chennai AUG. 4 . Twenty-year-old Kasturi's work at the Perungudi dumping yard of the Chennai Corporation begins by 7 a.m. She toils till 5 p.m., rummaging the city's load of garbage for `masala' and `super'.

    `Masala' is ragpicker parlance for plastic bottles, mugs and even the odd buckets that the city discards everyday. These are hard to find and are hence the costliest bargains at the scrap markets at Rs. 7 per kilo. `Super' is the comparatively plentiful plastic covers.

    ``Milk sachets, water packets and the kind are called super. Every kilo is worth Rs. 5,'' Kasturi, who lives in a thatched roof hut near the yard, explains. On a daily basis, she earns anything between Rs. 40 and 100. (The days when `masala' and `super' is available in plenty are rare. Most of it is taken by the street segregators.)

    There are several groups of ragpickers, who frequent the Corporation dumping yards at Perungudi and Kodungaiyur. The Perungudi dumping yard, where garbage is taken from the more affluent South and Central Chennai, is considered a better hunting ground.

    Despite the unhygienic conditions and the occasional fights they pick up with authorities, the role of people like Kasturi in recycling the city's waste is undeniable.

    A scrap dealer, Krishnaswami, who has a yard on the periphery of the Perungudi yard, purchases the scrap from the ragpickers. He then sells it to other wholesale merchants at Kandanchavadi.

    The source segregation concept, that the Corporation and other municipalities are yet to take seriously, works on a similar principle. Only, the `recyclable and re-usable' waste is segregated at the household level itself.

    But even while the ragpickers carry on their chores without anyone acknowledging their contribution, it is the flip side of their activity that has been an eye sore to many residents. Quite literally too, for the people residing close to the dumping yards complain of ``burning sensation in eye'' as smoke from the burning solid waste engulfs their households.

    A section of ragpickers, who hunt for `metal scrap' burn the garbage, sometimes as early as 5 a.m. ``Not all ragpickers burn the garbage. A section of people who use magnets to segregate metal scrap burn the waste,'' says Karupayee, the `leader' of a group of ragpickers from Saidapet.

    The areas most affected by the burning of garbage near the Perungudi yard are Perungudi village, Kandanchavadi and a section of Velachery.

    Similarly near Kodungaiyur, residents of Patel Nagar, MKB Nagar, M.R.Nagar, Kannadasan Nagar and Muthamizh Nagar complain of health problems.

    The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board does not monitor the air pollution near both the yards, but its Chairman, Sheela Rani Chunkath, said open burning of municipal solid waste would `undoubtedly' exceed all acceptable parameters of air quality.

    ``We have sent several notices to the Corporation to prevent the open burning. They (Corporation) must prevent the entry of people into the area,'' she said.

    But practical difficulties dog the civic agency in maintaining a vigil over the vast expanse of the yards. ``We simply cannot prevent the entry of the ragpickers as some of them have backing of local political leaders and goons,'' a junior officer at the helm of affairs at Perungudi said.

    It is reported that a cartel similar to the beggar circuit, controls the ragpickers.

    A solution that has been worked out by the Mumbai Municipal Corporation becomes relevant here. In association with a local NGO, the Mumbai Corporation `rehabilitated' women ragpickers in five zones of the metropolis and associated them in `direct segregation' of waste at the street level itself.

    Through the `Stree Mukti Sanghatan', the Mumbai Corporation achieved a dual goal helping the ragpickers segregate `dry' waste in healthier surroundings and more importantly for the civic agency, the implementation of source segregation.