Plastic and we
In the autumn of 2004, I made my first trek in the Garhwal Himalayas along with a group of students. Hemkund at a height of 4600 metres was our destination. We started our trek from Govind Ghat on a fine morning with a lot of enthusiasm and excitement. It was a two-day trek with a stopover at Ghangaria. We took in the mesmerising charms of the Himalayas as we plodded on the weary way. In the afternoon of the first day, a few hundred metres down Ghangaria, we were stunned by something that was just incredible. A whole mountain of plastic bottles and plastic waste lay in the course of the Laxman Ganga.
|Starting off from Govind Ghat, Maggie and I|
Most of the trekkers were pilgrims, people who went to pray at the Gurudwara atop the peak after taking a holy dip in the icy lake. What kind of spirituality is it that failed to teach people a basic respect for the planet?
We have so many beautiful slogans which are going to save everything from the rivers to the mountains, the planet itself. Save the trees, save the whales, save the snails, and what not. But just take a look around and you’ll be amazed by what you see. No one is saving anything. Our slogans sound so hollow. They are hollow.
Two years ago Kerala was buffeted by tremendous rains and floods. The two rivers that flow through my village were inundated. When the waters receded eventually, what remained on the banks of the rivers was an incredible mass of plastic. Plastic bottle and carry-bags covered the entire banks on both sides. It was a terrifying sight.
The experience taught the state a lesson, however. The Panchayats in the state swung into action and now there is a well-oiled machinery for collecting plastic waste from every household and sending it to the shredder.
Shredding is not the best solution. Why not reduce the use of plastic? I carry a shopping bag so that I can avoid some of the plastic at least that shopkeepers give us generously. Everything from food items to furniture comes in plastic.
Maybe, every religion should make it a sin to use plastic unless it is unavoidable. Will that work? I don’t know. I don’t see religions working anywhere. Yet they could try to be useful this way at least. Some awareness will descend on people, perhaps.
PS. Written for Indispire Edition 302: As responsible citizens, should not we ask people using polythene in market not to use or should we be quiet? #environment