Ban Plastic in India's Holiest City
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Shri Nitin Bansal,
Scientific evidences are now beginning to unveil the hazards of Plastic Pollution – it is a global epidemic. As also portrayed in the award-winning documentary film 'Trashed', there literally is #NoPlaceForTrash.
The story is not any different in India's holiest city – Varanasi. Apart from daily adversities of the locals, it adds-on toward an extremely unpleasant experience for the hundreds and thousands of travellers – both inlanders and outlanders, pilgrims and tourists – who visit the city every year. What kind of memories must they take back home?
"Prevention is better than cure"
We are taught in school time how "Prevention is better than cure". But somehow, during our adult lives, we tend to forget the basics. Palpably, the only way to deal with plastic in an environment-friendly manner is to NOT deal with it at all. We have no room for plastic.
Billions of rupees are spent on agendas to clean the holy city and the river – Ganga. Wouldn't it be smarter to not dirty it in the first place?
Long-lived vs Short-lived Plastic
The way modern human lives have shaped up, it is practically impossible to eliminate the use of all plastic outright. Notwithstanding the challenges, I believe we can try to put the best of human minds at work to invent ways to phase out use of all plastic in the long-run. You know, things like our smartphones, computers, furnitures, files and such? Meanwhile, however, we can start by immediately eliminating the use of all short-lived plastic items – bottled beverages, carry bags, food wrappings, and so on.
While long-standing plastic items have less impact per capita, ephemeral plastic articles have far greater repercussions – more than our Earth can handle.
In India guest has long been considered as God. And when God visits our home, we offer them water. Free water. We have done that for hundreds and thousands of years. Then why are we now trying to sell water in plastic bottles? Just for a few bucks?
Quite frankly, to bring about any changes, citizens of the holy city have to make better choices. But authorities have to provide them with the options. Our leaders have to set examples and then lead the way for the masses. But the question is, "What can we do?".
We can replace everything plastic with glass, or as a last resort, paper. For instance, bottled water can be shelved in glass bottles instead of plastic; ice creams can be wrapped in paper instead. And these are pointers just to begin with. It is beyond comprehension why in the world would the Indian Railways serve 'chai' in plastic cups anyway? Majority of us grew up with chai served in clay cups – an environment-friendly, local economy-friendly and poison-free artefact. Have we mistaken plastic for an equivalent of development?
Modern science has offered humanity new ways of conducting economics. But what they don't tell you is that they have also screwed up. They have 'composed' things that – as per best human knowledge – cannot be decomposed without harming our healths.
We cannot decompose plastic. But the minds at the likes of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) can invent ways to eliminate plastic itself. Shall we not set Varanasi as an example – ahead of Delhi and Mumbai – to lead a clean & green India image? Among all places on Earth, Kashi deserves it.
To implement these changes we can do the following:
• Create awareness among locals, especially children, through seminars, etc.
• Regulate plastic usage by large enterprises
• Encourage small businesses to eliminate their plastic usage
• Motivate local artisans to be 'creative' with clay and leafs
• Curb travellers from carrying plastic (bottles), food wrappers, etc. into the city
India must lead the way
India has the greatest opportunity to lead the way toward a more sustainable global future. While world's scientists struggle to find cures for the problems that have already been created, we can show the world a better way to live in harmony with nature. For thousands of years and until recently, India survived fine on clay cups and leafy plates. Why turn to plastic now?
I am pretty sure that the land of Yoga, Meditation and Ayurveda, can teach the world how to develop without harming the environment. Don't forget that ancient Indians were using architecturally designed toilets whilst Europe dwelled in the stone-age. It is time to reclaim our glory.
Last, but not the least, I urge you to watch Trashed.
Follow me on Twitter: @patikoenig
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