My feeble attempt to lecture my Mumbai Autowala from spitting on the road went askew, as the auto screeched with the high bass of Pardesi Pardesi Jana Nahi. He lowered the volume, with a beady eye and through the front mirror, smirked to me saying “Madam log road pe kya kya fekte hain, hum thuke toh kya farak padega?”. I sighed, shrugged, pulled up my mask & continued watching the socially sensitive Bollywood movie-‘Padman’ on my phone, as he jammed to Pardesi Pardesi. As Akshay Kumar totally touched a cord with women, regarding menstrual woes, I couldn’t help but wonder if my autowala had a point. Well, Spitting, really is just the tip of the iceberg, as I felt nauseous to remember the type of open wastes with the likes of open human-animal excreta, used sexual products, sanitary products & human excreta consumer products all around us, as the video buffered to the part of rural Venusians owning the concept of disposable sanitary napkins. As I reached my destination which welcomed me with an open & overflowing green bin, I watched my step carefully, walking so very aware, as I thought, Akshay, please, make a sequel of the disposal of these utilities too yaar!
‘Talking about’ unsanitary waste and ‘feeling gross’ as my visual senses get a stroke, just seem to be first world problems, as I couldn’t imagine walking in the shoes (pun intended) of the garbage collectors, rag pickers, sanitation workers in manholes and others (sadly, we stand unaware of the waste management chain of our country). Imagine picking up used condoms, pads, adult/kid diapers, bandages, medical waste or snotty tissues with or without gloves and discarding them, as a part of your Performance based Variable KRAs. A chill runs down my spine. Some facts and figures, to mind-chew upon, about the mammoth worry of menstrual & allied (contaminated with bodily solid/fluid) waste in India –
1. They are incinerated or burned openly – An Air pollution hazard & release of carcinogens
2. Filling in the landfills or water bodies – NON biodegradable; jeopardizing the water supply & soil
3. They are flushed down the restrooms – Clogging pipelines (I pray, they replace humans with machines for the work of sanitation workers, who dive almost naked into sewage)
Did you know, plastic takes approx. 500 years to ‘degrade’ entirely? Or how many of the sanitation workers are suffering from respiratory or dermatological occupational hazards? The mental toll of this kind of work is a topic of discussion for another day. Till date, there is no regularized & standardised sanitary waste disposal and SWM.
If only, we sat down and thought about the economic, environmental and social implications of our mindless thrash-ing? Its high time, in the larger interest, we sit down and think about ‘wet waste’, sensitivity towards the disposal chain and environment and probably our children, in the generations to come. Each disposal matters, in this figurative ocean.
If only, we had a way to do our bit and make our footprint count. Well, maybe there is…!
While the chemical use of ‘savy’ stuff escalates each minute, there are also environmental caregivers who brainstorm & dig deep, the very same minute to troubleshoot waste management problems and make sure they get the Nature’s back.
‘Stick’ around with us, we might just have had a Sanitary Epiphany!
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