Anarcho-environmentalism allegorised

The name Anaarkali in the present context has many meanings - Anaar symbolises the anarchism of the Bhils and kali which means flower bud in Hindi stands for their traditional environmentalism. Anaar in Hindi can also mean the fruit pomegranate which is said to be a panacea for many ills as in the Hindi idiom - "Ek anar sou bimar - One pomegranate for a hundred ill people"! - which describes a situation in which there is only one remedy available for giving to a hundred ill people and so the problem is who to give it to. Thus this name indicates that anarcho-environmentalism is the only cure for the many diseases of modern development! Similarly kali can also imply a budding anarcho-environmentalist movement. Finally according to a legend that is considered to be apocryphal by historians Anarkali was the lover of Prince Salim who was later to become the Mughal emperor Jehangir. Emperor Akbar did not approve of this romance of his son and ordered Anarkali to be bricked in alive into a wall in Lahore in Pakistan but she escaped. Allegorically this means that anarcho-environmentalists can succeed in bringing about the escape of humankind from the self-destructive love of modern development that it is enamoured of at the moment and they will do this by simultaneously supporting women's struggles for their rights.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tackling Water Pollution at the Source

The problem of pollution of water sources not only on the surface but also underground due to the release of untreated sewage, waste water and industrial effluents, as also solid waste into the environment has become very serious. So far this problem has been addressed through centralised systems which involve carrying away the sewage, industrial effluents and waste water through underground pipes to a sewage or effluent treatment plant or carrying away solid waste by trucks for incineration at a waste dump. However, the problem with these centralised waste disposal and treatment systems in a poor country like India is that they require huge resources to install and then run them on a regular basis. Experience has shown that these resources are very difficult to recover from the citizens and so they have to be provided by the Government from its tax revenue. Since Governments in India both central and state have a very low tax collection efficiency ( total tax to GDP ratio is about 17% whereas it should be at least 30%) therefore the resources for waste collection and treatment are very limited. The result is that the waste collection, disposal and treatment systems are all underdesigned initially to cut the capital costs and then they are not run and maintained properly to cut operation and maintenance costs. Not surprisingly even after the expenditure of thousands of crores of rupees all major rivers, water bodies and underground aquifers in this country are severely polluted.
Consequently we have to seek decentralised solutions. Waste water, sewage and industrial effluents must be treated and either recycled or recharged at source. Whether it is an individual household or it is a hotel or government office or railway station or industrial unit it must be ensured that each of these treats and either recycles or recharges the waste water completely. In fact the use of the recycled water for flushing toilets and gardening will considerably reduce the potable water demand and save on costs there also ( The Central Public Health and Environmental Engineering Organisation [CPHEEO] manual of 1999 has it that of the 135 litres per capita per day (lpcd) standard urban water supply, 63 lpcd is for flushing toilets and gardening). The technology for this is quite cheap and it is easily implementable. The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 provides for a penalty of upto three months in prison and Rs 10,000 fine for any individual or institution found guilty of releasing polluted water into the environment. This needs to be strictly implemented and then people will certainly take care of their waste water. Roughly 60% of the urban population can easily undertake these decentralised measures. The Government should then be left with the responsibility of funding the 40% poor population who are not economically capable of doing this and this cost will be much less than the huge capital and O&M costs involved in installing and running centralised systems as at present. The storm water also should be recharged into the ground in a decentralised manner at the individual level. Once again the Government should be left only with the responsibility of recharging the storm water in public places like roads and parks and in habitations of the poor. This will not only do away with the perennial problem of waterlogging of streets in the monsoons but also augment the availability of ground water.
Regarding solid waste, too, decentralised systems should be used. The waste should be segregated and the green waste should be composted at the point of source for use as fertilisers for growing creepers which can then cover the roofs and walls of buildings and reduce the temperature inside and so cut down on the use of ACs and Coolers. The plastic waste can be collected by waste collectors and then either recycled or used for incineration in cement kilns which will bring down the energy requirements of these kilns while at the same time disintegrating the plastics into the elements due to the high temperature, without releasing GHGs as in normal low temperature incineration. 
We have a combination of all these operating at our office in Indore and here is a video that describes this. 
Thus, through decentralised waste treatment and disposal involving community participation not only will our surface and ground water be freed of pollution but a considerable portion of our potable water supply and cooling energy demand will also be met leading to a sustantial reduction in GHG emissions. Thus, the policy makers and administrators in this country should focus on decentralised waste management and build up a consensus among all stakeholders for implementing this, if necessary, with the strict application of the punitive provisions of the Water Act 1974.



Truly an illustrious article ..but unless the laid down laws are seriously implemented nothing will work....treated sewage pumped into water bodies and catchment areas will surely increase the ground water table...unless new technologies are vetted for merit and sustainability the days are going to be dark as water for everyone
Madan Iyengar

Rahul Banerjee said...

laws will be implemented only when there is people's pressure on the state for doing so. the level of awareness in this respect is so abysmally low that there is no people's movement of sizeable strength at the moment.