Of Litter & Litterbugs

Greater Kashmir

Litter is a global issue that has raised eyebrows among environmentalists. They’ve warned people about the disastrous consequences of unmanaged garbage. In particular, the tourist places have been found getting polluted with trash that lots of unmindful tourists throw anywhere. What do we litter places with? Junk-food packets, cigarette butts, used soft drink/water bottles/tetra packs/tins, chewing gum wrappers, broken glass and electrical equipment parts, polythene bags and wrappers, diapers, pads and so on make up the litter that is thrown mercilessly at places that they don’t belong to. Overflowing dustbins and fast-food wrappers thrown out of moving cars are a thing of worry, too. Littering has endangered our health and jeopardized, especially, the pristine tourist spots. At tourist resorts which are visited by thousands of people, littering has become a colossal problem to tackle. The litterbugs feel that cleanliness isn’t their responsibility; they behave callously and litter their stuff wherever they like. We forget that when heaps of garbage collect at places, they not only make the area dirty but also the municipalities have to spend huge amounts on clearing them when that money could be spent on developmental projects. Trash-throwing is illegal and aesthetically wrong.

There are several reasons for people to litter around: One, when some see a spot already littered, they take it as a garbage dumping place and intentionally throw their trash there. Two, at construction projects workers’ lunchtime waste and the building waste—pieces of wood, metals, plastics, debris, carboard and paper—are another ‘rich’ source of garbage. Three, callousness and carelessness has developed a litter culture. Many people have become lazy and are unwilling to dispose of their trash appropriately. It has been seen that people frequently throw their trash out of their kitchen windows on the road or street, feeling that roads and streets are ‘sarkari’ as if the ‘sarkar’ was something extraneous to us. Four, people, by and large, litter in an “I don’t care” way. Moving cars throw chewing gum wrappers, bottles and other trash on the roadways and feel that somebody else would pick and clean them up. Five, the lack of adequate number of litterbins is also responsible for littering. People feel that public litterbins are not enough to temporarily store the trash accumulated every day. Six, the poor management of the existing cans also leads to this worry. Animal scavengers and blowing wind also dislodges a lot of trash and scatter it around.

Littering has a terrible impact on our health and environment. It spreads diseases and pest-species. Broken glass, needles, blades and sharp items can cause physical injury. Throwing cigarette butts on a heap or a forest can cause huge damage to life and property. Littering on roads and streets adversely affects our environment. The toxic materials or chemicals pollute water, land, soil and air. It becomes very difficult to walk the streets where heaps of garbage are found, and scores of dogs assemble there looking for their food. Passersby are intruders to them. They pounce on them and bite. Polythene litter has become a huge problem for both land and marine wildlife. The herbivores sea birds, turtles, dolphins, and fish have been found dead with plastic and cigarette buts in their stomach. Similarly, when domestic animals like cow take polythene for food, they consume it which affects their digestive system and reduces their stomach capacity. Littering affects tourism also. The littered place gives a shabby look and tourists tend to avoid these areas.

The Amir Khusro-verse ‘gar fidaus bar-rue zamin ast/hamin asto, hamin asto, hamin ast’ (originally said about Delhi) would mean little to the alarmists in Kashmir because the ‘firdaus’ is fast losing its charm. Nature is being plundered and littered making the Switzerland of Asia one of the scared places now. Gone are the days when homemade eco-friendly snacks like “gunhar dogul”, “massala-roti” and “chanchanbale”, served in paper-rags, were (in our childhood) a fantasy. To our children, these things would appear icons of our backwardness. COCOALISATION has brought them spicy junk-foods packed in attractive polythene packets which they feel are the signs of development and progress. Therefore, one finds littering items mentioned above, scattered all around tourist and non-tourist places. Here, littering is taken as a right as if Kashmir was a ‘sarkari’ place whose cleanliness was the responsibility of the Sarkar only. In 2016, WHO listed Srinagar as the tenth most-polluted city in the world. It annoyed the Governmental agencies, but those who knew how dirty this city was admitted the report as correct. It was reported that Srinagar had 113 micrograms per cubic metre of PM 2.5 concentration. A study jointly conducted by Kashmir University and Institute of Tropical Meteorology at Pune had found that the air quality of Srinagar was terribly low, surprisingly, in winters when Kashmir presents a pristine look. The study had found that, in dry weather, Srinagar air was worse than that of Delhi or Kolkata. Unplanned colonization and urbanization, blocking of water channels, filling up of water-bodies and constructions coming up on the riverbanks has created immense problems. Rainwater flowing into our lakes and badly managed sewage-plants have endangered the existence of the Dal Lake and Wular Lake and the Jhelum which are dying their own death. Mindless monolithic structures at tourist places like Gulmarg, Pahalgam and Sonamarg have already told upon their pristine glory.

Tourist resorts are littered as tourists take little care in using litterbins. “Cleanliness is half the Faith”, that’s what we have been taught. Let’s save Kashmir, in general, and the tourist spots, in particular, from turning into trash heaps. Litterbugs have made littering their hobby. We need to educate both local and nonlocal tourists about the disastrous impact of littering. The Swach Bharat slogan has failed here. Laws are there, but the enforcing agencies are in slumber. Therefore, social awareness is necessary so that we don’t become litterbugs. Nobody would want Kashmir to have Achins all around!