Thu, 19 Sep, 2019

Poor waste management and its perils

It becomes essential civic authorities up the ante against violators who think nothing while ‘utilising’ public places as open dumping grounds

09th September 2019, 04:18 Hrs

PACHU MENON

Barely three weeks after pilots of a Goa-bound Mumbai Air-India flight aborted landing at the Dabolim airport due to the sighting of stray dogs on the runway, the authorities had to face yet another incident of a stray dog entering the runway reported on Sunday (Sept1) forcing a Delhi-bound Air Asia flight to abort its take-off.   

These incidents have yet again brought to the fore the free-ranging urban dogs’ menace at the airport. No matter how reluctant the administration is about admitting it, but the fact remains that such incidents come to pass because of poor waste management in the cities and surroundings.   

 With a view on safety of passengers this matter warrants immediate attention of the airport authorities. However, it becomes difficult to understand whether steps taken proactively by the naval authorities to relocate dogs from the vicinity of the runway will solve the problem of strays in its entirety.   

It is claimed that India has the highest number of stray dogs in the world; and as the stray dog population increases so do the problems associated with it. When it is said that the country’s street dogs are natural-born scavengers living almost entirely off the garbage created by humans, one can well gauge how effective our waste management systems over the years have been.   

Fears that the increasing number of stray dogs could prompt ecological imbalance have, however, not deterred many so-called dog lovers from feeding them. Garbage dumped in public, as well as unmonitored disposal of waste by slaughter houses, is leading to a change in eating pattern of stray dogs.   

A round of our market places more than convinces one that the large availability of putrefying vegetables, fish, and animal and bird entrails is primarily responsible for the proliferation of stray dogs in those areas.   

Weddings and big celebrations in India are known for their colossal food wastes. While there are many organisations which collect leftovers and distribute these among the poor and needy, stray animals do get ample share of the waste to feast upon.   

While attempts to curb the burgeoning population of stray dogs have gone from the most brutal and inhuman ways some years back to a more scientific approach in recent times, we have somehow never thought on the lines of a ‘collective responsibility’ to restrict the menace.   

As has been pointed out, the rampant throwing of garbage outside the airport and areas around Dabolim-Bogmalo has resulted in increase in stray dogs and bird menace at the airport which is seriously impinging safety of passengers.   

It thus becomes essential that the civic authorities too up the ante against violators who think nothing while ‘utilizing’ public places as dumping grounds for their waste.   

Seemingly, any large expanse of ground automatically becomes hunting grounds for prospective dumpers. This has been observed in even areas which are earmarked for development works. No sooner does a new thoroughfare takes shape that it will soon have mounds of debris lining up on both the sides.   

Apparently, the general awareness spread around on this matter of public interest is not having the desired effect and people continue to litter and dispose of their trash in the most unhygienic manner.   

Apart from having an irreversible effect on the environment, mounds of refuse serving to be fodder for the stray cattle that populate the roads and highways do not serve to be the healthiest of sights either.   

A cow feasting on plastic waste for instance! With grazing grounds disappearing under the unrelenting urbanization that our cities and towns are experiencing over the past few years, newspapers and other waste material littered across the countryside have replaced the abundance of grass and other shrubs that made up the pasture lands earlier.   

The viscous slurry with a putrid smell that one comes to associate with cow dung these days will hardly find any use in modern times. As an insect repellent and a thermal insulator as it was seen a few decades back, it is doubtful whether the cattle excreta in its present form will ever be a preferred product.   

One can well relate to such scenes. “Rummaging through waste dumps, stray cattle lumber through the dirt, trying to bite through polythene covers hoping to munch on rotten vegetable or kitchen refuse. Ingesting entire plastic bags, rotten food and garbage, there is invariably a huge build-up of indigestible inorganic materials in their stomachs.”   

A drastic reduction in their milk production ability is a natural fallout of this pathetic state.   

In the present times where there has been discernible change in the nation’s perception towards cows, with vigilante groups formed to safeguard them, one wonders how the protection of cattle can be complete without any efforts being made to save them from the real threat to their survival.   

Urban garbage, open dumps and the apathy of cow owners have only piled on miseries on the mute animals. With the number of the benign bovines ‘on the loose’ in the city, it is difficult to understand if these stray animals ever had owners.   

The concept of cattle pens where the stray bovines could be lodged till the owner(s) came forward to claim them after paying a fine for their negligent acts received encouragement initially, only to go out of reckoning in equally fast time after there were fewer claimants to the animals impounded.   

For a fact, cows that did not lactate anymore or showed a marked drop in their milk-producing abilities are clearly abandoned as cattle which have outlived their utility by their owners. Could there be a crueller sight than having these animals ‘fending’ for themselves?   

However, cattle hurdles along and mostly in the middle of busy thoroughfares can never be a sight for sore eyes. Vehicular movement in Goa has increased by leaps and bounds but this has not deterred members of the ‘bovine’ family from spending leisurely hours on the roads unmindful of the teeming traffic around.   

Imagine a bunch of them squatting on the middle of a runway and ‘ruminating’ away to glory!   

More than the nuisance, it is the safety threats to the commuting public that is more worrying in these cases. So whether it is the airstrip or the roads, animals and birds need to be kept away.  

There need to be new legislations enacted against the practise of dumping garbage, something akin to the imposition of hefty fines for traffic offenders which has come into effect recently. But since most of these ‘infringements’ are committed in the cover of darkness, public vigilance alone can check this malpractice.   

While the problems galore continue, it is difficult to imagine an ‘enforced’ solution to the menace. However, this is only possible if people start inculcating a sense of ‘proprietary’ over public places ensuring that there is no inadvertent threats to lives and property due to their callous attitudes.   

If we are not careful, the earth will one day buckle under its own weight of trash.   

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