Web         Gaudiya Discussions
Gaudiya Discussions Archive » MISCELLANEOUS
Copy-pastes that don't fit well into any of the other categories.

Plastic bags partly responsible - for Mumbai flood

nabadip - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 00:48:11 +0530

Deluge of plastic bags choked Mumbai drains

Yoga Rangatia/ New Delhi , The Pioneer

Stormwater drains choked with ubiquitous plastic carry bags are partly responsible for Mumbai's woes.

The Environment Ministry's ban on manufacture and use of small plastics carry bag has gone unheeded, not just in Maharashtra, but also in most parts of the country.

A deluge of 100-cm rainfall on a single day is unprecedented. But Mumbai's stormwater drainage choking with accumulated plastics waste, making the floods unmanageable, is an old story. In June 1998, the Bombay Municipal Corporation passed a resolution to ban plastics carry bags only to vacate it in less than two days. The then Mumbai Mayor said no plastic bags meant putting out of work those engaged in the plastics recycling industry. Environmentalists had accused the city administration of wilting under the pressure of the plastics industry, which has a sound base in Mumbai.

India's plastics consumption is one of the highest in the world. Yet, precious little has been done to recycle, re-use and dispose of plastic waste.

The carry bags that are callously littered at every public place have low economic value and are not picked up by rag-pickers. About 500 flimsy polythene bags make a kilo and fetches about Rs 12, if the bags are soiled the value is even less. Without being picked up, most of the poly-bags end up in drains and block flow of water.

The Environment Ministry has banned manufacture and use of plastics carry bags less than 8 inches X 12 inches in size 20 micron in width. The bigger the bag, higher will be the cost. This will discourage the use as the consumer will have to pay for the cost. The thicker and larger bags will also draw the rag-picker to retrieve these from garbage since the collection will fetch a higher price. The ministry has also asked State Governments to register all plastics manufacturing unit, so that these can be regulated. However, the implementation of the order has been tardy, evident from the large number of polythene bags strewn in every major town and city.

Justice Ranganathan Mishra Committee, set up by the Environment Ministry in 2001 to look at the issue of plastic wastes, had asked the Government to do more. The committee wanted the Government to ask the plastic industry to take the responsibility of recalling and recycling plastic wastes through 400 collection centres across the country. The committee wanted the Government to levy a plastics tax of 25 paise per bottle which could be reimbursed at these collection centres. The plastic waste could then be recycled for laying roads and in the construction industry. This would make the poly-bags become dearer and would not be easily misused, recommended the committee. However, the proposal did not find favour with the Government.

Environmentalists said, "in absence of a long-term Government policy, we are unable to get rid of poly-bags." "When sewerage is blocked, municipal corporations and State pollution control boards only pass the buck. Corporations just throw up their hands when it comes to handling the enormous quantity of plastics waste. If states (like Himachal Pradesh, Goa and Delhi) ban recycling, the trade goes underground. We cannot tackle the issue if disposal of plastic is seen in isolation, not taking into account production and usage," said Ravi Agarwal of Toxics Link.

He called for a comprehensive policy including collection incentives and where plastics industry is part of the solution.

Besides choking drains, plastics are highly toxics. When burned they release cancer-causing gases. Lying in the garbage, polythene bags also find their way in gut of cattle, asphyxiating the animals. Mumbai crisis serves as a grim reminder that unless our plastic waste is taken care of, we cannot dream to emulate Shangai.

braja - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 00:58:50 +0530
I recall reading a statement by Rajiv Gandhi lamenting that India's plastic usage rate was one of the lowest in the world.

The BBC points to much larger factors than plastic bags blocking the drains--global warming, destruction of the mangroves, over-crowding, etc. Quite a bleak outlook:

Mumbai's looming ecological disaster
By Payal Kapadia in Mumbai

Why does a week of heavy monsoon rain kill more than 400 people, cause damage estimated at nearly $700m, and completely paralyse life in a bustling metropolis?

Shocked residents of Mumbai (Bombay), India's financial and film capital, have been asking this question after the deadly deluge in their city made headline news all over the world.

The politicians who rule the city and the state of Maharashtra blame it on the weather - this was record rainfall caused by a freak cloudburst, they say, and it took the government by surprise.

"What a load of bunkum!" says Mumbai-based urban planner Chandrashekhar Prabhu.

No one disputes that the island city on the Arabian Sea had more than its share of rainfall recently - some parts of the suburbs are reported to have received 94cm (37 inches) of rain in a single day last week.

This city is a sinking ship
Debi Goenka, environmentalist
The high tide also did not help matters.

Mumbai's storm water drains are designed to shut during high tide.

Flyover project

This prevents tidal water from entering the city, but on very rainy days, it also prevents rainwater from draining out.

We will look into the urban development issue, but this is not the time to do it. Our priority now is rescue, relief and rehabilitation
Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh

"But the water that collected in the city should have ebbed when the tide receded," says Bittu Sahgal, one of India's best-known writers on environmental issues.

"Why didn't that happen?"

Mr Sahgal blames the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, an ambitious flyover project that has come under fire from environmentalists for making ecological compromises.

The flyover crossing the sea, he says, has pinched the mouth of the Mithi River that drains most of Mumbai's excess water out into the Arabian Sea.

That's not all.

The systematic destruction of about 1,000 acres of the city's mangrove cover - what's left, about 5,000 acres, is under threat - has deprived Mumbai of its natural flood-barrier and silt trap.

Now rainwater washes silt into the bay, threatening to clog the city's deep natural harbour.

"Ecologically unsound decisions have caused huge financial damage," says Mr Sahgal.

Maharashtra Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh blamed unprecedented rain for the monsoon disaster.

"What could any government do?

"People panicked... they did not follow instructions and the police were helpless," he told Reuters news agency.

"We will look into the urban development issue, but this is not the time to do it. Our priority now is rescue, relief and rehabilitation."

Mangroves cleared

Horror stories abound of urban welfare projects gone terribly awry.

A World Bank-funded urban transport project has cut away hillsides, dumping debris on the city's wetlands.

Mangroves have been cleared to build golf courses, amusement parks and rubbish dumps.

Building construction is planned even on 5,400 acres of salt pan land.

"In the post-tsunami scenario, this is plain lunacy," says Debi Goenka, executive trustee of Conservation Action Trust, an environmental NGO.

Experts say the historical process of reclaiming the sea to build the city is the cause of Mumbai's problems.

In the 16th century, 95% of today's Mumbai was under water, says Sheela Patel, director of Sparc, an NGO working on housing issues.

"We can't rectify what happened 100 years ago," admits Bittu Sahgal. "They didn't have the benefit of information that we do."

Drains choked

It's not just the "no-development zones" that have fallen prey to the frenzy of unplanned building.

Successive state governments have signed off lands reserved for parks on the pretext of housing the poor.

In fact, the replacement of low-lying slums with multi-storey buildings has made the city a concrete jungle.

Typically, 35-40% of rainwater is absorbed by the land, lifting groundwater levels, but there are few open spaces left in Mumbai.

India has the lowest ratio of open space to people in the world - a mere four acres per 1,000 of population, compared to the global benchmark of 12 acres.

In Mumbai, this falls to a paltry 0.2 acres, and after accounting for slums, it diminishes to a measly 0.03 acres.

An unholy nexus between politicians and builders and unfettered development has brought the city to the brink of collapse, environmentalists say.

Mumbai's development plan is obsolete in the face of such unfettered urban growth, they allege.

Thousands of tonnes of uncleared rubbish choke the city's 100-year-old storm water drains, which urgently need an overhaul.

And in a city where 88% of commuters use public transport, governments spend a lot on flyovers and a pittance on upgrading creaky trains and buses.

'Urban collapse'

Environmentalists say the only city in the world with a quarter of its land area designated as a national park is on a suicide mission.

Bittu Sahgal calls it "a case study for the collapse of urbania in India".

Can it get any bleaker?

Debi Goenka certainly thinks so.

If Mumbai's unprecedented rainfall is an early warning of global warming and rising sea levels, the city will "become an island again, be it with rain water or sea water".

In the next 50 years, the storm drains that carry rainwater out of Mumbai could be bringing sea water in, even at low tide, Mr Goenka prophesies.

"People should be moving out of Mumbai, not moving in," he says.

"This city is a sinking ship."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/02 09:22:34 GMT
nabadip - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 01:04:39 +0530
Revenge of a river cut short

Mumbai, Aug. 1: The curse of a river could be behind Mumbai’s fatal floods.

As the skies showed no mercy on the city, environmentalists feel that though the rainfall was unprecedented, a river that runs through the city and its thoughtless obstruction by “development” may have been as responsible for the disaster as nature’s wrath.

Mithi, that starts in Powai, from streams joining from Tulsi, Vihar and Powai lakes, flows through all the areas that have reported the worst devastation and number of deaths in the city — Sakinaka, Kalina, Kurla — and meets the Arabian Sea in Mahim Bay through Mahim Creek. But it is an apology of a river, when not flooded.

Mahim Creek, which has shrunk following reclamation of land from the sea in Bandra and the construction of the Bandra-Worli sea link, does not allow the Mithi to flow freely into it.

In the other parts of the city, locals call Mithi a “gutter” and it is left choked with plastic, domestic waste and industrial waste. This is true of Mahim Creek, too. “It has become the city’s kidney,” said environmentalist Girish Raut, who had protested with other activists, against the reclamation and the construction of the sea link.

“The land reclamation also claimed 730 acres from the Mithi river estuary and the mangroves,” he said. “This created tremendous pressure.”

When the rains started to lash the city from Tuesday, the Mithi could barely able to contain the water and flooded.

“In Kurla, the Airport Authority of India built big walls, putting an obstacle on Mithi. The river turned about 90 degrees. There the water rose about 12 to 15 feet on Tuesday, killing around 30 to 40 people,” said Raut.

He added that the airport extensions from Sahar to Santa Cruz also blocked the river. The river was also obstructed near the Air India colony and the Indian Airlines colony in Santa Cruz-Kalina. “The water reached 30 to 35 feet and about 30 to 40 people were killed in that area,” said Raut.

“For the Bandra-Kurla complex (a new-age corporate hub), Mithi was channelised by the MMRDA (the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority). Channelisation of a river is against the basic character of an estuary.”

There was another cause of flooding, Raut said. When the water level is going up, the reclamation also obstructs the Arabian Sea from entering the Mahim Creek that acts as a buffer between north and south Mumbai. “The sea then tries to get in through sewers and drains all over the city and the water column rises,” he said.

Deepika D’Souza, executive director of the India Centre for Human Rights and Law, said: “The rains have been unprecedented. But we have to think why the drainage is taking so much time,” she said. The overflowing Mithi was not the only cause of Mumbai’s flooding, but it could have been responsible for great damage, she added.

She said in 2001, several experts who deposed before the Indian People’s Tribunal on Environment and Human Rights, that was conducting an investigation into the feasibility of the Bandra-Worli Sea Link, said reclamation and blockage of Mahim Creek could lead to increased flooding.

braja - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 02:05:44 +0530
QUOTE(nabadip @ Aug 2 2005, 03:18 PM)
The Environment Ministry's ban on manufacture and use of small plastics carry bag has gone unheeded, not just in Maharashtra, but also in most parts of the country.

I once saw the shopkeepers in Mayapur get fined by some kind of government agency for using the wrong kind of plastic bags.

India's plastics consumption is one of the highest in the world. Yet, precious little has been done to recycle, re-use and dispose of plastic waste.

I don't believe the first part is true on a per-capita basis; the second certainly is. Here is Reliance Industry's Mukesh Ambani speaking on the subject in 2000:

At present, the per capita consumption of plastics in India is only 2.4 kg as compared to a world average of 16 kg and China's 9 kg. The Indian plastic industry is just 0.4 per cent of the global plastic industry. If we aspire to match the world average per capita consumption, Indian plastics demand would shoot to 17 million tonnes from a mere 3 million tonnes today....Let us not forget that plastics have not yet touched the lives of 4 billion people out of 6 billion, who habitat this earth. They demand a higher pace of development and better quality of life. They can not be denied access to this most important substitute of traditional materials like paper, cotton, iron, aluminium and wood.

A May 2004 report puts the consumption rate at 4kg per person.
brajamani - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 04:22:24 +0530
How come everytime I cut and past long text I get chastised or edited and they not?
Madhava - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 04:40:45 +0530
Because they cut and past long texts into the STATIC CONTENT > COPY AND PASTE section where they belong, instead of amidst discussions.
brajamani - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 12:04:56 +0530
You have too many rules, count me out from now on. Thanks.
Madhava - Wed, 03 Aug 2005 12:07:59 +0530
I think you've already said that a couple of times? Nobody's forcing you to participate. smile.gif

Our rules are here for a reason. If some of them you find odd, feel free to bring it up. However, I find it hard to imagine that asking members to only copy and paste into the copy and paste section would be too much to ask?
brajamani - Thu, 04 Aug 2005 03:29:54 +0530
OK then remove my account from the db and have a nice time in your own little world.
Madhava - Thu, 04 Aug 2005 03:30:54 +0530