Kashmir is fast turning into a garbage dump from all sides. And gosh, all of us are watching like mute spectators these heaps of garbage everywhere. The municipality workers dump tons of garbage either on the banks of streams or at places close to residential areas. The officers concerned are least bothered about the foul smell emanating from such dumping sites. There is no proper system for dumping garbage in the whole valley. Graveyards, markets, Jhelum banks are all sites where garbage remains piled up for weeks. The irony is that the municipality workers clean one place only to pollute another.
What makes Kashmir an attractive destination for people all over the world is that here springs and streams of icy water not only flow with a whistling thrush but the dulcet water is so pristine gushing out from lush green hills clad with snow. Allah has bestowed this valley with breathtaking scenery and pleasant air which is enough to re-energize the most tired traveller. But how embarrassing that we go on adding tons of garbage everyday in our vicinities, blindly, spoiling the beauty of the land with our own hands. We seem to be in conflict with the very air, even though we know that we can live without water and food for a few days but not for more than a few minutes without air. We’ve crossed all barriers in disturbing the fragile balance of this ‘paradise’, with the consequence that we have to bear with disastrous effects of global warming, shrinking glaciers, chopped and barren forests, untimely rainfalls and floods, polluted soil, water and air, diseases, depletion of ozone layer, etc.
If we just for a while close our eyes and ask ourselves who is responsible for degrading the environment, the answer will identify us as the culprits. Yes, it’s undoubtedly we the Kashmiris who have polluted the valley, not a foreigner. We care only about our personal health and hygiene, and throw our garbage wherever we find it convenient. In this way ours is becoming a wasteland with each passing day. This garbage is nothing less than cruelty inflicted on our environment. So much of non-biodegradable substances are in it that they choke the life out of various organisms. The poisonous chemicals emanating from them harm the life of humans, plants, animals, birds, fish, insects, everything that lives on or inside the earth and water. Packs of dogs that breed on this garbage pose another threat to the people around.
It is a pity that outside our restaurants, hotels and institutional canteens or at marriages, where hygiene practices are all the more important, garbage is found in tonnes and we go on adding more to this filthy trash continuously. Our drainage system in towns and cities wasn’t that bad; we’ve made it worse by throwing in so much muck. We choked these drains with so much solid waste that even water has nowhere to flow.
It was absolutely stunning to read a news item about Budgam and Sopore where 8 metric tonnes of garbage are everyday dumped on roads and lie dumped for weeks together. Tragically, the story is similar elsewhere too.
Our ‘smart city’ Srinagar stinks even as its administrators dole out sermons of cleanliness. According to official data, more than 450 metric tonnes of waste is generated per day in Srinagar city. Tonnes of it go straight to river Jhelum, which is the foremost reason why a single day’s rain causes a flood-like situation here. The Qamarwari-Eidgah road is least preferred by commuters because of the filthy smell emanating from the mounds of garbage lying there. For the past ten years the Srinagar Municipal Corporation (SMC) has not been able to acquire even 50 acres of land for creating an alternate landfill site even though the existing one at Achan is already choked.
In our school, colleges and varsities, teachers keep on lecturing but never instil any sense among their students on how to take care of their surroundings. The syllabus is completed and the degree is awarded but never do such citizens come forth who could help us with problems like these.
We never think of changing our ridiculous habits, though that simple change could produce big results. Some decades back we used to carry things differently. But now we feel sad if a shopkeeper doesn’t give us a polythene bag. We feel awkward to carry a basket to the market. How insane have we become! The garbage we throw ultimately affects us; how difficult it is to understand!
Those who are at the helm of affairs need to find some solution to this grave problem, preferably that these heaps of garbage be converted into useful energy. Simply piling on the garbage is just adding fuel to the fire. We must live in unison with nature, not in conflict with it. We must change our attitude towards our surroundings, otherwise the day is not far when we all will breathe only the foul air emanating from our garbage.
—The writer is a teacher by profession. [email protected]