That India has a colossal waste management problem is no secret. Out of the 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste that is generated per annum, only 43 million tonnes of the waste is collected, 11.9 million tonnes treated while 31 million tonnes of it is dumped in landfill sites.
Now, sick of the mountain of garbage piling up near his home, a resident of Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh has lodged a protest against the city’s municipal authorities. 32-year-old Ashutosh Singh set up a portable barbecue grill outside his house, using the garbage as fuel, after repeatedly but fruitlessly requesting the Lucknow Municipal Corporation (LMC) to have it removed. Over three hours on December 31, Singh grilled cottage cheese and vegetables over the waste-powered grill and served them to friends with tea.
A passer-by shared the video of the intriguing protest online, where it went viral and made the authorities take notice.
Singh told reporters, “People here throw garbage in the open because door-to-door garbage collection is very poor. We wake up every day only to see garbage piles all around and are forced to bear the stench. Our complaints to the municipal officials have failed to elicit any response.” He also received support from the local residents, who warned of more such “unusual protests” if the requests to clean the area continued to go unheeded.
While it is definitely unique, this is not the first protest against improper waste management that India has seen in recent times.
In September last year, a protest was staged against a waste treatment plant and the resulting heaps of garbage in the northern state of Uttarakhand. In 2018, residents of Noida near the national capital celebrated kooda (Hindi for waste) Yoga Day by practising yoga outside a dumping site on International Day of Yoga. This was done to highlight the fact that the government was neglecting the risks posed to residents by the garbage near their homes, while promoting yoga for a better life at the same time.
Not only does improper disposal of waste create health risks for sanitation workers, but research has also shown that it disseminates pathogens which can quickly spread among human and animal populations in the city. Aside from having harmful effects on the environment, garbage dumps also carry a high risk of explosion and fire due to the production of methane gas of landfilling sites.
When contacted, a zonal LMC official said to the IANS, “We will take action against the private agency hired to ensure household garbage collection in the area. The garbage pile will also be cleaned up within two days.”
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