Last week, a team of scientists in Costa Rica pulled out a plastic straw from the nostril of an olive ridley sea turtle. The video went viral raising questions about human behaviour towards environment. Environmentalists in south Delhi also report frequent incidents of animals dying or falling sick after ingesting polythene. People recklessly throw plastic bags, straws, paper cups etc in water bodies or animal enclosures without realising where it will end up. As a result, forest areas and water bodies become dangerous for wildlife.
Christine Figgener, an environmentalist and a sea turtle expert, who was part of the team that rescued the animal, said in the video that in turtles, the passage for food and air is connected just like in humans. The way some of the material we throw up comes out of our nose, the straw could have lodged in the reptile’s nostril. Plastic is dangerous for animals and there have been incidents across the world where animals choked to death because of that. In several cases, plastic blocks the stomach and intestines of the animals making them sick.
While south Delhi has a number of water bodies and forest areas, the awareness among visitors in this regard in particularly low. Despite warning signs, visitors here often try to feed the animals or throw plastic in the enclosures.
HAUZ KHAS LAKE
Despite a long barricade built to avoid people’s contact with the animals at Deer Park in Hauz Khas, people can be seen throwing food items in plastic wrappings to the deer. In a recent incident, officials snatched the camera of an environmentalist when he photographed cheetals or spotted deer eating polythene thrown in the enclosure along with food.
At Hauz Khas lake, one can spot people throwing paper cups and straws in the water body. Ecologist Surya Prakash said, “Human interference in feeding chappatis and bread must be stopped as birds know how to feed themselves and what their dietary components are. Visitors should act more responsible towards maintaining cleanliness.”
There are vendors in the park who sell eatables in plastic plates and cups. Activists demand that sale of plastic products should be completely banned.
A Central Pollution Control Board report in 2013 stated it that India generates 56 lakh tonnes of plastic waste annually, with Delhi accounting for a staggering 689.5 tonnes a day.
Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS that carries out animal rescue operations across India, said, “We routinely come across animals that have ingested plastic and very often die as a result of that. The most recent case was that of a rat snake that was found by our team in Gujarat that had ingested a polythene bag on which it choked and died.”
Plastic takes thousands of years to decompose. While there is no concrete statistics to show its catastrophic affect, conservationists estimate that at least 1,00,000 mammals and birds die because of plastic every year all over the world. The numbers of fish killed by them is unknown, but experts expect the figure to be in millions.
JAHANPANAH CITY FOREST
Large parts of the forest, which is spread over 435 acre of land in south Delhi, are littered with plastic bags, discarded bottles and pan masala pouches. SM Agarwal, president of Friends of Jahanpanah, a group of locals formed to save the forest area from encroachment and degradation, said, “In the past one year there had been at least four cases where nilgai or blue bull have died after eating polybags or drinking dirty water flowing through the forest area.” A senior DDA official, however, said that the allegations are false and there had been no such incidents.
Satyanarayan said that banning the use of plastic is the only way out. There needs to be a better system for safe disposal of plastic. People need to be made more aware and conscious of the horrible effects of plastic on the environment and animals.