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Act Local to solve a Global Crisis

india Updated: Nov 09, 2009 00:20 IST
Bharati Chaturvedi
Bharati Chaturvedi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

India has the dubious distinction of emitting 6% of its total greenhouse gases from solid waste that is badly handled.

The rest of Asia handles its waste differently, so to say, with only about 3% of their emissions coming from waste.

One solution that most people will tell you is to compost your organic waste, so that it doesn’t rot and emit methane, which is 21 times worse than carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas. So far so good. But what shall we do with the compost?

Unless we segregate our waste well, it’s likely to be quite unusable. A new study is a grim reminder. According to research by Dr. Saha and a team of people analysing the compost from 29 Indian cities, things are a mess. First, there were less nutrients for the plants compared to rural compost. Second, it was richer with toxins like lead. It actually failed to meet the national standards.

Yet, they offered a silver lining — compost from source separated waste (separated at the point of generation rather than the point of processing) was of much better quality, even in cities. Clearly, we should all set up two bins at home. If we want to act on giant crises like global warming, there is no way out of changing our everyday behaviour.

Revenge of the Pigs
Last week, I mentioned Egypt’s folly in this column — it has killed all the pigs in Cairo to prevent swine flu. Many people triumphantly mentioned that since that has happened, there were nearly no cases of that flu in the country. But this just got overturned.

Late last week, a few Cairo schools began to shutdown after students tested positive. Infact, the rule there is that when two children get swine flu, the school closes for 3 weeks. Now several parents in that city are aghast that all the pigs have been killed in vain. Global Lesson? Urban ecology is complex.