Mumbai has flooded again and we are all heatedly discussing why a country that feeds itself off the monsoon waters is so completely helpless to handle them in its cities.
There is also the odd whimper about Hurricane Katrina. In both these scenarios, there are lessons about how to plan a city that works for everyone. If anything, it's possible to draw up a definitive list of what not to do. The newest addition to the list is about how not to handle toxic wastes, generated from the bowels of Kartina.
Current thinking in New Orleans is to dump the debris — asbestos, electronic equipment and other potentially toxic materials — in a landfill. The result is projected to be an 85 foot high mountain, covering 100 acres. It will contaminate the ground water around New Orleans East, home to a large number of Vietnamese. They've resiliently returned home, except that home is doomed to be poisoned.
This is just another case of a trend seen in many parts of the US — locating toxic facilities near the most marginalised communities, who are unlikely to be able to fight back. Fortunately, the Vietnamese have organised themselves as part of a coalition to demand the closure of this landfill.
This itself will be an important rehabilitation package for them. Even as international support flows in for their struggle, the outcome remains to be seen. Now, Mumbai is also building a whole bunch of toxic landfills, but that's for another day!
The lead on your wall
It's great fun to paint the children's room. Till you read this new abstract about the lead content in paint used in Asian homes.
Researched by organisations in India, Malaysia, Singapore and the University of Cincinati, it's telling us something we have only been second-guessing.
The researchers' evidence tell them that 66% of the new paint samples tested from India, Malaysia and China contained over 0.5% or more of lead, which sadly fits into the definition of lead based paints in the US. Of these, 78% contained 0.06% or more, the limit for new paints in the US. Samples from Singapore fared much better.
Additionally, they found that some brands offer lead-free paints in some countries but not in others. Basically, what it tells us is that our children continue to be threatened by lead poisoning, in part due to poor legislation and irresponsible paint manufacturers. Parents, join hands and test samples to protect your children. Remember, lead is sweet tasting and if it's on the wall, young children may be attracted by the flakes.
(If you feel for Planet Earth, write to firstname.lastname@example.org)