In Lucknow’s waste-side story, plastic peril paints grim picture - Hindustan Times

In Lucknow’s waste-side story, plastic peril paints grim picture

By, Lucknow
Apr 22, 2024 06:08 AM IST

Nearly 300 metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated in Lucknow every day -- a five-fold jump from 59 tonnes in 2015 that poses a threat to human health, depletes nutritional quality of soil and raises concerns about the long-term environmental impact

The plastic menace is a giant of a problem towering over Lucknow, cocking a snook at the ban on the use of single use plastic and posing a serious health hazard as modernisation and consumerism disturb the environmental equilibrium.

The Chowk Nala area, which lies behind the famous Bada Imambara, is covered in plastics (Deepak Gupta/Hindutan Times)
The Chowk Nala area, which lies behind the famous Bada Imambara, is covered in plastics (Deepak Gupta/Hindutan Times)

Nearly 300 metric tonnes of plastic waste is generated by households and commercial establishments in Lucknow every day out of the total 1,500 metric tonnes of solid waste daily. In other words, plastic constitutes 20% of the daily waste in the state capital.

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The use of plastic has increased from 59 metric tonnes in 2015 to 300 metric tonnes per day now, say environmentalists.

A 2015 study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the impact of plastic waste disposal at Lucknow dumpsites revealed that soil samples from post-monsoon dumpsites were more basic (alkaline) than those from the pre-monsoon period, indicating an increase in alkalinity due to accumulated plastic waste.

The high plastic content in dumped waste and low infiltration capacity of hard soil caused waterlogging, further degrading the soil’s quality, said an official of CPCB.

“The study also found that the availability of phosphorous and potassium was higher in control soil samples than in those from the dumpsites, suggesting that the nutritional quality of the soil had been depleted due to plastic waste degradation over a decade. Also, heavy metals and phthalates in the underground water of the dumpsite area indicated that harmful substances were leaching into the soil and water supply,” the official said.

These findings raise concerns about the long-term environmental impact of plastic waste.

As plastic does not biodegrade but breaks down into micro-particles, it poses a serious threat to wildlife and human health.

Studies have linked plastic pollution to various health issues, including cancer, hormone disruption, and heart damage. Furthermore, plastic waste has been found in the blood of newborn babies, emphasising the pervasiveness of plastic pollution in the environment.

“The theme for World Earth Day 2024, “Planet vs Plastics,” underscores the urgency of addressing plastic pollution. It calls for action to combat plastic waste and its detrimental effects on the environment and human health,” said Venkatesh Dutta, environmentalist professor at School of Earth and Environmental Sciences (SEES), Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University.

“With the increase in urban population, we must take initiatives for protecting the environment, a multifaceted approach is needed. This includes stricter enforcement of plastic bans, increased public awareness, and greater emphasis on reducing, reusing, and recycling plastic waste. Ultimately, addressing this environmental crisis requires collective action from governments, businesses, and individuals alike,” he said.

Environmentalist Anuradha Gupta of Prithvi Innovations said, “The problem of plastic is much bigger than what it looks like. Residents are not getting an alternative to plastic. In 2019, India consumed around 20 million metric tons of plastic materials. In 2018, the Government of India pledged to ban all single-use plastics by 2022. But the decision is yet to executed in its true spirit. We should keep focusing on solutions of the problem.”

“It’s the duty of residents also to understand the magnitude of the problem and avoid the use of single-use plastic,” she said.

Lucknow Muncipal Corporation’s environment engineer Sanjeev Pradhan said, “We are working towards making Lucknow plastic free. We recovered more than 50 tonnes of plastic last year during different raids against polythene across the city.”

“Plastic is collected at the pickup point by waste recyclers. At the Shivri plant, a number of recyclers also pick up the plastic. And then the staff of the plant removes plastic from (other) waste as this plastic would be used for construction of roads,” he added.

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    Anupam Srivastava is a Special Correspondent with Hindustan Times, Lucknow. Has produced exclusive stories in medical, civil aviation, civic, political and other issues for over 20 years.

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