Featured Posts

Thursday, September 24

Good things begin at home :)

The Govt of Kerala passed a bill the other day advocating severe measures against individuals and institutions found guilty of littering the environment. There are some pretty hefty fines, if you throw your bag of nappies, condoms and beer cans to the nearby municipal road, nearby canal or into the drain. Here is a snapshot of the article if you wanna enlighten yourself. Courtesy Keralakaumudi.

click for bigger fonts

Ok, appreciable move Gov! I'm waiting for the bill to become the law. And when it becomes the law, lest we not let this go the way of the numerous "laws" we have around us just for the namesake of it. Laws that are around just to encourage the public to break them...The Helmet and seat-belt rule, smoking in public places, ban on plastics to name a few.

Civic sense is not something which can be taught or practiced overnight. Kerala holds an august image as being one of the cleanest states in India, if not the cleanest. We take pride in our well maintained homes and apartments, our cities are still spotless (!) when in Indian perspective, we're given proper toilet training and not the field/railway track training, our city skylines are the prettiest in India and even the shanties we brand as slums are by far the best among the worst. Do you disagree?

Cochin Marine Drive skyline  Courtesy Niyasworld

The above image of the longest and prettiest skyline in Kerala, the Marine Drive waterfront in Cochin speaks about itself. Well maintained exteriors, no pillow covers, towels or undies hung up to dry in the balconies, and in fact most apartments and housing estates do have rules in place which helps to keep up the aesthetics of the complex.

Still, we're still stuck in the lower primary levels when it comes to acceptable standards of environmental hygiene & civic obedience. I learned a few lessons myself when I migrated outside the comfort zones of my country for the first time, the major crash course being on civic sense and law-abiding. I learned to use the litter bin for even the bubble gum, not to spit around as if the whole world is a wash-basin , to queue up to alight the public bus, to drive on the correct lane at the right speed,  to brake whenever I see the amber turn on instead of the age-old habit of accelerating harder...

Not that I'm whinging about our practices back in Kerala.. I still wear 'mundu' at home and not Bermuda, I'm still comfortable eating with my hand and  I still speak Malayalam and not the Ranjini Haridas 'maliyalum'.. Just in case some of you think, "oh, this guy is acting the 'sayippu' when he shook hands with a few white men..", its not that way! ;)

The curious thing is that it all came naturally to me because I was trained precisely so as a kid... I remember how my lower primary school teachers taught us to walk only on the footpath, to form the queue while getting into the school bus, not to spit on the road and sidewalks, proper disposal of the lunch-box remains, hand and body hygiene and what not? So where did I, as an individual, lose all those finer qualities? Now, I'm looking for someone to blame when mostly the fingers are all pointed towards myself.

To be honest, in India we practice bits and pieces. I've been reprimanded by a cop in Mangalore for crossing the road when the pedestrian signal was red, I patiently waited in the long queue to get into the BEST bus in Mumbai, I was part of the group which was fined in Mysore Zoo for plastic littering. All valuable education, but transgressed as soon as I landed back in aamchi Trivandrum! I've seen efforts by Bangalore Police to train drivers in lane driving in 2004 but the story was nonetheless the same when I went there last year. So the lesson to be learned is that we as human beings get naturally conditioned by the environment we live in. Simple as that.

Formulating the law is the easiest part, implementing it is the hardest. Kerala authorities learned it the hard way when the 100% sensible helmet rule was brought down to its knees and then driven to the gullies by the 100% literate Kerala society with the help of the demi-God media. It is anybody's guess where this new law will end up. It is unclear who is going to implement this law when the local self Govts apparently have enough on their plate now to look out for more garbage. The silver lining is that we already have the resources and help at hand to ascertain the abiding of this law, through Kudumbasree.

Kudumbashree is perhaps the illustrious example of how proper planning can bring about wonder changes to the society. In addition to the social empowerment and upliftment of women and initiating consistent  income to the weaker households, it has opened up a channel to solve our most discerning problem:  protecting our environment through solid waste management. (Please click the link to see how these women service our cities to keep them clean)

This is how this unique initiative by the State Poverty Eradication Mission may change the way Keralaites see their surroundings.

The Hindu, Sept 7, 2009

Once the Kudumbasree takes over the collection, each house will be given a report card for marking the nature of waste. Segregated and non-segregated waste disposals from the households will be marked in the card. Houses that do not give the waste to the waste handlers will also be identified. With the waste disposals of the households profiled, the ones that dump waste on the roads could be easily identified. The Kudumbasree units are being brought into the picture to ensure that waste is never dumped on the roads.A monthly fee of Rs. 50 each will be collected from each house.

So here is our model! Once the scope of their work is expanded from residential areas to managing the waste from commercial enterprises, a huge chunk of the litter menace in our ponds, canals and roads could be cordoned off. Ask the Corporation of Trivandrum who under-estimated the residents of their city. The Corporation barricaded the Amayizhanjan Canal with wire meshes to prevent dumping of waste into it. So what did the citizens do? They filled up the garbage in polythene bags and flung it over the 10-feet high wire barricade, right into the canal! Well, with Kudumbasree the authorities feel they could now shortlist such smart offenders.

And their modus operandi will solve another headache our agencies had w.r.t waste treatment: segregation of waste. This may open up avenues for the facilitation off recycling and reuse of materials, thereby taking a step closer to the Green initiatives which are gaining momentum.

I wish them good luck! And applause to whoever is behind the virgin initiative.

A much more proactive measure have to come from the local Govts in this matter.  Charging & fining the defaulting residents and establishments is a first step towards aligning the practices of residents towards decency, but it should be after the proper support measures are in place. It wouldn't be too impractical or difficult to put up litter bins on public places (like the one in the right pic) with the support of commercial establishments. With more Kudumbasree Units on the job, the processing and disposal of the waste won't be a big issue.

On the same lines, it would be prudent if the local authorities assume a firm stand against the defacing of our highways and cities by these banners, arches and ads. Sure they are avenues of revenue for the Panchayats & Municipalities but at what cost? Most of the time the political flags freely adorn the roundabouts, traffic islands and road dividers without any consent from any local body. A true eyesore in any sense for such a tourism-savvy place, but anyone bothered?

About lane driving and matters related to the road sense, its one tough job to crack the routine. The Highway Police did manage to make the motorists obey the "do not cross the yellow line" law sometime back by using the tough hands of the law, perhaps the next thing to do is to crack down on speeding.  Forcing lane driving could be a joke for the simple reason that there are no lanes markings on many of our roads.

So the simple fact is that as Keralites we are not so bad as the rest of our country, but we still have a  lot of scope for improvement. When our bad practices start draining our pockets we will be forced to put a chain to it. This is a lifestyle no one would be complaining about adopting from the West, or even the East. Guess why they say 'Singapore is a Fine City' , read this one from blogger Ajay Prasad and find out...

Speaking about hygiene and filth and citizens with civic sense, I learned that the West could be well as bad. Have a glance at the pix below; the one below is Downtown Los Angeles...

and these 'gentlemen'  are making themselves known in Melbourne, Australia. May be under the influence but still, I don't envy the behaviour or the surroundings, would you?

Digg Google Bookmarks reddit Mixx StumbleUpon Technorati Yahoo! Buzz DesignFloat Delicious BlinkList Furl
blog comments powered by Disqus