Grow Growing Groaning
At this rate, one day the octopus will destroy itself and other places. Can we afford to to go on like this?
Text by Mandakini Khanna
“It does not concern me, I am least bothered!!” Is’nt this the attitude of the youth today? But it soon needs to be changed. Each of our metropolitan cities is turning into a huge, hungry, enormous, thirsty, monstrous octopus. Most of urban India is groaning under it’s own uncontrolled growth.
We produce mountains of garbage everyday, our factories and vehicles spew tonnes of dangerous smoke and soot into the air and we are busy making the rivers into drains by throwing muck into it. Our own Delhi has utilised nearly all its resources and thus is now reaching out its greedy arms to other rural areas and sucking their natural resources – rivers, forests, agricultural land, etc.
People from the villages are now being forced to come to cities due to the stealing of their resources by us. We people have a huge ecological footprint which extends far beyond our city’s limit. How many of us are even aware about our actions and their consequences, on us and others? We all want to live as ‘Maharajas in Taj Mahals’. We want to live a life of luxury. But is that actually possible or needed? There is nothing like a free lunch.
Coal for us comes from Bihar. Our water is now supplied by Bhagarati river in Tehri, wood comes from faraway Assam and now the octopus hands are ever spreading to other areas. At this rate, one day the octopus will destroy itself and also other places. Can we afford to go on like this ? Do we just scream HELP...or do we begin to take a close look at how we live and change our ways to make things better for us and all the other creatures who share our planet?
Suffering from indigestion!
Text and drawing by Parth Gupta
Otto Julius Bierbaum (A sentimental journey by automobile: From Berlin to Sorrento and back to the Rhine), Munich, 1903
Backache: I have to bear the load of 11 million people and have to fulfill their needs too. This heavy load can crush anybody. Even a poor cow.
Iindigestion: I have 2 major stomachs — the ‘amir’ and the ‘garib’. Well, even though the rich are smaller in number than the poor, their consumption of resources is very high. Thus there is no balance and I suffers from indigestion.
Think of your city as an ecosystem
For every kind of energy or matter we consume to maintain our lifestyles, some natural resource, somewhere, gets used up, and waste is produced. The city is an ecosystem, with inputs in the form of land, water, energy, food and materials from the hinterland which, after being utilised, become waste, the output.
The Ecological Footprint is a measure of the load imposed by a particular population or economy on nature. It represents the land (and water) area necessary to sustain current levels of resource consumption and waste discharge by that population. It is an accounting tool that allows us to estimate the resource consumption and waste assimilation requirements of a particular human population or economy in terms of corresponding productive land area. The Environment Education Unit of the Centre for
Science and Environment regularly organises ecotours for school students that focus on Delhi’s Ecological Footprint. The area affected by a Delhite’s lifestyle is not limited to the geographical boundaries of the city but his or her ecological footprint extends far beyond to distant places.
Whether it is water from the Himalayas, when we have exhausted our own supplies, or the increasing demand for mutton, which destroys the fragile grasslands of Rajasthan because of over-grazing, Delhi is a rapacious monster. Forests in states as far away as Madhya Pradesh and Assam meet the demand for firewood in Delhi. Four issues that touch upon nearly every problem, except energy and air pollution, that our city faces today, have been selected:
The selection was made with the express purpose of explaining the twin concepts of the city as an ecosystem and the ecological footprint to students.
If we all lived like Americans, we would need two additional planet Earths to produce resources and absorb wastes ...and good planets are hard to find!
Over the years, we have lost the ability to use locally available resources in a sustainable manner. After polluting and depleting regional resources, we reach further to other people’s (temporary) surpluses. For example, the Yamuna, which supplies 70% of Delhi’s drinking water, is a stream of poison with indiscriminate dumping of raw industrial and domestic sewage. Today, our city faces a water crisis.
Groundwater sources are disappearing due to overexploitation, and the Yamuna isn’t fit to drink from. So dams like Tehri, which submerge forests and villages, are built. Ancient water harvesting structures such as those at Mehrauli, Hauz Khas and Anangpur, were once used to augment water supply, and after an age of neglect, are now being rediscovered as a part of the process of solving the water crisis.
The unique urban forest — the Delhi Ridge — which acts as a sink for carbon dioxide and serves to mitigate the burgeoning air pollution situation in Delhi, is vanishing before our very eyes. A visit to waste disposal sites brings us face to face with the wastefulness of our lifestyles. Visiting composting and recycling plants makes us look at garbage as a resource to be dealt with, rather than something useless to be dumped and forgotten until the crisis is too big to handle.
The Ecological Footprint Project
The objective of the City-as-an-Ecosystem ecotours is to widen the perspective of students towards their city’s environment and to sensitise them to the symbiotic relationship between a city, its inhabitants and the environment.
How a city functions as an ecosystem, consuming resources and producing waste. How it’s ‘ecological footprint’ extends beyond its limits and how it affects the environment. (See the Teachers Manual on these ecotours on the back page)
Reduce Reuse Recycle
Have you ever wondered where does all the garbage and rubbish you produce go? For most of us it’s a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’. But our garbage is something we cannot wish away.We must learn to manage it.
One of Delhi’s serious problems is waste. Where do all the 7000 metric tonnes of garbage and waste that we throw away go? After we throw away garbage, we don’t know where it goes. Actually we don’t care about it. But do we know that it is this
But have we ever thought that we are the actual contributors of this garbage? We are the ones who are dirtying our own environment. We ourselves don’t like living in dirty areas. If we continue to dirty our environment, one day we are the ones who will have to live in the dirt. None of us want that to happen. Do we? In order to avoid it, we have to start working from now itself. We have to take some action against this problem of disposing of waste.
Reduce, Reuse and recycle. This is what we have to do. The first word says ‘reduce’. We, the people of Delhi use more than we actually require. So we must reduce the amount of consumption of resources. The next is ‘reuse’. There are some things which are thrown away by us after they break. Some of these things can be repaired and used again. For example, if once a toaster stops working for some reason, it can be repaired and used again. This will also reduce the waste problem.
The last thing to remember is recycle. Used materials can be recycled to make other things. For example, used paper can be recycled. By following these three methods we can surely solve the problem of disposal of waste.
Text and drawing by Poornima Sheshadri