For more than 25 years, Ram Nath has lived on the banks of the Yamuna River under a 19th-century iron bridge.
Each morning, the wiry man walks a few steps from his makeshift hut and enters the black, sludgy waters of one of India’s most polluted rivers. He is fishing for trash.
“This is the only work we have,” said the 40-year-old, sorting through a pile of plastic bottles, bags and cast-off electronics.
Hundreds of garbage collectors live on the Yamuna’s banks in New Delhi, making US$2 to US$4 per day recycling plastic waste collected from the river.
While Nath does not think of himself as an environmentalist, he is one of a handful of New Delhi residents waging war against the tsunami of plastic threatening to swamp India.
They include a ninth-grade student who convinces posh restaurants to give up plastic straws, and a businessman whose company makes plates and bowls from palm leaves.
India, which hosted UN World Environment Day yesterday, can use all the help it can get.
This year’s theme was “Beat Plastic Pollution.”
With more than 15 million people, New Delhi and its surrounding cities produce an estimated 17,000 tonnes of trash daily, according to Indian officials and environmentalists.
That requires immense dumps, hills of stinking trash that measure up to 50m.
Last year, two people were killed when a large part of one of the city’s dumps crashed down onto them.
“All these products which we use because of convenience take many hundreds of years” to even partially decompose, said Chitra Mukherjee, an environmental expert and head of operations at Chintan.
Mukherjee, who has spent years raising awareness and creating localized efforts to curb plastic pollution, credits the Bharatiya Janata Party-led government for making waste management and pollution a more serious issue.
“It is a collaborative effort between not only bureaucrats, but researchers, environmentalists who have been brought on board to make some progressive policies,” she said.
However, policy and impact can mean different things. Like the repeated bans in New Delhi on using thin plastic bags.
The latest regulation came with a hefty US$75 fine, yet a trip to nearly any shop in New Delhi makes clear how widely the ban is flouted.
Amardeep Bardhan believes he can make a difference.
His company, Prakritii, makes plates and bowls from the leaves of south India’s areca palm trees.
The plates and bowls, which have the feel of thick paper plates, biodegrade in seven to 10 days, he said.
The company does not harvest any palm trees, but waits for the leaves to fall to the ground.
“In this entire process, we are not harming the environment,” Bardhan said. “We are generating something from the waste, people are loving it, and then it goes back as a waste.”
While Prakritii initially made most of its income from exports to Europe and the US, Bardhan said the market for eco-friendly products is growing in India, especially among younger people who value quality over price.
His company generates more than US$150,000 in revenue each year.
In places, the trend is growing.
Some fancy restaurants in and around New Delhi are doing away with plastic straws and replacing them with paper straws.
That is largely because of Aditya Mukarji, a student who launched his campaign after seeing a video of two veterinarians trying to remove a plastic straw from a turtle’s nose.
“People listen more to children bringing up environmental concerns,” said Mukarji, who has helped replace more than 500,000 plastic straws at restaurants and hotels since he started his campaign in March.
If nothing else, India hosting World Environment Day has made environmental protection a hot topic — at least briefly — in a nation where trash is everywhere.
Yesterday saw numerous official environmental gatherings across India, clean up campaigns along the Yamuna and mall food courts agreeing to forgo plastic for the day.
The hope is that everything does not go back to normal today.
Reporters Without Borders has accused the Algerian government of taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to “settle scores” with independent journalists, including those covering long-running anti-government protests. In a statement signed with Algerian non-governmental organizations, the watchdog on Thursday called for the immediate release of its correspondent, Khaled Drareni, who has been in pretrial detention since Sunday after being charged with inciting an unarmed gathering and endangering national unity. Drareni has been arrested several times for covering the “Hirak” anti-government protests held in the capital, Algiers, every Friday since February last year. Imprisoning people during a pandemic is “an act of physical endangerment,”
Vietnam has lodged an official protest with China following the sinking of a Vietnamese fishing boat that it said had been rammed by a Chinese maritime surveillance vessel near islands in the South China Sea. The Vietnamese fishing vessel, with eight fishermen onboard, was fishing near the Paracel Islands (Xisha Islands, 西沙群島) on Thursday when it was rammed and sunk by the Chinese vessel, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement posted on a government Web site yesterday. All of the fishermen were picked up by the Chinese vessel alive and were transferred to two other Vietnamese fishing vessels
DIVIDED YOUTH: There is a belief that overseas students see themselves as superior, which is compounded by perceptions of their extreme wealth and multiple nationalities Chinese students flying home from overseas to escape the COVID-19 pandemic face a frosty reception from sections of the public who view them as wealthy, spoiled — and potentially contaminated. The number of officially reported cases in China has dwindled dramatically over the last month, but the country is now taking drastic steps to try and stem a second wave of infections brought in from abroad. With most international flights canceled and nearly all foreigners barred from entering the country, the vast majority of returnees are Chinese nationals, including many students. The situation has exposed animosities over class and privilege in Chinese society,
‘SHOW RESTRAINT’: Kismayo elder Adan Jama said that dead bodies were strewn in the battle zone and civilians were fleeing as the fighting had affected several villages At least 20 people have been killed in southern Somalia in clashes between militia from rival clans fighting over land, officials and witnesses said on Thursday. Tensions between fighters from the Owrmale and Majerten clans, which live about 30km outside the southern city of Kismayo, have been rising in recent weeks. “The fighting intensified today, and 20 people from the two sides were killed and dozen others including civilians wounded. This is a horrible situation that needs to be stopped,” local government official Abdikarin Mohamed said. “The dead bodies are strewn in the battle zone and civilians are fleeing as the fighting has