For the longest time, I used to take pride in being someone hailing from God’s own country – Kerala. The greenery, backwaters, beautiful flora, and fauna are like nowhere else. If Kashmir is paradise, Kerala is God’s abode. Was it really so? Was everything all right in God’s empire? I was sitting on my balcony sipping my coffee, enjoying the picturesque beauty of the land opposite my house in Kerala, when a spicy, eyewatering odor hit my nose. I didn’t have to rack my brain to know where it came from for my neighbor aunty finds an orgasmic pleasure in burning plastic behind her household.
Two thoughts did a tug of war in my brain. Whether I should report this and see her getting penalized for Rs.25000-After all she is burning plastic and emanating cancer-causing, poison into the air risking the lives of everyone living around. While I was mulling over the smell and the effects of plastic pollution on this rare misty morning, (Thick mist is only something we get to see in the high-range areas of Kerala and here I was witnessing mist in front of my home) while I was beaming with pleasure at the sight of mist, scrolling through the phone, news popped up – Brahmapuram Fire.
Brahmapuram Fire – The questions that remain
I was shell-shocked to see what surmised in the news. Several heaps, mountains to be precise, of plastic waste were burning and for a moment I was doubtful if these news folks are telecasting the old image of the Amazon forest fire. I raised my eyes from the phone and looked closely at the mist. The sight that was a beauty, the mist that was nature’s expression of love; is no longer so.
What I witnessed was the cancerous, poisonous, suffocating smoke emerging from the fire that engulfed the plastic waste. For the next few days, the news was dominated by the visuals of monstrous fire and malicious smoke. Within no time, the repercussions set in. The helpless firefighters succumbed to the nauseous fumes. My son went down with severe wheezing and bouts of cough, my allergic sneezing was back with a bang, and everyone in the household was nauseous, breathless, and sick.
Discussions are rife
Soon after the news of the Brahmapuram fire came to light, the people living in the vicinity and even far started suffering the consequences. Nausea, vomiting, skin irritation, smothering cough, diarrhea – people in and around the area were facing serious health issues and the smoke was spreading. Thousands of people are exposed to dangerous smoke, containing fumes that are directly connected to cancer. It reminded me of the Bhopal Gas leak from the pages of my history book back in the day, just that this time I was about to be a part of the same, thanks to plastic pollution in all forms.
The discussions started getting rife as to who started the fire, whether it was deliberate and why isn’t the waste management plant becoming reality. While the more we willow about the incapability of the authorities or political corruption, the more we stray away from the base reality. We dwell so much in the comfort that we fail to follow some basic steps and changes in our lives that could bring about a change in the scenario at the grass root level. We could blame the politicians and beaurocrats for what happened but we cannot deny our contribution to the heaps of plastic pollution.
The media celebrated the news for two days and when they realized that it is not a bait to hold the fish longer, they switched to more spicy incidents while we were left behind to gasp for fresh air. How many of us would succumb to this? How many of us would end up having cancer despite leading a healthy lifestyle? Will there be anyone left behind to suffer secondary and tertiary consequences over generations? Only time holds the answer.
How we can contribute to reducing plastic pollution?
Here are a few basic things you can do as a responsible citizen. You might already be doing this already. If so, you can contribute by sharing this post with the ones who are not doing so. As responsible citizens, we can make these simple changes in our lives to reduce the amount of plastic that we contribute to the environment.
1. Carry cloth bags
Cloth bags in various forms are available these days. Be it normal cloth bags that we get from supermarkets, or the affordable bags that can be converted into a purse, keep it in your handbag or car so that you don’t have to ask for a bag every time you purchase something. Since non-biodegradable plastic is banned, we would be getting cloth bags but why create another bunch of cloth waste when we can reuse the ones we already have?
2. Buy in loose
Be it pulses, grains, or even curry powder, when we buy the packets from supermarkets, we are again creating a bunch of plastic waste as the covers contribute to the heap. Buy them in loose and take your cloth bags to collect them. Yes, it is strenuous, time-consuming but weigh it against the health hazards that are caused for generations and you will not shy away.
3. Water from home
Buy non-plastic water bottles and carry water from home. If needed you can refill the eater from restaurants if you are traveling long. This will reduce the usage of packed water and the pet bottles in which they are packed. Did you know that pet bottles are the largest contributors to carcinogenic content emanating into the atmosphere and our bodies?
4. Don’t Litter
However we try to reduce the usage, plastic is still being used and is unavoidable. But we can still contribute from our end by not throwing the waste and responsibly providing them to the recyclers. Now, this is one point that the Kerlaites might contest now because it is plastic that we responsibly gave away that caught fire and created serious environmental issues. Nonetheless, we have to trust the process and believe that this will not be repeated in the future.
If you don’t trust the process of recycling you can reuse the plastic containers. There are numerous DIY ideas to reuse plastic and we can spend our free time making use of these ideas and creating items from pen stands to plant pots.
6. Sustainable Clothing
A little care while buying your dresses can also reduce the number of nonbiodegradable heaps. Make sustainable clothing your motto and commit to it. By sustainable clothing we just don’t mean wearing cotton, it is also an attempt to hand down, stitch, and reuse them in whichever way possible.
These tips to reduce plastic pollution are not something that you haven’t heard of. But these are reminders because if something like the Brahmapuram fire is repeated, we could be rest assured that the quantity of the heap is kept under control.
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