Sundeep Bhutoria

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Thursday, December 2, 2010

Litterbugs – a national menace

Day before yesterday I was at the crossing near Hotel Taj Bengal. There was a navy blue Mercedes car waiting for the signal to clear when I noticed the window of the Merc roll down and the occupant throwing an empty mineral water bottle on the road. I was speechless. 
This incident reminded me of another recent incident at the Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh. One of our safari guides was Ajay, a local man who had spent his childhood in and around the jungles of Pench. Just before the safari we were apprised of the basic rules and regulations inside the forest. We were particularly told that during the tour inside the forest nobody should disembark from the vehicle. However, at one point, during our journey deep inside the jungle, our guide Ajay stopped the vehicle, quickly jumped out and picked up something. When I asked him, he showed me a piece of plastic bag and said that this wasn't environment-friendly and perhaps some tourist must have inadvertently thrown it inside the park. I was surprised by his ability to spot that small plastic and even more surprised by his concern towards the environment and his sense of duty. Ajay hardly has any educational background.
This once again brought to light the mindless acts of tourists and their disregard or lack or awareness for the environment. What struck me was the fact that the tourists who visit these forests are usually well off and educated in the modern sense and such mindless acts of littering even protected areas is shocking.
It seems littering has become a national habit irrespective of social or educational status. Litterbugs, who have left their marks from Kanyakumari to Leh, are a national menace. This stems from utter disregard and lack of awareness or any kind of concern for the environment. Awareness is something that is above education and social status. A poor and illiterate person like Ajay can be more aware of the environment and the world around him than someone who can afford to lark around in a Mercedes.
I read in a recent report that India has the dubious distinction of being the defecation capital of the world. But, for a nation where millions don't have a roof above their head, it is understandable. But what to say of people in Mercs who chuck mineral water bottles out on the road.
I think it is worse than defecation.
We decorate our homes with marbles and granites and complain about dirty premises and pavements all the while freely spitting around and dumping garbage in common or public space without any second thoughts or care. This is the typical not-in-my-backyard (NIMBY) syndrome.
ess bee

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