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Litter to bins, ownership to lethargy! Lessons from Ecuador

Panaji and Goa has similar natural and built heritage and how we treat our land visibly shows and is an embarrassment when visitors and locals chuck garbage bundles clandestinely in dark corners or around green patches, the local body refuses to provide sleek modern segregation bins across the city for dry waste and also allows the piled up waste in the city’s black spots to remain unattended for days on end at the risk of disease and dereliction!

BY TALLULAH D’SILVA

As I drove to the Goa airport en-route to Quito on a social entrepreneurship programme, I quickly took some shots of the green fields lining the highway and another quick one of my backyard with tall trees and more green fields! Oh how I loved Goa, my home, my motherland and how beautiful and incomparable it was to any place I had ever seen. The only thing that had been troubling of late was the piling plastic bags with garbage in different corners of the city and also many edges of villages across Goa and these piles seemed to be growing worse.

I finally arrived in Quito-Ecuador in far South America and was eager to see its landscape as my friends drove me to my hostel. The people and urban areas resembled India in so many ways but the only stark difference staring me in the face was the civic cleanliness everywhere. The next day I noticed how the management of the hotel had signs everywhere, even the toilet on how to dispose the tissue paper in a bin, soiled sanitary pads in another and not ever in the potty! Whilst the housekeeping staff checked the rooms on their daily routine all the dry waste was disposed separately and the kitchen was neatly organised with bins neatly labeled- wet/food waste, bottles, plastic, paper, etc. And all the bins were kept indoors during the night with the day’s waste all sorted out. The collection trucks would do their rounds early morning and all the bins would be kept out along the pavement to be emptied and taken back to its premises. Besides this all across the city particularly the old heritage precinct which if one the world’s best heritage sites had a minimum of three bins at every location for segregated waste.

And what was even more surprising was the fact that every citizen and tourist was responsibly disposing either a plastic bottle or a biscuit wrapper neatly into the designated bin. There seemed to be a clear partnership between the citizens, local body, tourism body and the monitoring authority. And most of all, everyone in the city seemed to feel a great sense of ownership towards their city. Everyone also seemed to take pride in the fact that it was one of the world’s top tourist destinations with its unique built and natural heritage. When I enquired with some locals they shared with me facts about how the city was in social ruin a while ago and how good leadership with community participation helped in revitalising the city to its current sprightly clean glory.

I had the opportunity to also visit Mindo a forest nearby that is a popular birding hotspot and the Galapagos Islands, another unique world heritage bio reserve. In Mindo again there was no sign of litter and every one practiced segregation at source while the local body provided trucks for collection on a daily basis. Galapagos Islands are located far out from the mainland and being ecologically sensitive boasts of one of the best practices in the world.

With efforts by the Galapagos Foundation most of its waste once segregated at source is collected and further sorted or crushed to be then sent to the mainland for further recycling. With a focus on reducing waste, the results are evident as all educational programmes have integrated this approach to reduce, reuse and recycle all the waste produced on the island. And for an ecologically rich country these efforts seemed to have worked well by boosting tourism and the morale of its people!

Panaji and Goa has similar natural and built heritage and how we treat our land visibly shows and is an embarrassment when visitors and locals chuck garbage bundles clandestinely in dark corners or around green patches, the local body refuses to provide sleek modern segregation bins across the city for dry waste and also allows the piled up waste in the city’s black spots to remain unattended for days on end at the risk of disease and dereliction! And worse still the state government including the tourism department lacks a long term vision and a thorough system for garbage management regardless of the fact that Goa has been a globally recognised destination for the past 20 to 30 years!

I know many that are doing their bit in small ways but unless we all take ownership of what we have and recognise our assets and above all work like a team this will remain a distant dream and the day is not far when all will be buried under a burgeoning pile of our own rubbish!

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