HYDERABAD: As an IT hub, Hyderabad has a high number of people who spend the better part of their days (and lives) tapping away at a keyboard, staring at computer screens and talking into headphones and mobile phones. Yet to keep the lifestyle going that means 1000s of computers feeding the corporate industry. Thus it comes as no surprise that Hyderabad is among the top five generators of e-waste in our country.
That might not mean much to you, but here’s how to put that in perspective: every time you change your mobile phone or your laptop, your old gadgets go through a chain that finally lands it at a garbage dump where they are burnt, releasing toxic chemicals into the air and ground.
This has been consistently adding to the pollution levels in the city, giving the State the rather nasty spot among the top three in India that contribute towards e-waste. According to a report by the Environment Protection Training and Research Institute in Hyderabad, our city featured among the top five generators of e-waste in the country.
A serious issue that needs to be addressed and kept in check, this rise in pollution levels will lead to serious health problems, especially on the younger generation, say experts.
Not very air-tight
Speaking about these concerns in the city, Ramesh Chandra, senior environmental scientist at Pollution Control Board (PCB), tells us, “The municipal solid waste is burnt in many parts of the city, which is illegal and responsible for the release of toxic gases. Robust awareness must be spread among citizens regarding existing pollution norms. Alternative fuels must be encouraged in order to reduce the pollution levels in the city.”
Talking about government incentives, he added, “The Congress government had promised the State government compressed natural gas (CNG) to run 50 per cent of the RTC vehicles, as an alternative to reduce usage of petrol and diesel. This stills remains a dream.”
Around 45 lakh vehicles run in the city which are considered the major contributors to the increase in air pollution. This has led to the increase in respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM) in a consistent upward graph for the last 15 months. RSPM are small micro particles which effect the respiratory system and can cause lung cancer.
In 2012, the monthly average of RSPM in the city was 87 while in 2013 it was 104.5, a clear indication of a drastic rise in pollution levels.
Making matters worse are the government vehicles. Sanyasi Rao, PRO at the PCB, points out, “Most of the government vehicles don’t get serviced as per the guidelines and some of them run for more than 30 years, releasing carbon gases which are harmful.”
Plumes of toxins
While waste generation is side of the coin, disposal of it is the other. There are no scientific methods for proper treatment of waste in the city. With metro construction persisting and poor implementation of the Motor Vehicles Act (1988), the problem is only getting compounded.
The disposal of e-waste in the city has only been increasing in the past five years. In 2009, the e-waste generated in the city was 95,120 kg while in 2013, it was 1,07,886 kg. This waste includes computers, telivision sets and mobile phones. There is no recycling plant for e-waste, adding to the disposal and pollution concerns.
Nagesh Hegde, a senior environmentalist, said, “Burning of solid, plastic and e-waste releases dioxin and carbon gases which causes severe health problems like impotency, hormonal variation, birth defects and so on. Dioxin gases are a severe threat to the younger generation and can also lead to diabetes at a very young age.”
According to the World Health Organization, India has the highest number of diabetic and cardiac-related cases in the world, primarily because of the vast pollution levels.
Besides improved lifestyles, the need of the hour is sustainable and green initiatives. Agreeing, Nagesh said, “Everyone must contribute for a greener environment or we will have to deal with climatic changes that could severely threaten mankind.”