Environmental degradation: of hazardous waste, defacement of public property, and noise pollution

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Some citizens of Mauritius are not environmentabiding persons, consciously causing pollution around them.

Many of our citizens show a remarkable sense of civic duty. But others, perhaps out of habit or lack of principles, adopt a “I don’t-care” attitude and consequently pollute the environment. They don’t see the harm they are causing to themselves, to others, as well as to the island itself.

The other day, I witnessed scavengers (men and women) painstakingly cleaning a river. Bagsful of garbage were lying in a corner, for a lorry to carry away to a landfill. They had cut down the wild plants and made the place look better. A few days later, some people started throwing their garbage again in the river. Yet, we do have weekly services from the District and Municipal Councils. These people could have collected, like everyone else, their rubbish in plastic bags, but they preferred to dump it instead. It’s a question of mentality.

E-waste ?

Tossed away in nature, electronic gadgets are injurious to health. They affect the quality of the soil and make the environment ugly. Chemicals leach into the ground. Thus, contamination occurs. Plants and crops are affected. It may cause water pollution. The soil is already under heavy pressure from pesticides and plastic materials. Exerting more pressure by dumping e-waste can have grave repercussions eventually.

E-waste is toxic. As such, scientists believe that it can have a role to play in birth defects, brain and kidney damage. It can impact on the liver, the skeleton, and the nervous and reproductive systems. The plastic casings of electronic products contain polyvinyl chloride, a known carcinogen.

When burnt, e-waste releases toxins in the air. Evidently, they are a threat to humans. Research demonstrates that workers operating in e-waste sites are exposed to inflammation, stress, DNA damage, and even cancer. Improper disposal of e-waste isn’t as harmless as it is believed to be.

Every year, the District Council, for example, informs villagers about house-to-house collection of obsolete objects and they’re invited to place them in front of their yards. The lorry will take the old mattresses, computers, printers, cooking appliances, fans and so on for re-use or recycling. There’s therefore no need to dispose of them in nature. Yet many individuals do so. It’s a pity.

Others don’t bother about tying their plastic bags or covering their dustbins conveniently. Sometimes these are not covered at all. Stray dogs tear the bags or overturn the dustbins, scattering the muck. The road becomes a mess. Passers-by and the inhabitants face a difficult moment due to the unbearable odour. The rubbish stays there till the scavengers arrive. How do you want people not to fall ill?

Defacement

Defacing public property is prohibited. But this doesn’t seem to mean anything to some people. You can find announcements on pieces of wood or iron sheets nailed on electric poles: “Clé Minute...”, “Réparation : machine à laver/douche à gaz”, “Admission to College”, “Professional (sic) Photographer for anniversary/ weddings” or large posters (battered by the wind) informing the sale of a new collection of dresses in Mahebourg (they’re still there even though the sale is over).

On public walls one can see: “Terrains à vendre”, “À louer”, “Private tuition”, “Bouré ManU Liverpool p vini”, several posters with the message “Langaz lepep bizin rant dan Parlman”. On the walls of bus shelters, we find posters of an anti-drug campaign, foul words, telephone numbers, and “mo pa lé twa”. Torn and filthy flags are still hanging on poles. Since the authorities haven’t reacted so far, people take it to mean that they can indulge in their bad habits.

Rubbish is an eyesore. It stinks and provokes respiratory problems, skin rashes, allergies and a host of other diseases. It affects children and adults alike. An unhealthy environment contributes in raising our level of stress. Yet, some people go on throwing litter where they want. The regular rubric “Who cares?” in l’express is evidence that we still have a long way to go to make people adopt good manners in relation to the environment.

Every evening, the District Council scavengers clean the main roads, in our villages. How, then, do you explain that the next morning, the same roads are littered with bottles, papers, take-away, plastic objects, cans, cups and so on? In villages, roads are dirty with dog poop. It’s the kind of thing that doesn’t go well with an island whose vocation is to attract more tourists.

We also have broken pieces of bottles of beer strewn on the roads. They are a danger to children going to school or to diabetics. A simple moment of inattention can have nasty consequences: a diabetic person can end up with an amputated leg. It just goes to show how inconsiderate some people can be these days.

Wrong disposal of trash has a lot to do with mentality. Some people pollute because they know that there will be volunteers and *ploggers to do the donkey’s job of cleaning. Instead of cleaning, the latter should now adopt a fresh approach. There must be cameras around and if someone is caught getting rid of rubbish or disused electronic devices where they shouldn’t, it must be thrown back at his place. It would be a good lesson. It would be an effective way to deter them next time.

“You pollute, we clean” isn’t a sound policy anymore. It doesn’t really work. On the contrary, we should be encouraging culprits to act more responsibly. And they must be punished accordingly. If you open a door, it’s your job to close it behind you. You can’t expect another person to do it for you. Likewise, if you dirty the environment, it’s your responsibility to tidy the mess, not somebody else’s job. Let’s begin by inculcating this kind of education in our children at home and in schools so that they can become law-abiding citizens.

Noise

A mentality prevails among certain people: they think that they can play music loudly or ride their motorcycles noisily. They forget that other people have a right to tranquillity or that they may be disturbing babies or old and ailing citizens. We’re surrounded by noise everyday and we’ve got used to it but it’s when it is excessive and unnecessary that it becomes a real source of nuisance. It prevents you from taking a rest after a hard time at work. It disturbs children in their homework. People don’t protest because they want to avoid getting into conflict with others. This doesn’t mean they approve.

Noise at its peak is irritating and causes stress and hypertension. Not many understand this because they’re basically self-centred. They’ve never learned to put themselves in the shoes of others and to look at life from the latter’s perspective.

* Ploggers remove rubbish while they run

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