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Prateek Virmani

Year-Prize: The 11th Eco-generation Environmental Essay Competition     Item: Beat Plastic Pollution

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The Tears of the Holy River: The Great Ganga


Prateek Virmani (India)

Honorable Mention

“Mountains of sins accumulated by a sinner in the course of transmigrations on earth disappear at a mere touch of the sacred Ganga water. Cleansed will he be also, who even breathes some of the air moistened by the holy waters” – Brahmavaivarta Purana 
In India, the River Ganga is not only considered as the sustenance for life but also pious in nature. During my childhood, going through the Holy scriptures, I was taught about its spiritual properties dating back to its immortal history of inception. But all this seemed to be merely an illusion and a far-fetched reality when I first witnessed the banks of the River Ganga in my maternal grandparent’s village. The great river was rimmed by the plastic waste on the shore. As I looked around, I saw some people near the banks were carrying out rituals and thereafter, were dumping all the puja samagri into the river as a part of their offering to the holy river.  It was a harrowing scene to witness that the river which is considered so pious is carrying polythene bangs, food sachets and other industrial packaging material. Also, on one hand fishes were being nurtured in this water and on the other hand, it is used by the people living on the shores for drinking and bathing.
As I walked further along the shore line I saw all this waste is getting accumulated and forming a big garbage patch along the river, which ultimately became a breeding ground for many insects, worms and birds. Plastic due to its lightweight, versatile, moisture resistant and relatively cheap behavior has replaced the earthenware and other forms of packaging material both in rural as well as in urban areas, thereby increasing its production and consumption around the globe. The River Ganga which is used for plethora of purposes including performing rituals, household activities and even for drinking, accounts for 115,000 tons plastic output in the world. Moreover, it is also one among the ten most plastic pollutants carrying rivers reckoning for two-third of the plastic pollution in the oceans. Moreover, samples of the this river revealed  that it not only carries the visible un-biodegradable plastic items but also the small plastic pellets known as ‘mermaid tears’ which is made up of microscopic range (less than 5mm in diameter) fragmented plastic debris. All this made me realize that the plastic debris is not only endangering the human life but also the flora and fauna which drives it sustenance from its waters.  This is also affirmed by National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration that plastic debris kills 100,000 aquatic mammals and millions of birds. 
Although, other than being a signatory along with other 193 nations to the resolution to reduce marine pollution in the United Nations Environment Assembly organized in Kenya in 2017. Certain rules and regulations have been enacted by the Parliament such as Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 to tackle the 16,000 tons of waste which is not being recycled in the country. But the major concern is not the requisite regulations but the behavior of the general public. Firstly, awareness should be spread in the rural areas of the country through workshops and seminars, where more than half of the population is unaware about the segregation of the non-biodegradable substances from the biodegradable substances. Secondly, there is a need to impose fines on using polythene bags and providing incentives to the manufactures to produce the alternative forms. Although, India as a part of its Swachh Bharat Abhiyan has imposed fines on its usage but people are still using it in high numbers. Therefore, the government could provide the alternative forms of plastic at a cheaper rate then only the people would be willing to use it. Moreover, to decompose this plastic debris at a faster speed, some countries have released non-toxic enzymes into the rivers.  Also, these plastic wastes could be subjected to machine segregation rather than only to manual segregation by installing sensors in these machines to identify the non-biodegradable substances so that the per day plastic output rate could be equalized with recycling rate. Lastly, more electricity and bio-gas generation plants could be established in the rural backwards areas where the electricity is still a dream.  Hence, it is the collective action which should be taken by the public to avoid using it by realizing its effects on the human body and the other living organisms, thereby, passing sustainable resources to our future generations. Then only the sanctity and the purity of this holy river would be maintained.     
1. http://plastic-pollution.org/
2. https://india.mongabay.com/2018/01/12/indus-brahmaputra-and-ganga-among-the-top-10-plastic-waste-carrying-rivers/
3. Schmidt, C., Krauth, T., & Wagner, S. (2017). Export of Plastic Debris by Rivers into the Sea. Environmental Science & Technology 51 (21), 12246-12253. DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.7b02368







Viraaj Kulshreshtha

  • Aman Gangwar says :
    congrats prateek.
    Posted 31-10-2018 19:49

  • Manjesh Jha says :
    Congratulations .
    Posted 31-10-2018 19:46

Kajal Saini

  • Kajal Saini says :
    Congratulations Prateek!!!
    Posted 26-10-2018 14:12

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