July 30, 2018 at 5:18 PM
Lands rights activism is a public health and environmental issue. In one example Amina Ji shared with us during an afternoon lecture while at the Aarohi center in Satoli, the government forced Indian farmers to sell large tracts of land to use for industrial development. The new construction disrupted rain water drainage and had huge consequences for the health of nearby villages and towns. Instead of flowing into lakes, an important local water supply (many lakes in the region have shrunk significantly), rain water drained into low elevation villages and caused severe flooding. Not only were streets 6 feet under water in extreme cases, but the water also flooded a local sewage. Contaminated rain water threatened local habitats.
Amina Ji has also worked on changing India’s waste management system. Currently, segregation of waste materials (plastics, organics, etc.) rarely occurs on a large scale – most trash is put into one bin and burned. Trash, especially plastic waste, can be seen everywhere. It was immediately apparent to me walking through Delhi, and even in Satoli (a village in the Himalaya foothills), plastic litters the ground and trash cans are metal bins where things are burned. My homestay family is working to segregate their waste but are self-responsible for burning non-plastics like bathroom tissue. Large industrial piles of unsegregated waste are toxic for local communities, especially when rain water leaches toxins (like lead) out.
India’s waste is directly visible, unlike the United States, where trash is out of sight out of mind and shipped off to other countries. The system is designed to be transparent. When I throw away a wrapper or a tag, I don’t need to think about it again, which makes the US waste management system seem more ethical and cleaner. And certainly, from the standpoint of an American citizen, it is: massive leaching like that in India is less of a problem, and trash on the sidewalk gets picked up. I’m curious to learn about what really happens after the garbage truck comes. Where does the trash go? Who processes it? What are the ecological impacts? Maybe the Indian and the United States systems are not as different as they seem.
While the topic was interesting for me, what made the lecture so engaging was Amina Ji’s energy. Her passion for her work was so apparent in the way she spoke, stood, and presented these issues. As a community organizer, she stressed strength in communities as advice to us as young leader, which resonated back to our post program projects.