Sunday, July 1, 2007

Mom’s unlearnt lessions

We have become a garbage nation with so much wastage

As a child, whenever I used to find excuses for not eating and waste thereby, my mom used to reprimand me by saying, ‘if you dishonour food by wasting it then some day food would dishonour you’. She used to keep reminding us that there are hundreds of families out there for whom even to manage a mere handful of rice is a daily struggle. This childhood learning had created such an impact that none in my family ever wasted even a grain of food served. But on the same aspect our nation presents a dichotomy when it comes to wastage. Be it food, electricity, water, or for anything which is termed in the dictionary of economics as a scarce resource is squandered to an extent that, if they are restored, it can by itself take care of all shortages and scarcities India is currently facing. Let us start with food, our most critical resource, for which almost 300 million Indians struggle for, day in and day out. According to a study undertaken at the behest of Ministry of Food Processing Industries, India wastes agricultural food items over a staggering US$ 12 billion annually. To get the figure in the right perspective, this wasted produce is enough to feed India’s over 200 million people, without even calling for marginal or any production increase.

That’s food, and now power. The abuse of electricity is so rampant that it has resulted in astronomical wastages. Way back in 2002, it was projected that our economy can conserve $12 billion by 2005 simply by improvising efficiency in power generation and eliminating transmission and distribution bottlenecks. It goes without saying that nothing close to this benchmark has been achieved so far. What’s more, if we were to consider the energy efficiency (in addition to electricity), the situation is even more dispiriting. For, D. H. Pai Panandiker of RPG Foundation bemoans the ridiculous excesses: to manufacture Rs.1 crore of GDP, India deploys four times as much energy resources as Japan or U.K and 2.7 times as Brazil does.The same holds true for water too. Here too our scale of water wastage is frightening, and even more frightening is our ruthless ignorance towards it. No doubt the public water system is the major cause of water shortages. Consider this: A random survey of 27,000 household connections in Ahmedabad revealed that 25 per cent of the water was wasted, owing to leakages in the system. Regardless of the results of this micro-study, one can safely presume that the case in other cities and towns would be no different.

All in all, this wastage phenomenon is ubiquitous as far as India is concerned. But what is amazing is the irony that this phenomenon depicts. How is it that the society known for its frugality can at the same time indulge in so much wastage and be silent about it? If my mom reprimands us for wasting even a grain of rice then so is the case with all such moms across the country. It is sad that we have miserably failed to translate our home grown lessons for our universal good!! Hopefully we would...someday.


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