Feb 28, 2009

Toxic trouble

There has been another report from Karachi of a small child stumbling into an empty landsite, where toxic industrial waste had been dumped, and burning his feet. A few years ago, we had another incident of a similar nature, leading to the death of one victim. There was an inquiry, but as happens in so many such cases, nothing seems to have come of it. Instead there was a cover-up, with the concerned company covering up the evidence of illegal dumping as fast as it could.The issue of the illegal disposal of dangerous waste is a growing one. Reports concerning hospital waste thrown out of clinics, of hazardous radioactive waste and of industrial matter have all cropped up. There is little information as to how we deal with abandoned computers and related equipment, some of which can release radioactive emissions. The problem is one that has persisted for years. While laws exist to guard against the unsafe disposal of dangerous waste matter, the fact, as we all know, is that these regulations are frequently ignored. After all, the companies and industries and medical facilities most often involved in waste dumping are powerful entities with great wealth and influence. Those who suffer the worst consequences of their actions, like the impoverished children in Karachi seeking places to play, have almost no voice.We need to take action. It goes without saying that laws need to be enforced. But we also need to create greater awareness and a sense of social responsibility. Toxic dumping affects all of us. Waste disposed of in the sea and rivers poisons the sea food we eat; it cripples and kills children and exposes others to all kinds of risks. A collective voice must therefore be developed to battle dangerous dumping and to protect the rights of citizens unable to speak out themselves.

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