Mahatma Gandhi said: “Sanitation is more important than independence.” It may have been said several decades ago but it has more relevance today than ever before as human beings have severely disturbed and continues to destroy the natural eco-system with wastes. We don’t have to visit waste dumping sites to see what humankind has done to the planet; we can see it just a few yards away from our house. The rivers and streams that run through Kohima, Dimapur cities and other urban areas of Nagaland are testimonies to how much we care for the nature. Water bodies that were once home to rich marine life are today filled with wastes, mostly plastic items, mineral water bottle, Styrofoam products etc.; and drainages stink. According to Kohima Municipal Council, Kohima city generates about 70-80 metric tons of waste daily while Dimapur generates an estimate of 111.12 tonnes per day as per the Dimapur Municipal Council’s waste assessment report compiled by a non-governmental organisation called Living for Environment (LiFE). Waste generation is bound to increase due to rapid urbanisation but the way people dispose off garbage has contaminated water, land and air. It has become a serious environmental, ecological and health hazard today.
The government of Nagaland has been stressing on cleanliness and scientific waste management since last year. The PDA government has been pushing towards making the state plastic-free by banning single-use plastic items. Several cleanliness drives have been initiated across the state in an attempt to knock some sense into the heads of the general public. However, this initiative to reduce waste pollution will not be successful without the active participation of the public who are responsible for creating wastes. The clean Nagaland drive may not have made the state waste-free yet but one cannot deny the fact that it is making a positive impact. The cleanliness drive that several civil society organisations, village councils, and NGOs took up before the onset of monsoon this year was laudable. Many garbage dumping sites in Dimapur that used to produce foul smell, and were eyesores, have vanished in the last few months, thanks to the DMC and other organisations. Awareness programmes play a big role in the success of such campaign but the end result depends on the active participation of the masses. Some positive changes may have taken place but it’s still a long way to go before reaching the desired goal. The public should participate in the campaign starting with segregation of waste before handing over to the collectors and avoid throwing garbage on to the streets and open sites. Mostly importantly, people should take cleanliness as a way of life. Keeping the surroundings clean will not only help the people live a healthy life but also avoid contamination of water sources, minimise the possibility of spreading disease and help protect the environment and wildlife. There is need for cleanliness everywhere.