Women reducing plastic bags

Women's groups will make a significant contribution towards the green movement; to reduce and work towards the complete ban of plastic bags in Bodhgaya. At the same time they will be helping to raise awareness to their communities, secure sustainable livelihoods and their children's future.

Currently SET have taken orders for cloth bags from several Buddhist groups, contributing their efforts to reduce their plastic consumption and to support the initiative. Once the women's cooperative has developed itself into a social enterprise it will take on a life of its own...empowering women of Bodhgaya to take a stand and be counted as a valid part of the sustainable revolution.

 

SET has approached the large Buddhist groups to participate in supporting the plastic bag ban in Bodhgaya. Many groups from all over India and from different parts of the world have been regularly hosting events at the Mahabodhi Temple grounds, under the tree where Buddha gained enlightenment over 2500 years ago. The size of these groups can range from 200- 10,000 and when a well respected teacher such as HH Dalai Lama comes into town to give teaching, the crowds attending can be around 50,000.  Buddhists and Hindus pilgrims come to Bodhgaya for these events or simply to meditate during six months of the year mainly in the winter/ spring season . During the summer and monsoon season, the temperatures are far too high to withstand comfortably, even for the local population who have to stay indoors and rest during the months of May- August.

For the six months of tourist activity, the local businesses benefit and rely on this influx of visitors for their trade. As with any tourism anywhere, there comes a need for convenience items, food, and general consumption which leads to a production of waste and pollution.

The lack of infrastructure for waste management is the same all over India. Big cities may have a collection system. After the rag- pickers from the Dalit communities have segregated what is usable, edible, and recyclable, the remains end up on a pile left to decompose. The main residue on the land is made up of plastic items of water and fizzy drink bottles, convenience food packaging, such as sweets, chip wrappers, plastic bags, polystyrene plates and cups.

The technology required to deal with this type of waste has not been made available to this area yet. Although in other states of India there is a strong focus from the governments to deal with this growing issue and they have allocated funds specifically for setting up waste management systems.

The plastic never biodegrades, it only breaks down into smaller pieces with exposure to sunlight, water and through burning. It is a petrol chemical product, so although it becomes smaller particles overtime it is not compatible with and never becomes part of the natural environment. As the plastics sit in the land they leach toxins into the surrounding environment. These methods of disposal are not long term solutions and in the meantime land, water courses including ground water, air are contaminated and human and animal health are being effected.

The food wrappers such as for chocolate, chip and biscuit have a silver lining of aluminium which is highly toxic when burnt releasing micro particles into the atmosphere, which cannot be absorbed by animal, plant, or human, making this method of disposal an extremely dangerous activity on a daily basis. In a poverty area many children can be seen standing over a pile of burning plastics to keep warm breathing in unsuspecting toxins which are highly detrimental to their future well being.

 


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