Mangaluru: Our coastal city, Mangaluru being a sight seeing destination, many visitors come down here to get the glimpse of temples, churches, scenic spots, and off course, to have some fun at the couple of beaches, among which Panambur Beach is the most visited beach. But the sad part of visiting Panambur Beach is that you will be welcomed by unfriendly scenes even before you enter the beach premises. First of all tourists have to travel through a dilapidated stretch of road covered with black oily substance, and when water is sprinkled on this stretch of road it makes it more worse. Specially for two-wheeler riders, if they lose balance on this part of the road, their feet will land into this black mess. Not a good welcome sight!
A few meters further you will witness a pathetic scene of pile of garbage, not only garbage but cattle, dogs, crows, cats and other animals/birds feeding on it. During early morning one can see peacocks and dogs enjoying their breakfast aka garbage. And nothing much has been done by the authorities to look into this situation. When the garbage gets piled up, it gets burned and the toxic fumes of the garbage are exposed into the atmosphere for humans to breathe in. This sight of garbage and pathetic condition of the road is not a good sign for a city which is looking forward to be a “Smart City”.
Although many sights that jar me back to harsh reality and one of those is seeing a cow eat trash. Seeing a cow or a cattle many times, and sometimes its cohorts, the cattle egret and crow, perusing the neighborhood effluvia. It’s frustrating to witness, not merely because of the welfare problems present when cattle eat trash, including plastic bags, but more so because there was a dumpster located a few blocks away. The problem is that people don’t make the effort to walk to the dumpster. They leave trash in ditches and wherever they feel like throwing it. And later the beach employers collect this garbage and dump it at this spot, where animals and birds feed on it.
Depending on the way you define trash, you could say that cattle have a long history eating trash here. But we live in a far from ideal world. The introduction of plastic to India, in particular, plastic bags, has transformed India’s landscape from one in which a scrap heap became a benign compost pile, into a one where your gaze always can spot a plastic bag or chewing tobacco wrapper no matter where you are in the city or the countryside. This is far from a mere aesthetic offence. Plastic is being consumed by feral cattle which forage for food in trash heaps. When people conceal their food waste within plastic trash bags cattle consume the plastic along with the food.
According to sources, If a cow eats enough plastic bags their digestion suffers when the bags collect in their rumen (the cow’s stomachs) or the intestines causing the cattle to die of impaction or starvation – both painful ways to die. The Karuna Society, an animal welfare society in Andhra Pradesh, removed 40 kgs (88 pounds!) of plastic from a cow they autopsied. Just think of the thousands of tons of plastic that are being carried in the bellies of cattle all over India, including Kudla. This is a poor life for the cattle that have bestowed so many blessings on humanity – especially in India. And a striking symbol for the dark side of an increasingly modern India. While our saffron activists are fighting to ban cow slaughter, they should also look into this situation, and try to stop humans from throwing garbage openly where cattle and other animals feed on it and eventually die.
We should also know that plastic not only affects the well being of cattle, but also the people who consume milk from cattle who are allowed to roam free during the day and return to their owners in the evenings, or feral cattle, especially males that end up as meat whether legally, in some of the Indian states that allow slaughter and sale of beef, or in the illegal meat trade. And I bet these cows here that feed on this garbage near Panambur Beach belong to some dairy farm owner, who makes a living by selling milk or meat out of this cattle. Research has proved that Polymers in plastic are a carcinogen (a cancer causing agent) when consumed in animals or humans and ingesting milk or meat from cattle that have ingested plastic, sometimes in astounding quantities, is extremely harmful for human health.
One study connected drinking cows milk from cows feeding at the dump with exposure to dioxins, some of the most toxic chemicals known to science. One of the studies reported: “Our results suggest that residents living near the dumping site have been exposed to relatively high levels of these contaminants, possibly through intake of bovine milk . . . It is anticipated that pollution from dioxin related compounds may further increase and that residue levels in human breast milk may increase in the future because even now the sources of these contaminants are not regulated at all.” Another study that sampled breast milk from mothers living around dump sites in some parts of India (it could happen here too) found dioxins at levels hundreds of times higher than the limit set by the World Health Organization. Whether or not you are a vegetarian, this is a compelling argument to be careful about consuming cattle products in India, including Mangaluru.
This problem is widely recognized, but the solutions do not appear to be easily forthcoming. Some states in India,( while Karnataka is till to implement the plastic ban) have banned some plastic bags, only allowing plastic bags of a certain thickness (measured in microns). These thicker plastic bags are harder for cattle to eat and more valuable to rag pickers – a caste of people in India who collect garbage for reuse or recycling. Yet the law is either ignored or difficult to enforce. Officials either don’t measure the bags or accept bribes to allow vendors to continue using the illegal bags. Bribing officials is a ubiquitous practice throughout India and makes changing some public policies next to impossible. Also, I have not seen any scientific studies done to measure whether or not cattle do not eat these thicker plastic bags and if this law would indeed benefit the welfare of street cattle. So it remains up to individuals and non-profits to minimize their use of plastic or prevent cattle from eating it.
Now here while you enter Panambur Beach, we have two issues-one is the ugly scene of garbage spoiling the image of the beautiful Panambur Beach; while the other issue is cattle feeding on this garbage, who produce milk which is consumed by human beings. Speaking to Mangalorean.com, Hanumanthiah, a engineer by profession from Hassan said, ” I thought Hassan was bad, this is worse seeing cows feeding on pile of garbage at a scenic and visitors destination. Isn’t it that Mangaluru is trying hard for the smart city position-then what’s all this garbage?”. Isn’t it that Mangaluru got third place as the cleanliest city in the nation-then what’s all this pile of garbage?”.
Raghavendra from Shivamogga said, ” Cows eating plastic is heartbreaking and I have always felt deeply about this subject. They eating food scraps is not necessarily a bad thing, I think – but today’s plastic culture is just horrible. Here I cannot help bringing up a religious topic too. While some religious groups try to help cattle, many don’t. For example, I know one place where cows “happily” eat plastic along with other garbage, and just a stone throw away there is a “Krishna Janmashtami” related building. Every year in that street lakhs of rupees are spent on celebrations; and throughout year I have seen people lazily sitting in front of that building, but they don’t care about cows. I feel that it is ridiculous that they call themselves as Lord Krishna’s devotees. They can easily join hands with city administration and spend money on better waste management, at least something right in front of their eyes! The city administration of Mangaluru should look into this situation-garbage and animals feeding on it”.
Well said by Raghavendra from Shivamogga- I only wish that our city administration, or whomsoever is in charge of this area to look into this situation and try to rectify it before many cattle get ill and …?- and for that matter, chances are that many human beings may get sick and …..?