29 Jan 2019 05:30am IST
Yes I’ve been talking crap for quite some time now, literally. About a couple of years ago, while in my BBA class at Dempo’s, we were talking about water pollution and instantly some students began lamenting about the situation in their village or town. One said that he was so disgusted to see these migrant labourers wash themselves and their clothes in the stream, dirtying and polluting the entire stream! Another said that he had seen an entire family living in a shanty along the St Inez creek dumping poo into the water of the creek. So then I mulled over it recalling a number of labourers bathing in the well known Fonte Phoenix. But what’s the difference between the labourer, migrant or local and others who do not have toilet facilities and me? I (and you, who are reading this) too poop at will. We have also pooped in the open on travel excursions, in the open, in forest spaces. And what do people living in informal settlements do what they are not provided with a facility by the land owner or the civic body? And what do many locals who still live in villages do, when they don’t have toilets in their small land holdings with space just to live comfortably? How much can the poor shit to pollute our streams and rivers?
Now let’s look at my (and your) practices and routine. I (and you) live in a house or in an apartment. The population living in apartments is far higher than those in individual houses. So let’s look at a typical housing society. I live in Dukle Residency. It has around 70 families living in the complex. Each family has on an average 4 members. And if you do the math, this totals to 280 individuals. Now imagine 280 people, early morning doing their ablutions like that single labourer on the banks of any stream or St Inez Creek! Each of the 280 individuals are ensconced in their plush toilets and their wastes or crap is then transported in sleek pipes that are all connected to a septic tank and soak pit. Septic tanks and soak pits are known to fail when there are large volumes of wastes dumped into its system. So what happens? Huge amount of untreated waste is emptied into the soak pit that is supposed to filter the polluted water into the ground.
It simply means that untreated water and wastes are seeping into the ground water which is our fresh water source. This ground water feeds our wells and springs! So while the poor labourer is openly dumping his negligible waste into the stream, I (and you) are dumping a phenomenally large amount of fecal waste into our ground water. So what I (and you) are doing is a sophisticated kind of pollution that is far more dangerous, lethal and fatal than the poor fella along the creek! It is polluting our ground water and this is the same water that our tankers pump out from nearby wells and bringing to our complexes to feed our need for daily water consumption. How safe is that?
And this is not all. I (and you) are also polluting the nearby and adjacent low lying fields and the crops growing in these. Have you noticed in the rains, how the fields that are adjacent to building complexes look like as if they are filled with black liquid? Every monsoon after the first couple of weeks, all the water in the fields turns black! How? Simple. Rain water flows from the hills and plateaus into the low lying fields which are like rain water harvesting tanks and allow the water to percolate into the ground water table. But when the ground water has become polluted with sewage, this blackish liquid swells up into the fields! And then begins the devastation, as this begins to flow into the St Inez Creek.
Haven’t you noticed from your high balconies and large glass windows overlooking the fields and creek, how all life slowly dies? Pythons, snakes, turtles, fish have been found floating in this sewage reeking channel of death! And it is horrific to see how all of us point fingers at the poor farmer implicating that he is the cause of his field turning black! Or the poor labourer is at fault!
Ulhas Chari is my neighbour who is living here for decades. He is the local, son of the soil. His was the only house in the neighbourhood at Tambdi Mati, St Inez before all our housing complexes came up. We are living here for just a decade. We are all migrants- local, remote, foreign! He has a small family. We are a huge gang with 70 families together. Add to that another 100 and more in the neighbourhood housing complexes like Dukle Haven, Kamat Harmony, Esperanca’s Casa do Povo! He has a very small single storey house.
Our buildings are like giants in the neighbourhood towering and higher than the surrounding tall trees. Now all of this does affect him. And it does affect us but we are unable to see it. Early this month I met Ulhas and he was running helter skelter for help. One of the complexes in the neighbourhood had a big problem. Its sewage had been leaking and it was raising a stink! So what did the residents do? First they called a soil truck service and got the sewage pumped out. Phew! That was a saviour. But the septic tank and soak pit continued to be clogged. So they had to call in the sewage truck again. Now a soil truck approximately costs Rs 3500 a trip. More number of trips, more the expense. So what next? Let’s avoid all the expense and dump it somewhere. So they connect the waste pipe to the nearest drain or nallah. And while they are doing this, Ulhas happens to discover it and document it. There is already sewage in the drain running parallel to his house that stinks of sewage. And he has been enduring this for years! Then follows the usual process of writing to the panchayat, etc. Ulhas finds a few good Samaritans to support his cause. The good Samaritans like Xavier Almeida, Arnaldo Lobo and Vishal Rawlley manage to get the two parties join hands along with the Village Panchayat members to solve the issue in a collaborative manner, by ensuring that the sewage is connected to the old Panjim city network with requisite permissions in place. Do you give a crap?
(Tallulah D’Silva is a practising architect in Goa)