Pink Crocodiles and the New Front Against Pollution in India
I was just in India to speak at a conference, along with Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister for the Environment and Forests, who laid out his vision for a pollution-free India. The Minister has decided to make cleanup a priority in his country and we are excited at the prospect of being India's strategic partner in this area.
Read more in the Pollution Blog. Among the stories I heard in India were reports of pink crocodiles with white tongues (a result of dye-polluted waters).
-- Richard Fuller, President, Blacksmith Institute
In This Issue
"The tragedy of this community is really representative of a larger issue we are seeing in almost every developing country as the price of lead has gone up and we are seeing more cars on the road and more people in urban environments," Blacksmith's Meredith Block told Public Radio International reporter Jori Lewis.
Lewis had traveled to Senegal to get a close-up look at the lead pollution problem, which killed 15 children in 2008, and Blacksmith's efforts to remove toxic lead from homes.
Lewis' report featured a woman named Kine Dior, who had been recycling lead from used car batteries by hand for 20 years, and Seynabou Barry, whose toddler became ill, had seizures and eventually died.
Read or listen to the full report Lead Recycling Exacts High Price for Health.
(Photo: Cleaning and decontaminating homes in Senegal, credit: Blacksmith Institute)
March 6 was the grand opening of a new park in Paraíso de Dios, or God’s Paradise, in Haina, the Dominican Republic. It was big news in all the local media because the park was once highly contaminated with toxic lead.
Blacksmith's cleanup efforts has brought down lead levels in the soil from between 11,400 to 463,970 parts per million of lead to just 10 to 300 parts per million of lead. The Mayor of Haina has agreed to continue working with Blacksmith. Read all about it in the Pollution Blog.
Last year, Jenny Sunga traveled for ten hours by land into the rugged mountain ranges of Northern Philippines and was surprised by what she found.
"I never expected that people still live in these areas, but I saw a lot of people affected by pollution there."
Jenny, Blacksmith's coordinator in the Philippines, was investigating the remote region as part of Blacksmith's Global Inventory Project to document the world's worst polluted hotspots. The source of the contamination was gold mines - both active and abandoned.
"Usually in developing countries like the Philippines, environmental protection is second only to economic gains," says Jenny. "When I speak with backyard gold smelters who handle toxic chemicals all day, they will tell us, "We are still alive, we are not sick." But when I ask if they will have their children work in the same environment, without hesitation, they say no because they know it is dangerous. But unless a family member falls really ill, no one really thinks about cleanup and protection."
To mobilize people for change, Jenny realized she had to take into account people's livelihoods. It is something she understands well as an expert in human ecology, studying the different ways people relate to and use their environment. Jenny, who also teaches the subject at the University of the Philippines, points to the cleanup of the massive Marilao-Meycauayan-Obando river system near Manila as an example.
One of her biggest collaborators on the project, Mary Lazaro, is president of the Tannery Association. When asked about working with Jenny, Lazaro replied, "the project gave us hope that we could help clean up our polluted river and that our industry could clean up our act."
With more tanneries now working with Blacksmith to curb pollution, the river cleanup is finally starting to take hold, even if efforts are interrupted by typhoons that spread the pollution. Last year's Typhoon Ketsasa, the worst in 40 years, was a "wake up call."
In times of disaster, Jenny notes, cooperation among the entire community is paramount. "I always believe that no one person or sector can do it alone to solve pollution problems or any other societal problem."
When the weather clears, Jenny can be found mountain biking with her husband and three dogs.
(Photo: Jenny Sunga speaking to students about pollution, credit: Blacksmith Institute)
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