THE OTHER SIDE
With the enforcement of the amended Motor Vehicle Act and collection of raised penalties from those violating traffic regulations, there is a flood of memes and messages on the social media criticising or making fun of the situation. Though one can point out follies in this development, as in most other things, logically speaking it is not a bad thing to make the people follow the regulations meant for their own good. As a result, those who don’t care for their own safety are wearing helmets and following other rules to avoid paying the hefty penalties. Nobody says that paying hefty fines is convenient or welcome but then neither is dying or killing/injuring someone else by violating regulations meant to maintain basic order and safety. The criticism of this development made one think that in many cases, people tend to criticise the solution due to inconvenience, ulterior motives, lack of information or plain stupidity. In the case of the traffic regulations, the situation will hopefully improve in some time as intended. However, there are some other issues which are getting worse despite official focus and some efforts to tackle the same.
Polythene and plastic waste is one such major issue. When these items were first introduced, they were deemed as a boon for society. Actually, plastic and polythene may not be so that bad per se but it is our proclivity to mass produce, misuse and turn such things into waste that has turned these items into dangerous contents. The prime minister has talked of stopping the use of single-use polythene from this October 2 and in Uttarakhand the government has already held some meetings towards meeting this plan. However, as in the case of Swachchh Bharat mission, which is very good and necessary, the anti-polythene campaign may also have only limited effect due to a combination of public apathy and illogical governance. One of the potential solutions to the polythene problem is found in Uttarakhand- hemp. Hemp is not the same as ganja. Industrial hemp is grown for the fibre rich long stalks and contains less than 0.5 per cent tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the psychoactive agent in ganja. It is not possible to get intoxicated from hemp. Grown in many parts of the world, industrial hemp produces among the strongest natural fibres known to us. As a raw material, it is one of the most useful plants known to us with thousands of applications including a viable plastic material. Hemp plastic is a bioplastic made using industrial hemp. It is recyclable and can be manufactured to be 100 per cent biodegradable. Hemp plastic can be five times stiffer and 2.5 times stronger than polypropylene (PP) plastic. Bio-based plastics and composites are being used in a wide range of applications in the automobile, packaging and building industries in some developed nations. Due to its strength and durability it is also used for making the plastic panels in foreign cars. Obviously, one also needs adequate industrial composting infrastructure, knowledge and enforcement to ensure its effective biodegradation. The current chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat, during his tenure as the agriculture minister years ago had propounded the plan to cultivate industrial hemp on barren lands in the state. During his current term as the CM too he has tried to do something useful with hemp though concrete achievements and regular income generation from it on a wider scale are awaited. Uttarakhand has a tradition of hemp and cannabis use for purposes ranging from using its fibres for making ropes, footwear and clothes to using its protein rich seeds in various dishes or as a healthful snack and also using it for medicinal and recreational purposes to a limited extent. One is not advocating its illogical use of cannabis for intoxication but with proper studies and planning, Uttarakhand can not only capitalise on this plant but also come up with innovative uses to tackle problems like polythene waste and other issues.
Then there is mycelium-based leather which is basically artificial leather made from mushroom. It is generally considerably more sustainable than animal leather as growing mycelium in a lab is comparatively renewable and low-impact process compared to the process involved for sourcing animal leather.
Both the industrial hemp and mycelium-based leather are options that may or may not be viable for Uttarakhand on an industrial scale. But that will be known after proper studies and pilot projects. If found viable, the industrial hemp alone could provide major scope for eco-friendly economic activity which would also help the state make branded products from hemp, of which there are few in the nation. The PM and others in the establishment often stress on the need for innovation but somehow innovative solutions have remained rare here. Only time will tell if the powers that be have it in them to work out much needed solutions from easily available hemp in Uttarakhand.
Saturday, 07 September 2019 | Paritosh Kimothi
Author: Paritosh kimothiParitosh Kimothi is the Deputy News Editor in the Dehradun edition.
Paritosh Kimothi is the Deputy News Editor in the Dehradun edition.
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