Janine Schaefer, AUP
Today was the big day: in the Auroville Town Hall we presented the outcome of our work to our organizations and interested Aurovillians. I was impressed to learn what other students had accomplished in such short time! To name just a few, the presentation of Melissa and Victoria convinced me to buy tons of cocoa beans, the AIAT team impressed with a thorough strategy plan and Safi (from Linnaeus University) showed off her incredible graphic design skills in a village map she designed herself. All in all, our work paid off and every organization showed its gratitude.
Nevertheless, for us AUPlers it’s about time to say goodbye to Auroville. My trip here was a rich experience and a great adventure! I learnt so much about the country, the culture and society by working for SALT and through meetings with local organizations.
I want to focus my last blog entry, before I leave Auroville, on three issues that we encountered during visits with organizations: waste management, health and hygiene in India. Since I went on a Sustainable Development study trip to Brazil in October 2012, I would also like to make a comparison between the two BRIC countries in these fields, as they show similar characteristics in history (both countries were once occupied by the Portuguese) and their political and economic situation.
In India any visitor to the country will sooner or later encounter the mishandling of waste. Garbage and waste is thrown anywhere, streets, beaches, parks, etc. This is the main cause for the spread of diseases such as malaria. And as we saw on our trip to the garbage dump, the main problem is mishandling (no separation) of waste at a domestic level. In Brazil there seems to be a similar problem, which was even documented in the movie “Waste Land” in 2011. The documentary tells the story of pickers at the dump (unemployed workers like Shanti in India) at Brazil’s largest landfill, Jardim Gramacho. The workers wade through the thousands of tons of garbage that arrive each day, looking for recyclable scraps to sell. The movie led to a change in behavior: Since 2011 there are 4 different types of trash bins spread throughout the city in order to improve proper separation of waste. Furthermore, the government of Brazil passed a law in 2012 that prohibits retail establishments to provide customers with a plastic bag. Therefore it is no surprise that Brazil was ranked as the world champion in recycling cans for the past five years. In 2007, more than 96% of the cans available in the market were recycled. Although there may still be room for improvement, tourists and visitors are not confronted with waste on streets and parks as they are when travelling around India.
Proper waste management is important as it correlates with health and hygiene issues. Garbage not only causes diseases, it also intoxicates soil and water, making water unsafe for drinking and rivers unsafe for bathing. Although both, Brazil and India, still face challenges in water sanitation and supply (WSS), Brazil invests almost triple the amount in WSS than India: $14 per capita compared to $5 per capita in India. In other number: only 88% of Indians have access to an improved water source compared with 98% of Brazilians. Above that, the hygiene behavior seems to require greater improvement in India due to unclean habits such as washing hands without soap and eating with unclean hands. India furthermore does not have a public health care system that includes the lower classes due to discrimination issues in the caste system.
In contrast, Brazil provides all of its citizens with a health care system that may still have its flaws, but all in all, it proved itself to be very successful: Brazil’s average life expectancy has improved at a faster rate than that of the U.S. since 1960, though it continues to lag behind. Life expectancy there increased from 54.49 years in 1960 to 73.1 in 2010, compared to the U.S. increase of 69.77 years to 78.24 (SUS Brazil, 2012). In comparison, the Indian government lacks expenditure towards the public health sector which explains the lower life expectancy of only 65 years on average (Times of India, 2011).
In conclusion, it can said that there is still a lot of room for improvement in both countries. However, as we have seen at garbology and Yatra, there are already movements for change and towards a better, healthier life for Indians.
I am eager to see where India is heading in the future!