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Visual pollution in Shimla City on rise as civic body and people losing sense of civility

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 SHIMLA- Although, it is not an odd sight for majority of public, but visual pollution in Himachal Pradesh’s capital city Shimla is becoming a critical problem because it is being neglected by both public and government equally. The consumer culture is taking over the city and the scenario is worsening due to sticking of promotional bills, commercial and political posters, bunting, sign-boards etc on public places. While cities like Beijing (China) and São Paulo (Brazil) have put a complete ban on virtually all outdoor advertising to deal with visual pollution, the civic body of Shimla City isn’t even able to adhere to defined standards  and directions for placement of billboards and hoardings.

Like most of the cities in India, queen of hills is also on the verge of losing its unique identity because every city share same cluttered view. Although, Municipal Corporation of Shimla does have defined rules & regulation regarding advertising on public places, in reality there is no execution in field. The civic body that always make excuses of shortage of funds can generate considerable revenue if it regulates advertising on public places.

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Entire Public Rain Shelter Defaced by Posters and Bills

Not only the public has lost aesthetic sense growing amid clutter, but even highly educated and well paid public servants and representatives lack required vision to foresee ugly consequences of not controlling visual pollution.

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Ugly web of overhead cable clutter around Shimla Mall

Entire city is cluttered by unlawfully stuck posters, overhead power lines, telephone and cable wires, and littered public places. Graffiti on public and private property is another mean to create visual pollution.
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The civic body or administration of Shimla is never heard debating or preparing comprehensive strategies to deal with well any form of pollution like air and water pollution.  So, it’s futile to expect them to observe other forms of pollution like visual, noise, light pollution etc.

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Public benches at Boileauganj Bus Stop

Treatment of public spaces by student outfits of higher educational institutes like Himachal Pradesh University and colleges is even more surprising. Student bodies, despite being educated, don’t show respect and care towards public property.  Students even deface legally placed hoardings as shown in above image.

Researchers have conducted studies along with laboratory experiments to establish negative psychological impact on people who are unwillingly exposed continuously to unwanted visuals.

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Visual environment is no less significant a part of fabric of communities as clean water or air and animal habitat. The issue isn’t been paid heed earlier because it is mostly considered less significant and merely associated with beautification. It is newer and unconventional concept. Anything altered by human-activities that are unattractive and affects people’s ability to enjoy or appreciate the view and vista.

On the other hand, visual pollution is a kind of visual sampler, without any regulation, which affects our assimilation capability and conditions the aesthetics of our public spaces.

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Building of Primary School Bolieauganj

Considering the aforesaid statement, Shimla cityscapes have become a mixture of of irregular formations, unorganized dumping of litters, billboards, cables, wires, worn-out buildings, and heaped and congested construction.

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Poorly Pasted Posters on Poorly Maintained Structure

Impacts of visual Pollution

A study published in the European Scientific Journal, June 2015, “Visual Pollution Can Have Deep Degrading effects on Urban and Sub-Urban Community: A Study In Few Places of Bengal, India, With Special References to Unorganized Billboards” shed light on some of the negative impacts.

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HPU Student outfit bunting hanging over heads of people

Negative visual influence increases secretion of adrenaline, which raises the acidity of the stomach and rapid the heart rate, and thus speed irritability.

On the other hand, positive scenes increases secretion of cortisone in the body and this natural cortisone reduces the feeling of pain.

Visual pollution can also create psychological aversion and thus affect mental and physical health, says researches.

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Due to unpleasant and cluttered sights visual cortex of a person is stressed. This stress is directly associated with the light frequency and variety of light to which it is exposed. Citizens are exposed, without any consideration or respect to their individuality, to a constant visual saturation. Unconscious irritation of the visual cortex can interfere with performance and sleep quality.

Studies also show that effects of visual pollution include distraction, decreases in opinion diversity, and loss of identity, and health hazards of diverse kinds, irritability and psychological disturbances, eye fatigue, loss of sense of hygiene, and felling of civility.

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Clutter of cables crawling over Software Technology Park of India in Kasumpti, Shimla.

Loss of Aesthetic Sense in Children

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Bunting not removed after a recent student rally

Children growing up in such cluttered environment not only lose aesthetic sense, but also lose ability to react or correct it. As grownups, no matter how unpleasant their surroundings are, this clutter becomes an acceptable part of routine view. Their aesthetic sense is blunted. Civic sense and civic behavior of entire society is badly hit by it.

Psychological Longing for Natural View

Another evident proof that cluttered public spaces caste negative impact on overall wellbeing of public is our longing to witness nature in its pure form. To re-energize themselves, people mostly prefer to visit a forest, a seaside, garden, and parks which are supposedly visually and aesthetically pleasing as compared to visiting a mall or waling by roadside.

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Old ISBT Shimla

The civic bodies in popular towns of Himachal Pradesh are already struggling to manage, vehicular emissions, solid waste-disposal and to create awareness among people about littering in public places. It is no surprise that administration isn’t paying any attention to this form of pollution. However, it is the need of the time to consider other forms of pollution as hazard to social environment and economic health of a city dependent on tourism.

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On (Otherwise Beautiful) ITI Road Shimla

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Rear Side of Shimla Mall Showroom Buildings

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Photo Credit: Tarun Sharma

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Madan has studied English Literature and Journalism from HP University and lives in Shimla. He is an amateur photographer and has been writing on topics ranging from environmental, socio-economic, development programs, education, eco-tourism, eco-friendly lifestyle and to green technologies for over 7 years now. He has an inclination for all things green, wonderful and loves to live in solitude. When not writing, he can be seen wandering, trying to capture world around him in his DSLR lens.

Environment

Watch: An interesting case of leopard sighting in Shimla’s Dhanda locality

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Shimla: People of Dhanda, a sort of suburb near the Totu in Shimla city, on Saturday found a leopard roaming around in their neighborhood in broad daylight. Leopard sightings in Himachal Pradesh are not unusual and Shimla is no exception. After all Himachal has 65 percent forest cover, as per official statistics.

However, this leopard was behaving like a stray dog that is used to living among humans. The big cat was not responding to the noises made by the people to scare off the animal.

The animal was not aggressive or afraid.

Watch: An interesting case of leopard sighting in Shimla’s Dhanda locality

The leopard casually walked onto an under-construction floor of a residential building.

Luckily, the people did not harm the cat at all. In other parts of India, animals like leopard pay with their lives for straying into a human habitat. The people beat them to death with sticks and stone pelting.

But here, in Shimla, people informed the forest department about it, which was the right thing to do. Meanwhile, they just tried to scare it off so that it returns to the jungle. The people were discussing why the animal was behaving in an unusual way.

The people deserve appreciation for it because in most cases these animals revert as a defense to any sort of assaults by humans. 

A resident posted some pictures and two videos of the incident. One of the video showed the animal roaming inside the residential locality. The other one showed the forest officials carrying the leopard on a stretcher and the crowd including kids following them.

They speculated it might have escaped from a zoo, which is why it was accustomed to human presence.

They spotted some wound on leopard’s body and assumed that perhaps the cat was injured.

Watch: An interesting case of leopard sighting in Shimla’s Dhanda locality

The wildlife wing of the forest department arrived at the scene (this time with tranquilizer guns) and spotted the leopard in nearby bushes.

The animal was carried to the Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre situated in Tutikandi. It was identified as a seven-months-old female. It is not clear how it happened to stray into the locality. 

The matter also pertains to the critical issue of man and animal conflict due to depletion of natural habitat. HW will try to get hold of the vet on Monday for a follow up.

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Environment

Pollution killed 25 lakh people in India in one year – highest in the world: Report

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air pollution deaths in India

Applying similar legislation and regulation from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries could help to improve and protect health as countries develop.

While the leaders of the ruling political party are trying to politicize the firecracker ban imposed in Delhi by the Supreme Court, India has achieved another milestone – highest number of deaths due to various kinds of pollutions.

The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health released its report on October 19. As per the report, air pollution is the biggest killer of all.

The report said out of total 6.5 million (65 lakhs) deaths reported worldwide, 28% occurred only in India. Air pollution mainly resulted in diseases such as heart disease, stroke, lung cancer, and COPD.

Almost all (92%) pollution-related deaths occur in low- and middle-income countries.

The findings of the say that in 2015, pollution killed about 2.5 million (25 lakhs) people. China reported the second highest number of deaths at 1.8 million (18 lakhs) during the same year.

Pollution Deaths in India

Info: Global Alliance on Health and Pollution

It implies that air pollution kills doubt the number of people killed by AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

The next largest risk factor was water pollution the caused gastrointestinal diseases and parasitic infections.Workplace pollution including exposure to toxins and pneumoconiosis in coal workers, bladder cancer in dye workers, and asbestosis, lung cancer, mesothelioma, and other cancers in workers exposed to asbestos.

Finally, lead pollution resulted from high blood pressure, renal failure, and cardiovascular disease caused by lead in adults.

As per the report, human activities, including industrialisation, urbanisation, and globalisation, are all drivers of pollution.

Types of pollution associated with industrial development, such as ambient air pollution (including ozone), chemical, occupational pollution and soil pollution, have increased from 4.3 million (9.2%) in 1990 to 5.5 million (10.2%) in 2015 as countries reach higher levels of development.

The greatest impacts occured in countries that are currently undergoing rapid development and industrialisation – with pollution responsible for up to one in four deaths in the most severely affected countries (such as in India, Pakistan, China, Bangladesh, Madagascar and Kenya).

As countries develop and industrialise, the type of pollution and the related health problems they face change.

For example, water pollution and household air pollution are more common in early stages of industrial development, causing higher rates of pneumonia and diarrhoeal diseases in low- and middle-income countries.

Economic costs of pollution

The costs of pollution-related death and disease are also highly concentrated in developing regions imposing vast costs on national budgets – equivalent to around 1.3% GDP in low-income countries, compared to around 0.5% GDP in high-income countries, and 0.13% GDP globally. Healthcare spending on pollution-related diseases also disproportionately affects lower income countries – accounting for an estimated 7% of health spending in middle-income countries each year, and 1.7% annual spend in high-income countries.

Welfare losses due to deaths and disease from pollution equate to US$4.6 trillion each year (equivalent to 6.2% of global economic output). Proportionately, low-income countries pay 8.3% of their gross national income to pollution-related death and disease, while high-income countries pay 4.5%.

Environmental Injustice

The environmental injustice often violates these people’s human rights.

Pollution, poverty, poor health, and social injustice are deeply intertwined. Pollution and related diseases most often affect the world’s poor and powerless, and victims are often the vulnerable and the voiceless. As a result, pollution threatens fundamental human rights, such as the right to life, health, wellbeing, safe work, as well as protections of children and the most vulnerable

Says Commission author Karti Sandilya, Pure Earth, USA.

In order to tackle pollution, we must prioritise it as an issue that affects us all, integrating it into health planning, and increasing funding to allow more research into pollution, such as monitoring pollution and its effects, and developing ways to control pollution,

says Commission co-lead, Richard Fuller, Pure Earth, USA.

Pollution can be eliminated, and pollution prevention can be highly cost-effective – helping to improve health and extend lifespan, while boosting the economy. This has been seen in high-income and some middle-income countries where legislation has helped to curb the most flagrant forms of pollution, and has led to cleaner air and water, lower blood lead concentrations, removal of hazardous waste sites, and less polluted and more liveable cities, the report further said.

The report suggest that pollution is not the inevitable consequence of economic development, and applying similar legislation and regulation from high-income countries to low- and middle-income countries could help to improve and protect health as countries develop.

Top Photo: Hindustan Times

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Environment

HP Polls 2017: EC directs parties to use eco-friendly & biodegradable material for publicity

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Shimla: With the announcement of the polling and counting date for the General Elections to the Legislative Assembly of Himachal Pradesh would come an environmental menace – waste of publicity material left by party workers during campaigning period. Use of flex boards would be an suitable example.

Considering the fact that the public, administration, and the politicians are least concerned about environmental or visual pollution, it was necessary that the Election Commission interfere here.

In its notification issued regarding the schedule for the elections, the Election Commission of India has included separate direction to all the political parties, contesting candidates and their authorized agents etc. to desist from utilizing environmentally hazardous materials like plastics, polythene etc for the preparation and usage election-related publicity materials.

The EC has directed them to use eco-friendly and bio-degradable substances for preparing election campaign or publicity material.

The EC has directed the DEOs and ROs to emphasize the importance of environment protection and preservation during the meetings with the political parties and contesting candidates. They were also asked to ensure that the the political parties adhere to the instructions of the Commission with regard to the usage of non-eco-friendly materials.

The Commission has directed all the CEOs to instruct all the political parties in their respective states regarding the usage of eco-friendly and biodegradable materials.

The concern of the Commission about the long-term deleterious impact of materials like plastics, polythene etc on the life-giving and life-sustaining environment is worth appreciable provided it is actually followed.

The political parties and their leaders bear the moral and ethical duty of passing instruction to their party-workers to adhere to the EC directions and help keep Himachal clean.

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