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|July 7, 2001||
Exchanging life for toilet paper?
Can one talk about animal care in isolation? No. The habitat is more important. Keeping an animal in a zoo with no habitat will effectively lead to the end of the species. Like the tiger -- which will be extinct in the wild within five years. The only specimens you will see will be behind bars.
Habitat destruction comes for many reasons: the biggest being overpopulation and greed for things that are not necessary. Paramount in this are trees: cut for fuel, paper, housing, furniture, carts and whatever. Every single person in India uses seven trees a year from the day they are born. The poor use trees for carts, fuel wood, house-building. The rich use wood for just about everything from rayon, to furniture and paper.
One thought that with the advent of the computer, use of paper would disappear. It has doubled.
The average family takes two newspapers and the per capita newsprint consumption is .55 kg. Multiply that with the increasing number of newspaper readers. Into this paper are slipped paper advertisements that are thrown away unread. Newsprint accounts for 20 per cent of the total consumption of paper.
In 1985 the newsprint production was three lakh tonnes a year which was fed by 9 lakh tonnes of bamboo and eucalyptus. Two large bamboo clumps and four eucalyptus trees are used in the manufacture of 1,000 copies of a 16 page newspaper. While eucalyptus is grown, bamboo is not. It comes from the jungles and thousands of creatures depend on it.
Similarly, all new toiletries, creams and lotions have paper covers that are thrown away. 33 per cent of all paper used in the country is for packaging. Toilet and tissue paper, now increasingly used by Indians even though they are both disgustingly unhealthy account for 1 per cent of the total paper consumption.
Food products like bread and butter comes in paper, eggs in paper cartons, oil from the parathas is soaked in paper tissues, paper napkins are used to wipe mouths.
Essentials like tea and coffee, biscuits, masalas (I am still hoping that this hasn't been replaced by plastic), sweets, ice cream, mithai cartons, bulbs, batteries... all are wrapped in paper. Then there is letter-paper, parchment paper, waterproof paper for the kitchen, butter paper...
When this comes home all the packaging is torn off and thrown into a dustbin. Some food is stored in grease-proof paper and parchment paper is used for bread lining. All such specialised packing paper comes from 18,000 tonnes of paper (1985 figures) made by using 56,000 tonnes of wood felled over 1,800 acres. Brown paper is 7 per cent and craft paper is 20 per cent of this.
Account books and receipt books make 2 per cent of the national use. Airmail paper (inlands etc) account for another 2 per cent.
White printing paper for books (paperbacks) magazines, journals and other books consume 16 per cent. Government files probably take between 1-3 per cent of the national paper waste, not to mention the rubbish written in them which is a waste of ink and time. Politicians contribute in their own special way: up to 8 per cent of paper is used for posters both for politics and films.
Between 1978 and 1987 paper production in India went up by 91 per cent, while in the rest of the world it went up by 39 per cent. Between 1987 up to now, we have gone up by another 100 per cent while world averages have gone even lower than 30 per cent.
Use less paper. Otherwise, forget forests and animals, your life and mine. You will have exchanged your life for toilet paper.
Maneka Gandhi is the Union minister of state for social justice and empowerment.
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