WHO acknowledges the prominent efforts and devotion that various countries show and put towards reducing tobacco use. There is a mass resistance noticed against the use of tobacco, which is compared to a crusade, a holy resistance. Tobacco consumption is the major cause of deaths and claims around 80 lakhs of those who boastfully puff or enjoy chewing it otherwise, across the world.
May 31st is being observed as World Tobacco Day. But this year, WHO’s theme for this day was “Tobacco Threat To Our Environment”. This deliberate attempt is made to popularize the potentially adverse fallout when tobacco is cultivated, distributed and how its hefty residue is harmful to our environment surpassing human health.
WHO records maintain that about 3.5 million hectares of land is approved for tobacco cultivation every year, which results in widespread deforestation and the developing countries witness this on a large scale.
Eventually, we confront the issues of soil degradation and its infertility to affect the growth of other crops which may be useful to us. We let off 84 megatons of greenhouse gas CO2 into the atmosphere annually.
During the production of cigarettes, it soaks up a huge quantity of water (about 22 billion litres) in every calendar year.
India is not spared and such is among the crucial cash crops. India stands next to China, as the largest crop producer in the world. Going by the reports shown by the Central Tobacco Research Centre of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), India weighs about 760 million kilogram of tobacco on an expanse of 40 lakhs hectares. Employing millions, it gives an excise duty of about Rs 22,737 crores,and earns foreign exchange amount of around Rs 5969 crores.
But when it comes to bearing the brunt, the country’s environment and our people’s health turns out to be the victim. The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare echoes this belief as figures give teeth to such claims, “The total economic costs attributable to tobacco use from all diseases in India in the year 2011 for persons aged 35-69 amounted to Rs 1,04,500 crores”.
As for the Indians, about 30% of our population are boastful of consumers in both ways, i.e. smoking and non-smoking form.
By smokeless, we mean its sue in products like Khaini, gutka and zarda and making things worse, even movie icons endorse such products. Then, we have cigarettes, bidis and hookahs.
But, it is interesting to note that the smokeless version is more dangerous and causes oral and esophageal cancer. In smoking, such people remain on the cusp of lung, oral cavity and pharynx, nasal cavity and larynx, stomach, pancreas, esophagus, liver, kidney, ureter, urinary bladder and bone marrow cancers.
Alarmingly, it is found that tobacco (the demon) wins more lives across the world than the other severe diseases like HIV AIDS, TB and malaria can get together.
Even the Covid 19 symptoms are aggravated by its consumption.
Further, as we cultivate tobacco, it harms the environment at length which simply adds to our economic suffering.
Exclusive tobacco crops use up more nutrients and therefore these crops are quick to deprive soil with its essential nutrients.
In fact, it involves a large scale involvement of pesticides and fertilizers which quash the soil promising attributes.
To its cultivation too, there are numerous health risks linked to the process.
1). Farmers complain about typical ailment (Green Tobacco Sickness) GTS, as skin attracts nicotine during plantation. The chemical nicotine present in it, gives rise to addiction.
2). In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, National Institute of Occupational Health conducted a study which found discoloration of skins as workers sort and manage tobacco leaves.
3). Even keeping the tobacco leaves at home can bring headache, appetite loss, dizziness, exhaustion, nausea/ vomiting.
4). On crossing the use limit, it can give rise to blood-pressure, breathlessness, heart attacks and can pave way for cancer too.
The Indian government has enacted a comprehensive law to contain its wide circulation in form of COPTA 2003. The Cigarettes And Other Tobacco Products Act 2003 but it came into effect in 2004.
Under the purview of this act, one cannot smoke in public areas, cigarette advertising is strangulated, sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 18 years is banned.
One cannot set up a stall or park any cart near schools, colleges and around other academic areas.
To relieve India of such addiction, new programmes have been launched by the Indian government like the National Tobacco Control Programme and Nasha Mukt Bharat Abhiyaan. Then, the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation & Farmers’ Welfare has also unrolled a crop diversification programme.
Under this, tobacco farmers are lured for crops which soak less water and about ways to conserve soil too. There are plenty of such alternatives, such as sugarcane, maze, onion, groundnut, soyabean etc.
This year, WHO has set out on this campaign as “Tobacco: Threat To Our Environment”, under which it cajoles the governments and policymakers to bring harsh legislation with intent and to run schemes under which tobacco companies will be held liable for the harm caused to environment and economic costs related to tobacco product waste.
Our Shepherd (Lord) is very highly kind upon us to bless us with numerous innovative thoughts and concepts. Among these, is the collar which is put around cows’ neck and teems with premier technology and GPS, helping cows to remain within the marked boundaries.
Simply put, apps now administer the movement of the cows and the hidden motive is simply to bolster biodiversity.
Such is called the virtual fence technology (VFT) and cattle have such GPS bands around their neck and the field of forestry and land Scotland witness its initial use here.
These collars sound a loud alarm which is a warning to animals as they roam close to the edges of their grazing places. If they don’t give a damn to it, they receive a minor jolt which is similar to that generated by a standard electric fence.
Now, there is a wisdom involved behind selecting this expanse as Dumfries and Galloway, as the adjoining location is Glentrool Oakwoods which is flagged as the site of special scientific interest (SSSI).
Such an initiative weakens the bracken growth as cows trample it and this would lead to woodland mushrooming far and wide.
As such, new areas can be secured for exclusive plants, birds, insects and this will prevent extinction as some of such species have reduced to rare strength.
Kim Kirkbride, PLS Environment forester, regards the framework as the simplest one in use.
“On your phone, on your app, you create a boundary and then once it’s activated that boundary is the fencing that the cattle remain within,” she explains.
“If they get near to that fencing, an audio will start to play and the closer they get, the more frequent that audio will sound.
“Then, if they get too close to that fence after a few audios have warned them, they will then receive what’s known as a pulse and the pulse is the same as what an electric fence would be if a cow was to touch an electric fence.”
She vouches for the efficacy of audio, as it stops them from venturing beyond the identified (virtual) boundaries.
Gleaming with hope she puts out, “We can have this virtual boundary so that we can then move the animals around the pasture and we can close off areas,”
“The app allows me to access it daily and it shows me the movements of the cattle at all times.”
The people at the console get to know if the cattle ventures near to the boundary or about such alarm sounds or if the cattle have left the site.
There are clear indications about the tangible advantages.
She clarifies, “Obviously we have a lot of beautiful landscape up here, and the last thing you want is to have to erect fencing and to stop the cattle from being able to get out so it completely wipes that need whatsoever,” she said.
She also thinks about the benefits favouring our ecology.
“For this particular area that we are trialling at the moment it is to break down the bracken so that we can get natural seed dispersal from the adjacent SSSI, which is the Glentrool Oakwoods which is designated for its Atlantic Oakwoods,” she said.
“Hopefully we can get some natural seed dispersal of this ancient woodland out onto the open ground adjacent.
“So the cattle are helping us to do this natural management for the trees to survive.”
There is a QR code that the visitors can scan and they can know about the exact points of cattle and can thus stay away from them.
This specific trial area that we’ve used, we don’t have any public footpaths going through it,” said Ms Kirkbride.
“Touch wood the cows have been out on the ground for three weeks now and we have not had any altercations.”
She ruled out any welfare issue related to using the collars.
She indicates, “When the collars go on, it would be something going around their neck, but the studies have shown they become used to it very quickly.”
“It’s literally maybe just a head shake and that’s all they’ll do and they become accustomed to it very quickly.”
This trial is still in its infancy and simultaneous drone monitoring to evaluate the model performance and its benefits.
If the model helps achieve goals, FLS would rerun it in the coming year and would think about unrolling the same plan in other parts of the UK.
In India, as we face the problem of stray cattle far and wide, our administration can look forward to this model.