Even as India continues to battle it’s growing plastic pollution, a shocking incident brought to light has set our conscience to rethink and is ringing serious alarm bells of environment concerns.
A surgery on a cow that was injured in an accident exposed the stark reality of India’s failing struggle to curb plastic waste and littering.
Veterinarians who operated on February 22 found 71 kilos of plastic waste and other non-biodegradable substances like needles, coins, pieces of glass, screws and pins inside the belly, as per a TOI report.
“The surgery was successful, but the cow is not out of danger yet. The next 10 days are going to be very critical,” said Dr Atul Maurya, who was among the three who did the surgery.
The cow was rescued from NIT-5 in Faridabad after it was hit by a car. It was taken to Devashray Animal Hospital, where veterinarians found the animal was kicking its own stomach, an indication that it was in pain. They also diagnosed a problem with the excretory system. After a few tests, an X-ray and an ultrasound, the vets confirmed the presence of harmful substances inside the stomach.
Dr Maurya said it took nearly four hours to clean the four chambers of the animal’s stomach that mostly had polythene. “The digestive system of a ruminant is complex. If a foreign substance stays in it for a long time, it sticks to the stomach. This might lead to air getting accumulated. In that case, an animal might fall or start kicking its belly. Such surgeries have been conducted before. But 71 kg of waste inside the stomach of an animal is alarming,” he said.
Animal rights activist Ravi Dubey, who runs NGO People For Animals, said owners usually allow their cattle to graze freely for most parts of the day and the animals often navigate towards garbage bins to find food. “Cows end up consuming toxic substances like vermillion, coins and even nails that might injure the intestines and oesophagus. People should avoid throwing eatables in polythene bags and serious efforts should be made to spread awareness about this,” he said. “We do not have agricultural land or forest land. Then where will these animals go? Civic bodies and other authorities should act immediately to create a safe environment for animals,” Dubey added.
The cow’s plight also underlined the gaps that remain in waste collection and segregation in our cities, where open vats and trash dumped on roadsides remain major challenges for administrators. In 2019, when the Centre wrote to states to phase out single-use plastic, it had highlighted that 40% of the nearly 26,000 tonnes of plastic waste that the country generates daily remains uncollected, endangering the environment, stray animals as well as human health.