• Outdoors Outdoors

Officials issue warning as influx of illegal dumping creates fatal trap for local wildlife: 'Exacerbating the issue'

"There's a massive amount of non-segregated waste dumped here."

"There's a massive amount of non-segregated waste dumped here."

Photo Credit: iStock

Wild elephants are feeding on plastic waste mixed with other garbage at a dumping yard in India, which presents hazards for them and other wildlife in the area.

What's happening?

Elephants in the Indian town of Munnar are taking advantage of free food dumped by locals and tourists, but not everything in the landfills is safe to eat. As Indian daily newspaper The Hindu reported, plastic and other harmful materials are also thrown into the garbage mounds. 

Making the situation worse, recent regulations have allowed more tourists from the neighboring state of Tamil Nadu to enter the town, which has increased the amount of trash being thrown into the dump. 

"Following the implementation of e-pass systems in Kodikkanal and Ooty, Munnar gained in the number of tourists. Unfortunately, some tourists discard food waste along roadsides exacerbating the issue," Balachandran V., vice president of Munnar's local government, told The Hindu.

Wildlife photographer Arun Raj Pillai added, "There's a massive amount of non-segregated waste dumped here," after witnessing several wild elephants eating from the dumping yard.

Unfortunately, this issue has been ongoing for some time now. In January, passersby discovered two elephants munching on plastic waste from another government-owned landfill in the town of Kallar.

As K.N. Sahajan, Munnar's former secretary, told The Hindu, these areas struggle with inadequate waste management and a lack of available land to open new dumping yards. Between almost nine and 11 tons of additional waste has been dumped in Munnar recently, posing a huge threat to the elephants.

Why is poor waste management concerning?

In addition to the health hazards to the elephants, numerous studies have found that people living close to poorly managed dumpsites have a higher risk of developing waterborne and airborne diseases, such as cholera and dengue, headaches, and respiratory problems. 

🗣️ What of these benefits would most effectively motivate you to use fewer plastic-packaged cleaning products?

🔘 Freeing up shelf space ✨

🔘 Avoiding toxins and microplastics ☠️

🔘 Saving money 💰

🔘 Not interested 🚫

🗳️ Click your choice to see results and speak your mind

As the Times of India reported, 77% of the country's waste is disposed of in open dumps, which can pollute the groundwater and soil, release toxic pollution, and be a breeding ground for vector-borne diseases. 

Also, the plastic waste that inevitably winds up in these dumping sites can lead to health problems for both humans and animals. As The Hindu explained, elephants feed on the waste, which can cause digestive issues, choking hazards, and even death. And in humans, plastic has been linked to a plethora of health concerns, from reproductive problems to metabolic disorders.

Sadly, the World Economic Forum reported that endangered Asian elephants in India are increasingly turning to garbage dumps for discarded human foods, such as rice and bananas, but are also unknowingly eating plastic. Around 20 elephants in Sri Lanka have been killed from consuming large amounts of plastic waste in the past eight years, as WEF stated, citing the Associated Press.

What's being done about this?

Despite the immediate dangers to the elephants and nearby communities, there have been positive developments in Munnar. The Hindu reported that the local government is addressing the waste management problem by proposing more substantial fencing around the dumping yard and organizing cleanup efforts with other local governments. 

Local governments and organizations in India have also launched more than 2,000 material recovery facilities to improve waste management and keep trash out of cities, as Down to Earth reported

Incredible breakthroughs have been made in plastic alternatives, such as the startup Sway developing seaweed-based packaging and London-based FabricNano creating plastic out of plants, which provide hope for a cleaner future for animals and humans alike. 

Furthermore, we can make a difference by reducing the amount of plastic we buy and consume — opting for reusable water bottles and grocery bags and choosing sustainable brands are great places to start. 

Join our free newsletter for cool news and cool tips that make it easy to help yourself while helping the planet.

Cool Divider