By: Aamir Farooq, Anisa Malik, Tasadduq Shaheen
There is an increasing debate in the Muslim world today about the need for more eco-friendly practices around Eid-ul-Azha. Certain environmentally irresponsible practices pursued by large sections of Muslim populations have come to have a major impact the natural environment. Waste of precious food, improper disposal of animal slaughter waste, bursting of crackers, etc. result in environmental pollution of different forms.
Many cities around the world, which witness big Eid-ul-Azha celebrations, now have environmental mitigation plans. Countries like UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Jordan, etc. are increasingly embracing the idea of eco-friendly Eid-ul-Adha.
Abu Dhabi Waste Management Center (Tadweer) has developed an integrated action plan for Eid Al Adha 2018 as part of its efforts to ensure the cleanliness of Abu Dhabi and preserve its aesthetic appeal. Many cities have now action plans on waste management. Jammu & Kashmir has none.
For any Municipal Corporation or local municipal bodies in towns and villages it is it is quite difficult to segregate, collect and dump this hazardous waste in a scientific manner, considering their current capacity. The fact is that this archaic waste disposal model has turned unsustainable, leading to environment pollution and risk of epidemics.
Across the world, Muslims on Eid-al-Azha perform sacrifice of a certain class of permitted animals to mark the supreme sacrifice offered by Prophet Ibrahim (AS) to obey God’s command to sacrifice his son Ismael (AS).
With the rapid population growth and urbanisation in Muslim societies, managing the environmental fallout of the practice is becoming difficult. Major cities and towns in Jammu & Kashmir are facing the same problem.
In J&K’s cities, towns and villages most of the residents do the sacrifice at their houses and other community sites. Unfortunately, quite often, such sites are not cleaned later on from certain animal remains like blood, skin, leftover fats, intestines, limbs etc. On the eve of this Eid-ul-Azha, social media in J&K was full of photos and videos depicting irresponsible disposal of the remains of the animals. All that is very much avoidable.
Holy Quran on environmental protection
Environmental awareness and protection of natural resources is an integral part of Islamic beliefs. But, ironically, this aspect is seldom emphasised in religious sermons. Quite rarely, Imams, during the Eid congregational prayers, emphasise on the need to protect the environment.
Islam’s approach towards environment and natural resource conservation is clear. The Holy Quran says:
“It is He who has appointed you viceroys in the earth … that He may try you in what He has given you.” (Surah 6:165)
“O children of Adam! … eat and drink: but waste not by excess, for Allah loves not the wasters.” (Surah 7:31)
Sayings of the Prophet of Islam ( Peace be upon him)
God’s Last Messenger, Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) has said: “There is none amongst the Muslims who plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, but is regarded as a charitable gift for him.” (Bukhari).
Abu Hurairah reported that the Messenger of God (Peace be upon him) forbade that a person relieve himself in a water source or on a path or in a place of shade or in the burrow of a leaving creature.
Islam also forbids cutting or destruction of plants and trees unnecessarily as is evident in the following Hadith:
Abdullah ibn Habashi reported that Prophet Muhammad ( Peace be on him) said: “He who cuts a lote-tree [without justification], Allah will send him to Hellfire.” (Abu Dawud).
The lote-tree grows in the desert and is very much needed in an area which has scarce vegetation. The devastation caused by deforestation in many countries causes soil erosion and kills many of the biodiversity of the earth.
Islam’s approach towards the use of natural resources was emphasised by the Fourth Caliph Hazrat Ali ibn Abi-Talib (RA) who said “Partake of it gladly so long as you are the benefactor, not a despoiler; a cultivator, not a destroyer. All human beings as well as animals and wildlife enjoy the right to share Earth’s resources. Man’s abuse of any resource is prohibited as the juristic principle says ‘What leads to the prohibited is itself prohibited”.
When Abu Musa (RA) was sent to Al-Basrah as the new governor, he addressed the people saying: “I was sent to you by ‘Umar ibn Al-Khattab (RA) in order to teach you the Book of your Lord [i.e. the Qur’an], the Sunnah [of your Prophet], and to clean your streets.”
These values highlight Islam’s stress on avoiding pollution of critical resources and importance of cleanliness.
The sins we commit:
Despite the Holy Quran’s clear articulation that the human race has been appointed as viceroys on the Earth by the Almighty God, many, if not most, Muslims on Eid-ul-Azha remain unmindful about environmental protection. There are five particular sins that we avoidable.
Sin 1: The excess
Increasingly, there are certain practices getting associated with Eid-ul-Azha which do not align with Islam’s principles of moderation and modesty. Consequently, the carbon footprint of the festival is increasing, putting the environment to risk.
Using plastic packaging with most of the consumables on Eid is avoidable.
Similarly, there is a need to prepare and plan meals based on the actual requirements and number of expected guests to be served.
J&K’s hospitality is well known. But, sometimes, it could get irrational too. Seeing too much only to waste is a sin. It is better to make small or limited servings to the guests to avoid wastage.
The use of disposable cutlery, plates, napkins, tissues etc. is becoming a norm during festivities. This is avoidable and too bad for our natural environment.
Sin 2: Not thinking about eco-friendly disposal of animal remains before the sacrifice.
Most people, if not all, before the sacrifice actually seldom plan for respectful and eco-friendly disposal animal waste. Consequently, their remains are either dumped in the open in public spaces or simply put down the public drains. But there are better ways of such disposal. For example burying some of the waste in pits, using chemicals for speedy decomposition or agreeing on common dumping sites at community level.
If done scientifically at the community level, some of the waste, especially the cow dung and the half-digested fodder in cattle stomachs could be used for making fuel, fertiliser and fish feed.
Quite often some people dump animal waste in such a manner that results in seepage of leachate from waste into ground water.
There is hardly a culture of spraying waste with ‘microbial culture’ for speedy decomposition .
Sin 3: Scattering the animal bones in urban spaces and fields
It is a common practice for animal bones, especially of bigger animals, to be scattered in open spaces. That again is avoidable.
In addition of being an environmental hazard, it is bad economics as well.
Cattle bones are used for manufacturing capsule caps, so there is a market for them. In South Asia, a kg of raw bones fetch anywhere between Rs 25 to Rs 40.
Not only the bones, even the horns could be put to better use. The horns of cattle are used for making x-ray and cinema films, combs and buttons. Some entrepreneurs would need to pitch in to think of immense business possibilities here.
Sin 4: Throwing the animal remains, including genitals in streams and rivers
Again, this is a common practice. but there could be a better and environmentally sensitive use of these materials.
According to the Bangladesh Export Promotion Bureau, the country earned 1.7 crore Takas by exporting different body parts, including genitals, of animals in 2017.
Their genitals, which locals do not usually eat, are popular in many places like China, Thailand and Hong Kong and a huge amount of foreign currency could be earned by exporting them.
If such waste and organs are put into rivers and streams, there is a significant risk of ground water pollution and the spread of epidemics, not only to human but also the aquatic life, including the fish.
Sin 5: Disposal of animal remains in public spaces, fields, etc.
Many ingredients of the animal waste could be put to better use if better planned at community levels.
Mahbub Hasan, a former professor of Dhaka University and also a UNDP consultant, says it was possible to generate 10 megawatts of electricity from 600 tonnes of garbage through the “rapid organic conversion”.
There is no credible figure about how much waste is produced on Eid-ul-Azha across J&K. Ziraat Times did some comparative analysis of with some places and cities and the estimation is that Srinagar city alone produces nearly 1500 tonnes of ‘eid waste.’ Factoring in the population of other towns and villages, the situation could easily be imagined.
Is there is better way of doing it?
Yes, there are, of course, many possibilities to consider. One alternative that many countries are exploring is the collection of the waste generated on Eid and transporting that to the ‘specially’ prepared dumping sites.
Many cities in Muslim countries have developed standards of Eid-ul-Azha waste disposal. Municipal corporations and town area committees in J&K will have to seriously consider developing such standards.
There are many entrepreneurship possibilities related to making profitable use of the waste generated on Eid ul Azha. In many cities with significant Muslim populations in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, some startups have developed a system of the waste collection, especially the dung and creating rich organic manure. And there is always no dearth of buyers for organic manure.
Moreover, with such an approach, the risk of epidemics arising from ground water pollution & the nuisance created by scavengers could be minimised to a large extent.