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How Hemp Can Help Fulfill The Swachh Bharat Mission

How Hemp Can Help Fulfill The Swachh Bharat Mission

India, a developing nation, has been dealing with many growing issues, two of them being – poor waste management and shortage of non-renewable resources arising due to overexploitation.

These problems have many underlying causes like high population and illiteracy, and are also the reasons behind various other relevant problems, like pollution and climatic change.

The Swachh Bharat Mission (SBM) or the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) or the ‘Clean India Mission‘ was launched by the prime minister, Narendra Modi as a nation-wide campaign to combat such problems.

And, hemp with its numerous industrial applications, sustainability, and with a decent back-up can benefit the mission highly.

The Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (SBA) campaign was specifically targeted towards the elimination of the hygiene problem, open defecation, along with additional functions like the creation of a cleaner and healthier India with clean roads, streets, towns, and cities.

The Swachh Bharat Mission has two programs – Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (Gramin or rural), operating under the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation; and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (urban), administered by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs.

The rural program’s objective is to make India a defecation free country within five years. In the process, it aims to improve the levels of cleanliness via the successful implementation of the Solid and Liquid Waste Management programs and the Gram Panchayats Open Defecation Free (ODF) program.

The key idea behind the Swachh Bharat Mission is to make the country cleaner and healthier. Therefore, any initiative which adds to that objective positively is worthy of consideration.

Industrial hemp can aid with the achievement of the objectives by reducing the production of non-biodegradable wastes, by generating employment, and by fostering research and development of more consumer-utility goods.

Hemp generated from Cannabis Sativa is cultivated not for its psychedelic but, for its industrial qualities (it has a very low content of THC). It is harvestable within few months of plantation, very inexpensive to grow- requires no chemical pest control or any expensive manure.

Hemp as a solution to increasing pollution:

Hemp can be employed in the production of hemp plastic, an easily biodegradable substitute to its polluting equivalent, the petroleum-based plastics.
Hemp plastics are produced from hemp cellulose, which is very easily producible and obtainable. Unlike petroleum-based plastics, they are easily biodegradable, so they are not retained in the environment to prompt biomagnification.

In India, air pollution is a major health issue. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study, in 2017 alone, over a million Indians died because of the country’s polluted air; it is also home to 15 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world.

Hemp plants are very efficient carbon sinks and can help India combat its high-air-pollution problems by aiding with air filtration.

Furthermore, one of the primary causes of high air pollution, in India, is the presence of a vast number of conventional-fuel-based automobiles. This fuel-dependency endangers the stock of non-renewable resources and also threatens the environment.

Oil from hemp seeds yields a kind of biodiesel, known as hempoline. It, if applied as a substitute for conventional fuels, would be very effective in combating air pollution and over-exploitation of non-renewable resources.

India, as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, aims to touch the five-trillion-dollar mark within a few years. And it can do better if it doesn’t lose a considerable portion of its GDP due to air pollution.

Professor E. Somanathan, of the ISI, explained: “If we could cut air pollution to zero, every Indian would be willing to pay about $300 per year to cut that risk. The total benefit would be about $300bn or $400bn per year,”

Hemp has also proven its potential in numerous pilot experiments on oil spills; it can be effective against marine pollution caused by oil leaks.

It could also be used as non-polluting manure for other crops, and be used to curb water pollution and biomagnification in fish.

Hemp as a source of income

Uncleanliness has often been traced back to poverty, and India is a very vigorous example of that. Even with development on the rise, poverty has still leached on.

According to an earlier report by Brookings, India had 73 million people existing in extreme poverty (i.e. 5.5% of its total population). This figure fell quickly with development but was not fully eliminated. India lifted 271 million people out of poverty within 10 years leaving its national average standing at 21.92%.

An efficient cash crop like hemp, with over 25000 uses like,production of construction materials, manufacturing of textiles, production of edibles, and many more, can surely help India combat poverty, by generating employment in various sectors of the economy.

Hemp to save trees:

The Swachh Bharat Mission also puts great emphasis on the plantation of trees, which are fast depleting due to deforestation. Forest covers are being lost to acquire supplies like timber for the construction industry; pulp for the paper industry; and land for mining and construction.

These problems can be targeted with the increasing use of industrial hemp. Hemp can be deployed in the production of wood substitutes. Hempcrete and hemp wood, alongside, can also be used as a source of cellulose (hemp has 85% cellulose, 55%more than conventionally used plants) for the paper industry.

Acquiring lands for agriculture – another major cause of deforestation can be mitigated with hemp cultivation. Hemp with its efficiency as an easily cultivable crop, can not only help improve soil quality all year long but, can also help the farmers with their earnings.

Hemp for hygiene:

The SBM’s core origin was centered around the unhygienic problem of ‘open defecation‘. In India, especially in semi-urban and rural areas, it’s a common practice for people to choose fields, bushes, forests, rail tracks, ditches, canals or other open spaces for defecation.

They do so out of habit or because of the absence of accessible toilets. The latter can be tackled with the use of hemp. Hemp can be used as a construction material in the form of hempcrete, hemp glass, hemp plastic, and hemp wood, which would not only be budget-friendly but also environment-friendly.

With conventional building materials, the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is presumed to cost over 620 billion (US$9.0 billion), with the construction of each toilet costing around 12,000 (US$170). This can easily be brought down and plowed-back with large scale production of hemp.

The SBM is progressing well and is being extensively monitored by the Swachh Sarvekshan survey, The survey evaluates the performance of the cities based on six parameters:

  • Municipal solid waste, sweeping, collection, and transportation
  • Municipal solid waste, processing, and disposal of solid waste
  • Open defecation free and toilets
  • Capacity building and eLearning
  • Provision of public toilets and community toilets
  • Information, education and communication, and behavioral changes

By the end of 2019, the government claimed to give access to toilets to 95% of rural households but, as per a survey conducted in 2018 and published in 2019 by the National Statistical Office (NSO), only 71% of rural households had access to toilets in 2018.

Hemp which has been around in India for centuries may have a more sustainable approach to the SBM, making it a better success. Accordingly, to explore its potential in eradicating the problems targeted by SBM and its causes, various pilot programs can be organized for test runs.

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