Tue. Jun 25th, 2024

Following the popular opinion and precedent set by the developed nations, democracy appears to be one of the crucial ingredients of development. A prerequisite for democracy is elections. The inquiry arises: Does the process, which is envisioned as ‘of the people, by the people, and for the people,’ cater to environmental concerns as well?

In the face of the climate crisis, recognized as one of the most severe humanitarian challenges of our time, there is an urgent need to transition towards sustainable practices across all aspects of human endeavors.

A vast process involving millions of voters being heard, shedding light on common societal concerns. However, whether climate change or environmental issues were prioritized in election manifestos is a separate debate.

Considering that the entirety of the electoral process contributes to an inevitable carbon footprint, there is a necessity for elections to adopt environmentally friendly practices. This could catalyze both environmental stewardship alongside civic engagement.

Environment Footprint

Such toll is often overlooked, for instance the 2016 presidential elections in the United States, the recorded carbon footprint by air travel of just one candidate during the course of the campaign was equivalent to the carbon footprint of 500 Americans in a year.

Studies have demonstrated that the traditional methods of conducting elections, which includes paper-based materials, energy-intensive functions (such as rallies), use of loudspeakers, flex banners and hoarding & other disposable items, cause a significant environmental and socioeconomic impact.

For instance, in 2015 a study conducted by Tenhunen and Penntinen identified that the switch from paper-based invoicing to electronic invoicing decreases the carbon footprint of one invoice lifecycle by 63 percent. However, the significant amount of carbon emissions was from transportation and other energy-intensive activities.

Furthermore, there are several other systematic issues involved with the process, such as the disposal of election waste becoming one of the major hustles.

As far as the E-voting is concerned the environmental impact is primarily connected with the consumption of energy and electricity at various stages of the whole process.

Single-use Plastic: Case of Bangladesh

As per information provided by the Environment and Social Development Organisation (ESDO), a non-governmental and non-profit organization in Bangladesh, around 27,000 tonnes of plastic-wrapped posters, banners, and similar materials were utilized during the recent national elections in the country.

Following a survey conducted on printing presses, ESDO disclosed that the capital city alone contributes 17,000 tonnes of plastics. Under circumstances lacking a robust waste management system, recycling the generated waste becomes nearly unachievable.

Consequently, management typically turns to either burning the waste or merely dumping it in various locations. However, various initiatives are now in place to address the issue of waste disposal.

In addition to the use of plastics, the staging of massive rallies during election campaigns contributes to vehicular pollution, color pollution, air and noise pollution, and other socio-economic hazards. This raises the question of whether citizens of the most populous nation consistently require such extravagant displays, complete with ferns and petals, at rallies.

Alternatively, do we desire leaders to set the precedents they claim to achieve in their respective manifestos, beginning with efforts to initiate change in the conduct of electioneering itself?

Environment- conscious elections

Implementing eco-friendly practices at every stage, from campaign materials to election rallies and polling booths, is not merely a utopian dream but a tangible reality with some successful examples.

In 2019, Kerala achieved a milestone by hosting its inaugural eco-friendly election, marking a significant moment in Indian electoral history. The decision of the Kerala High Court to prohibit the use of flex and non-biodegradable materials throughout the election process paved the way for a swift transition to eco-friendly alternatives such as wall graffiti and cloth banners.

Consequently, the main emphasis was on shifting towards sustainable and reusable options. Additionally, the green model polling booths were introduced, aimed at raising awareness among the public.

As India, the world’s most populous democracy, undergoes general elections, prioritizing environmental considerations is imperative.

However, the situation is poised to deteriorate significantly at such large-scale events, especially with the impending general elections. The misuse of single-use plastics during campaign events could potentially undermine the effectiveness of state-wide bans on plastics.

Hence, the Election Commission has issued directives to election officials and political parties to reduce the usage of paper for voter lists and electoral materials. The focus is on promoting eBooks and eDocuments, while also paying attention to minor details such as ensuring double-sided printing and optimizing layouts.

Furthermore, the poll panel has underscored the importance of providing sufficient disposal facilities for various types of waste and advocating for eco-friendly transportation options, such as promoting carpooling and public transit during the polls. Political parties have also been instructed to promote the use of renewable energy for campaign events.

By Alaina Ali Beg

I am a lover of all arts and therefore can dream myself in all places where the World takes me. I am an avid animal lover and firmly believes that Nature is the true sorcerer.

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