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About The Asian reporter. (Portland, Or.) 1991-current | View Entire Issue (Feb. 1, 2016)
ASIA / PACIFIC
February 1, 2016
THE ASIAN REPORTER n Page 3
In south Indian temple town, plastics become taboo
PROBLEMATIC POLYTHENE. Indian rag
pickers look for reusable materials at a garbage dump
littered with polythene bags in Lucknow, India. The
northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, of which
Lucknow is the capital, has banned the use of poly-
thene carry bags throughout the state to limit the
severe environmental degradation caused by their
widespread use. (AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh)
By Anna Mathews
The Associated Press
ATHANAMTHITTA, India —
Millions of Hindu men trudge the
steep, three-hour climb to a hilltop
temple to worship a celibate god every
year. They bathe away their sins in the
Pamba River. And these days, they leave
less of a trace thanks to new rules aimed at
getting rid of plastic trash.
Local officials have banned all plastic
containers from the Sabarimala temple,
set deep in the dense jungle of a tiger
conservation park in Kerala state.
Pilgrimages throughout the year attract
some 100 million worshippers, though
women of childbearing age are forbidden
For years the traffic took a heavy toll.
Pastures were strewn with potato-chip
packages and water bottles. Plastic bags
blown into the air caught on branches and
hung from the forest canopy. Rivers
became choked with clothing discarded as
people washed away their sins.
Last year, traces of plastic were found in
the digestive tracts of dead samba deer
and at least one elephant, prompting
Kerala’s forest department to petition a
court last year for the ban on disposable
Such bans have been imposed in various
parts of India, including the capital of New
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Delhi, with little effect as people flout new
rules and authorities do little to crack
down. The famed Himalayan pilgrimage
to the Amarnath stalagmite housed in a
cave atop a mountain has become well
known for the trash left on the mountain
But visitors and officials in Sabarimala
say there is already a noticeable differ-
Pilgrims readily hand over their plastic
bags and bottles, about 90 percent of which
is recycled with the rest incinerated.
District workers collected 1.2 tons of
plastic trash this year from busloads of
visitors during the latest pilgrimage,
which drew some 5 million people.
“There is a palpable change,” says
pilgrim Dinoj D., who has made the annual
visit every year for the past 10 from his
home in the neighboring state of
Karnataka. “It was becoming the need of
the hour for an anti-plastic drive here.”
Still, there is room for improvement, and
officials may start frisking pilgrims for
plastic next year rather than relying on
them to voluntarily give it up.
“We aim to extend the mission further,
to possibly also include fines, among other
magistrate S. Harikishore said. While
acknowledging that people travelling for
days need to carry and store things, he
suggested they use cloth bags or reusable
containers that are not thrown away.
The government has spent nearly $18
million since November handing out cloth
totes, setting up plastic trash receptacles,
and printing leaflets for an awareness
campaign, Harikishore said. Aiming to cut
down on the 2 million or so plastic bottles
usually left behind, officials have also set
up a free water filtration depot for people
to refill flasks.
Clean-up crews also collected one-third
the amount of discarded clothing from
rivers than what they picked up after last
The Sabarimala shrine is dedicated to
Lord Ayyappan, and is believed to mark
the spot where the Hindu god meditated
after killing a powerful demon. More
temples sit atop other hills surrounding
Seoul says North Korea has sent 1 million propaganda leaflets
By Hyung-Jin Kim
The Associated Press
EOUL, South Korea — North Korea has
launched an estimated 1 million
propaganda leaflets by balloon into
South Korea amid increased tension between
the rivals following the North’s recent nuclear
test, according to Seoul officials.
A Cold-War-style standoff has flared since
North Korea’s claim on January 6 that it tested
a hydrogen bomb. South Korea resumed
blasting anti-North propaganda broadcasts and
K-pop songs from border loudspeakers. North
Korea quickly responded by restarting its own
border broadcasts and floating balloons over the
border carrying anti-South leaflets, according
to Seoul officials.
Seoul’s Defense Ministry said the North’s
military has been sending the balloons on a
near-daily basis. Spokesman Kim Min-seok
said the leaflets have reached Seoul in addition
to areas close to the border.
Such leafleting by the North is rare, as the
two Koreas officially stopped psychological
warfare as part of tension-reduction measures
in 2004. South Korean activists have still
occasionally sent propaganda balloons toward
North Korea, triggering angry responses from
South Korean officials believe their
broadcasts will sting in the rigidly controlled,
frontline troops and residents. There are doubts
in Seoul that the North Korean leaflets will
have any impact on the public in more affluent
Leaflets discovered at a South Korean border
town contained cartoon images showing South
Korean President Park Geun-hye wearing a
bikini and falling headfirst into a slop bucket.
The leaflets referred to her as “human filth.” It
is not the first time North Korea has lashed out
at Park, the South’s first female president, in a
sexist or derogatory manner. It has previously
referred to her as a prostitute.
Many foreign governments and analysts
remain highly skeptical about the H-bomb
claim, but whatever the North detonated
underground will likely push the country closer
toward a fully functional nuclear arsenal, which
it is still not thought to have. The North
previously conducted atomic bomb tests in
2006, 2009, and 2013.
South Korea, the U.S., and other countries
are pushing hard to get North Korea punished
over the bomb test. Soon after the test,
diplomats at a U.N. Security Council pledged to
swiftly pursue new sanctions on the North. But
it’s unclear whether China, the North’s last
major ally and a veto-wielding permanent
member of the Security Council, would
cooperate on any tough sanctions that could
force a change in the North.
The two Koreas share the world’s most
heavily fortified border since their war in the
early 1950s ended with an armistice, not a
peace treaty. About 28,500 American troops are
deployed in South Korea as a deterrence
against North Korea.
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