The advent of pollution on this earth can be traced back to the industrial revolution of 1760. Rapid development brought with it rapid pollution from waste and effluents generated from different sources.
Since the industrial revolution to this date, a large amount of waste and effluents is being generated every day and being released into the environment through various anthropogenic activities, including rapid increase of industry and urban areas along with modernisation of agricultural practices
As a result, land and water bodies as well as the air of the planet, are getting polluted at a fast pace. At present, we have reached a very alarming state with regard to environmental pollution and global warming.
In the process of meeting various needs of exploding human population on this planet, large areas of green forests and vegetation are being wiped out. Wetlands are being destroyed and the remaining water bodies as well as the air are getting loaded with huge amounts of poisonous solid, liquid and gaseous waste. Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur, chlorofluorocarbon and fine particulate matters (PM) are mostly responsible for the rise in the atmospheric temperature of the planet.
As a result, the wind circulation, pattern of rainfall, alteration in types of vegetative growth, agricultural productivity, growth of forest etc., are being affected and causing distress in various ways to all living beings. It has been estimated that, 10 C rise in the atmospheric temperature can shift the vegetation zone on the planet to about 200 km towards the pole along with rise in sea level, causing destruction to many densely populated coastal areas.
Untimely, rainfall and frequent cyclones, affecting different areas of the planet, are some of the adverse effects of global warming. It has been reported that during the last century, the sea level has risen to 15 to 20 cm and it is likely to go up 100 cm by the end of the century. The effect is mostly due to both the rise in atmospheric temperature and melting of the snow of continental glaciers.
At the same time, there has been a perceptible increase in the sufferings of human beings with various types of deadly diseases like asthma, cholera, diarrhoea, dysentery, dengue, filaria and cancer, resulting in high percentage of untimely death due to land, water and air pollution.
According to World Health Organisation (WHO), indoor and outdoor air pollution has been responsible for the death of about 37 lakh people under the age of 16 in 2012.
In recent years, tropical cyclones occurring with greater intensity and frequency are also the consequence of global warming. Cyclone Fani, which hit the east coast of India recently, was one of the strongest cyclones in the Indian Ocean, which caused a lot of destruction particularly in the coastal region of Odisha.
The latest report of the UN’s Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns that global warming is occurring faster than anticipated and India will be one of the worst hit countries. It may face the wrath of climate change like floods, drought and heat waves, ultimately reducing its productivity and GDP. It further anticipated that if the present warming continues to rise at the current rate, the atmospheric temperature may rise to 1.50 C between 2030 and 2052.
In India, global warming and environmental pollution are increasing in an uncontrolled manner due to extensive use of fossil fuels in industrial, transport and domestic sectors, burning of organic wastes of agricultural and domestic sectors and release of solid wastes and effluents to land and water bodies.
A recent study has ranked India 126 out of 132 countries with respect to environmental pollution. According to the WHO report of 2014, for example, Delhi has the dirtiest atmosphere out of the 1600 cities surveyed around the world. It has also been found that 13 cities in our country have a very high level of particulate matters in the air. As a matter fact, Delhi has been declared as the “Asthma Capital of India” by the world body.
To save us from the disasters of environmental pollution and global warming, we have to undertake various mitigation measures. Some of these are given below:
1. Reducing the use of fossil fuels in transport, domestic and industrial sectors.
2. Harnessing and using increasing amount of renewable energy such as solar, wind, biomass and hydro power for various purposes in domestic, agriculture and industrial sectors.
3. Applying the best available technology for utilisation of fossil fuels.
4. Cutting down the release of greenhouse gases by using electrical transport system on roads and water bodies.
5. Creating more water bodies, developing wetlands and harvesting rain water on the surface and underground.
6. Greening the barren lands and mineral mined areas as well as areas around the rivers and other water bodies.
7. Prohibiting the burning of agricultural and domestic waste in the open, rather utilising these to produce clean bio-gas.
8. Banning defecation in open areas and using hygienic latrines with provision to convert waste into manure.
9. Keeping the land and water bodies free from solid waste and effluents generated from industrial, domestic and agricultural activities, urban sewage, human excreta, animal dung etc., and converting these through anaerobic process to biogas and organic manure.
Both the Central and state governments of our country should properly plan programmes in these areas and implement them in time with the full cooperation of all concerned so that we can mitigate the effects of environmental pollution and global warming to a great extent. In this regard, the programmes under “Swachch Bharat”, projection, production and use of renewable energy and National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG) etc., which have been carried out recently by the Government of India, is a welcome beginning.
Just observing June 5 as ‘World Environment Day’ by organising a few lectures, giving some slogans, planting a few trees here and there etc., and forgetting it for the rest of the year, will be a mockery of combating global warming and environmental pollution. We have to work with the government and private organisations in our country to keep our land, water and air clean for leading a healthy and happy life and providing the same to our future generation.
[The author is a former Director General of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India, former Planning Board Member, Government of Odisha, Founder Chairman, Institute of Advance Technology & Environmental Studies (IATES) and Founder President, Natural Resources Development Foundation (NRDF)]
[Disclaimer: The view expressed by the author are his own and do not necessarily represent that of the web portal]