Prof. Dr. P. K. Jena
Our Mother Earth which till recent past, was a healthy and beautiful place to live in for all of us and other living beings, is getting devastated very fast because of harsh exploitation of its resources in a haphazard and unscientific manner, releasing all types of solid wastes, liquid and gaseous effluents to the environment. Rapid industrialization and urbanization is no doubt bringing a lot of material benefits but in return causing enormous devastation in different ways disturbing the equilibrium of the nature. In this process, large areas of green forests and vegetation are being wiped out; the earth’s surface is being distorted and damaged immensely and the air and water bodies are being loaded with poisonous gases and other harmful substances. One of the major problems in this regard, is the “Greenhouse Effect”. The appearance of “Greenhouse effect” on the earth’s surface is due to release of heavy amounts of carbon dioxide, methane, water vapour, oxides of nitrogen and sulphur from industries, transport systems and other human activities. As a result of this, we have started experiencing a great deal of unfavourable climatic change, appearance of various types of fatal diseases, frequent floods and droughts, rise of sea level causing immersion of small islands and low-lying areas, melting of glaciers and many more disastrous consequences. As a result of environmental pollution, both the surface and ground water bodies are getting heavily polluted making it unsuitable for drinking and other purposes. Due to disturbances on earth’s surface and destruction of large amounts of forests, the water bodies are becoming more and more scarce. As a result of various unscientific human activities, the water bodies are not only getting highly polluted but also most of it is going back to oceans.
In order to save the humanity and the planet in general from environmental pollution and achieve success in the “Mission Sustainable Planet” we should (a) Use environment friendly technology to mine and utilize the mineral resources with zero waste approach. (b) Restrict the use of minimum amount of fossil fuels and harness clean energy resources from sun, wind, water and biomass to meet our increasing demand of energy in different sectors. (c) Harvesting rain water, developing wetland including rivers and keeping these free from solid wastes and effluents. (d) Developing forest and undertaking massive plantation of fast growing fruit, oil bearing trees in barren and waste lands and (e) Keeping our living place and surroundings cleans and utilizing the wastes for making value added products.
Mineral resources are the raw materials for the development of thermal and nuclear power plants, integrated iron and steel industries, production of aluminum, copper, zinc and many other metals and alloys, refractories and chemicals. During mining of ores and minerals and their utilization in these industries a lot of solid wastes and liquid and gaseous effluents are being generated polluting the environment at a very fast rate. Similarly, due to adoption of outdated technology, a huge quantity of energy in mineral-based industries are being consumed and wasted. In view of these, the mining of minerals and the mineral based industries should use environment friendly technology with full utilization of the wastes and keeping their environment clean through harvesting rain water for their use and keeping the area green.
Water next to air, is most important natural resource for all living beings. Unfortunately water is scarcity prevailing in India inspite of receiving annually good rain fall and being endowed with a large number of rivers and other wet lands. Due to deforestation and urbanization most of the rain water is drained out to the ocean. A large amount of water is wasted during its transportation and get polluted by human habitation and industries through dumping of most of the solid wastes and sewage water. In view of this, the integrated water resource management should be planned properly and executed seriously both in rural and urban areas of the country. In order to mitigate the water crisis the following steps should be taken.
- Rain water harvesting.
- Developing existing wetlands and creating new ones to increase surface water resource as well as recharging the ground water.
- Rivers and other water bodies should be kept away from wastes and effluents.
- Industries and mines should harvest the rain water to meet their requirements.
- Modern irrigation system like sprinkle and drip irrigation should be practiced to avoid wastage of water as now agriculture consumes nearly 70% of water.
- Pricing of water should be fixed for different sectors in proportion to benefits derived by the consuming agency, and
- High priority should be given to provide drinking water to all with regular quality control.
With increasing population and developments in various sectors like industries, transport and also for domestic purposes, a large amount of fossil fuels are used resulting in release of huge quantities of green house gases along with particulate matters to the atmosphere and causing global warming. In view of this, efforts should be made to restrict the use of fossil fuels in essential areas like heavy industries and harness clean energy from sun, wind, small hydro power and biomass for their use in different sectors. In this way we can have a healthy living with clean environment. In recent years, advanced technologies have been developed and being used for harnessing the renewable energy in most of the developed countries. In this regard though some beginning has been made in India, much more efforts are needed to replace the polluting fossil fuels by this renewable energy in industrial, transport and domestic sectors.
Forest plays an important role in the atmospheric cycles of substances like carbon, nitrogen and oxygen. Forest helps in regulating the climate and plays an important role in the water balance and in hydrological cycle. In addition to this, forest protects soil from erosion, promote soil formation, and provide different types of food as well as variety of economic and social benefits. Above all, it is a major sink for green house gases and protector of ground water reserve. It is very essential to increase the forest areas by plantation of fast growing and economic trees in barren and waste lands. Afforestation projects can be successfully implemented by involving the local people in planning and implementation and giving them due benefits.
- Clean Living and Waste Management
In the world, every 15 to 20 seconds a child below five years dies from diarrhea caused by poor sanitation. According to World Health Organization (WHO), failure to invest in water and sanitation costs about 84 billion US dollars per year to the developing countries through loss of lives, low productivity of sick workers, increase in health system costs and children absent from school. In the developing world, nearly 90% of sewage is discharged untreated into rivers and other water bodies. Even in recent time most of the rural India use open field for defecating, drink contaminated water and live in most unhygienic condition. In urban India most of the solid wastes and sewage effluents contaminate land, water and air. In view of this, various efforts should be made to utilize the organic wastes scientifically to produce value added products like organic manure, fuel gas. Similarly, other wastes like plastics, glasses, metal scraps etc., should be collected and recycled in their respective industries. The Government should more seriously implement sanitation programmes and waste treatment both in urban and rural areas to keep the environment clean and producing value added product from the wastes.
June 5th is the World Environment Day. On this day we are reminded to take care of the Environment. In order to keep our environment clean and enjoy our lives, besides undertaking the above programmes, both the states and central governments should involve fully the people in planning and their implementation and bring awareness about the importance of keeping our environment clean.
(Former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research, India)