India is moving at an accelerated pace that has ignored many a discourse on serious environmental effects. The growing toxicity of land, water and air poses before us a question – whether to continue with the worst or to begin anew. Somewhere time is urging us to change our ways for the humongous benefit of humanity. Biotic stress has become a greater challenge and immediate steps should be taken to strengthen the bio-security. The world at large is no longer in the ‘safer zone’. We human beings by our irresponsible behavior have pushed the nature to the vortex of uncertainty. Knowingly or unknowingly man has been vexed by the oddities resulting from the intense abnormalities of nature.
The world seems apparently abundant though ‘nothingness looms large’ underneath. Being oblivious of the ‘little realities of life’ only predicts a grim future for us. Over-extraction, climate change and pollution have knocked India to a state of extreme shortage of water. According to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India has retained only 10% of its major surface water sources. Polluted surface and groundwater is signalling graver days ahead. Day Zero is imminent if implementation of proper water management does not take place. State pollution control boards are not well equipped with legal apparatus to punish the polluters. Groundwater is polluted in almost all the 640 districts of India. Large parts of India are contaminated by geogenic contamination and their major sources are fluoride, salinity, arsenic and iron. Out of them 276 districts are affected by fluoride, 86 districts are troubled by arsenic, 387 by nitrate and even iron has covered a huge area of 297 districts. According to a report by the Central Ground Water Board, at least 21 States in excess of 10 PPB (parts per billion) have been found and Assam is one of them. The CPCB in collaboration with state pollution control boards monitors the river water quality across the country under the national water quality monitoring programme. The Elenga Beel is one of the most critically-polluted water bodies of Assam.
Demonstrations for a healthy sustainable environment should take the front stage at the earliest. Over 85 billion cubic metres will be recharged in rural and urban areas in a planned manner by 2023 according to a master plan for artificial recharge of groundwater which has been developed by the Central Ground Water Board with promises for a better future.
Another problem facing India is the effective faecal sludge and seepage management. The shortsightedness of research administration has widened the gap between knowledge and policies, thus putting our biodiversity at a greater health risk. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change should offer the best solutions for waste management and thus facilitate and enhance waste handling. Mass awareness about the forthcoming danger of environmental degradation is crucial for earth saving. Due to insufficient management systems, municipal solid waste (MSW) has become a serious environmental issue. Campaigns like Swachhta Ki Pathshala largely galvanize the school children and common people in the corrective direction. The all-India segregation campaign like Har din do bin has been partly successful in educating the masses about the wet and dry waste. According to a report, only 5 out of 7 Waste to Energy (WTE) plants have been operational in India. The WTE is the only viable means to treat non- biodegradable, non-recyclable high calorific value waste. It can greatly reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, the combustion of which is a big contributor to CHG emissions. With WTE, the pollution of air and water can be reduced, the generation of energy from them would add to social and economic benefits.
Again greater and abundant use of plastics in India has put the environment in an extreme dilemma. There is a tectonic shift where plastics and its usage land us up. Urban floods are man-made and plastics add to the accumulation of water on the roads and rivers alike. Non-biodegradable polythene bags end up clogging the sewers. Eric Solheim, head of the United Nations Environment Programme has opined about plastic pollution in one line, “We’re drowning in the stuff.” Before our earth becomes a plastic planet, we need to abandon it totally.
Coming to electronic goods disposal, the Central Government has already notified the e-waste management rules wherein the producers of electronic goods will have obligatory targets to collect e-waste that they produce and also need to reassure that they have channelized it to authorized and authentic recyclers. The concept of Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) has proved beneficial so far it provides database of all products that are manufactured and recycled. Under its protocol, companies are not allowed to sell its products any further if they are non-compliant with the rules and regulations. The CPCB has a list of 284 companies which have been registered under EPR. Great care must be taken to avoid unsafe exposure in recycling operations as it might affect the health of the workers as well.
The ongoing climate change is predicted to have adverse effect on cumulative ecosystems. Global warming is the greatest cause of species extinction so far. Needless to mention, the concentration of carbon dioxide has increased in the atmosphere leading to extreme health hazards. Our food crops have become less nutritious and could inflict 175 million people with zinc deficiencies by 2050. The World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2019 has declared that “humanity was sleepwalking its way to catastrophe as extreme weather failure to act on climate change and natural disasters topped the list.” The report has forewarned us about the ceaseless environmental threat that has gripped the earth in its clutch. Time has come to harness the power of nature and lead the world towards the vision set out in the Sustainable Development Goals. We need not pause and think whether to take action for the environment or just to be one with the ways of this world. Our actions should come naturally and spontaneously for the enormous restoration of our Mother Nature.