Environmental Challenges In India : An Overview


    By Dr. Konthoujam Khelchandra Singh
    In the last two decades, environmental problems have attracted the attention of a wide cross section of people all over the world. Decision makers, scientists and even laymen are becoming increasingly conscious of a variety of issues – global warming, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, famines, droughts, floods, pollution and depleting natural resources and many more – all having adverse effects on the environment.

    All of us believe that the air we breathe the water we drink and the food we eat should be free from harmful pollutants. We want to avoid the threat and uncertainity of climate change. Conserving the environment creates both challenges and opportunities. Let us explore these challenges and try to make environment clean and healthy for quality life, which we desire, for us and for our children in future.

    India’s ongoing population explosion is a great challenge, which has placed great strain on the environment. One in every seven persons on this planet lives in India. With 16 per cent of the world’s population and only 2.4 per cent of its land area, there is obviously a heavy pressure on the environment. The rapidly growing population, along with a move toward urbanisation industrialisation has placed significant pressure on India’s infrastructure and its natural resources and reduces the gains of development. The greatest challenge before us is to limit the population growth. Population, poverty and environment are interrelated. The nexus between poverty and environmental degradation can hardly be over emphasised. This is a major issue and the biggest challenge. The challenge of poverty and the challenge of environmental degradation are not two different challenges, but two facts of the same challenge.

    Environmental pollution has become serious problem in the country. Community/Domestic wastes, Industrial effluents and chemical fertilizers and pesticides have polluted our surface water and affecting quality of the ground water. Restoring the water quality of our rivers and other water bodies as lakes is an important challenge.

    Land is the basic resource providing for the needs of the people. Due to soil erosion, salinity, alkalinity, wind erosion, etc it is estimated that nearly 100 million hectares of land, almost one-third of the total area, is suffering from degradation. Land degradation is great challenge faced by India today. Another challenge is to sustain and increase agricultural growth without damaging the environment.

    India is very rich in biological diversity with about 89,000 species of animals and 47,000 species of plants. A number of bio-geographic zones can be identified within the country with their respective flora and fauna lending a distinct character to each. Biodiversity has also faced serious threat due to over exploitation and habitat destruction and it has also become a major challenge to us. India is recognised as a country which is uniquely rich in all aspects of biodiversity, species and genetics. India is one of the world’s mega diversity centers. But, all the ecosystems are under pressure. Conserving the biodiversity of India from the on slaughters of human activities is another challenge before us.

    The environmental scene in India is one of hope tinged with concern. The concern arises from the resources constraints which our country faces. The government is determined to ensure that major development activities of the country shall not effect he environment in future and accordingly, additional resources are provided to these activities in order to mitigate the adverse consequences on the environment. We have to understand that the damage to the environment does not arise only from the consequences of developmental projects. More damage to the environment is being caused through the pressures of the people to meet their minimum needs. This pressure can be achieved only through population control and through accelerated poverty alleviation.

    Today, there is widespread realisation that there can be no readymade solutions, that technology alone cannot solve problems, that we need to use all our ingenuity to find solutions which combine the best of the old practices with the benefits that modern science and technology can offer. There is a need to develop and modernise in less wasteful ways than is the current paradigm, without losing our sound traditional values and practices. We along with other developing countries, have to find alternative paths to an alternative good. A goal which ultimately is the true goal of development should be an environmentally sound and sustainable development while the challenge of development might seem to be ‘‘how to get there’’, the real challenge is ‘‘how not to get there’’. Urbanisation, industrial growth, transportation system, agriculture, housing etc. all have to stop imitating practices that are already being phased out in the developed world.

    His essential, apart from protecting the existing environment, to regenerate the already degraded environment to ensure sustainable development. About 100 million hectares of degraded land have to be brought back to productive use. The polluted rivers and water bodies need to be cleaned up. The 30 million hectares of degraded forest need to be reforested. The resources needed for these are enormous and can be found only gradually as the competing claims of development and poverty alleviation projects on the resources assume a higher priority.

    We have to realise that environmental issues like global warming and ozone depletion, acid rain, marine pollution and biodiversity are not merely national issues but are global and must be tackle with international efforts and cooperation. We are fully aware of the environmental problems. This awareness has spread across all sections of population-villagers, city dwellers, youth, students, women, law-makers etc. The immediate result of this consciousness is a wide spectrum of laws on pollution control, forests, wildlife etc., which provide a sound basis for environmental protection. There is need of enforcement of these laws and rational patterns of consumption, more efficient utilisation of depletable resources by the developed countries, and more equitable access to these resources for the developing countries.

    The solutions to global environmental problems can be found only through international co-operative action to which each nation contributes the most of what it can. All countries need to place sustainable development at the top of their agenda and consolidate the requisite political social and economic structures to realise the goals. The nations which are strong in technology and resources will have to use them with a vision that transcends political boundaries and signify their resolve to serve the interests of humanity as a whole, including themselves.

    We have to understand that environment is our future we have to make it livable. It is the responsibility of every one, who lives on this planet. If we do not take strong measures to conserve our environment  from further deterioration, the future of coming generations will be in jeopardy. Let us together make a right effort towards our environment – our future.