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Environment CrossRoad: India

By Shubhanand Mukesh, Head Environment Dept- Associate General Manager

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Shubhanand Mukesh, Head Environment Dept- Associate General Manager

In the 1972 United Nations Conference on Human Environment was held at Stockholm, Sweden and environment problems received a formal recognition for the first time at the global level. The environment includes the harmonious coexistence of physical and biological components of the nature. The nature follows its own rules to arrange and rearrange the components, but if there are any external intervention which disturb this process, the same is referred to as environment pollution. The disturbance in environment may arise due to numerous reasons; because of human interventions like industrial process, domestic reasons or because of natural calamities.

The British Parliament passed an Act in 1273,forbidding the burning of coal in London. Later, the law fell into disuse as the industrial revolution took place in England. The industrialization of the world dramatically altered the natural world through new methods of resource extraction, production and transportation. With the course of time, the excessive exploitation of natural resources posed a serious threat to the fragile ecosystem evinced by depletion of ecology, increase in sea level, rise of atmospheric temperature and hole in ozone layer.

"The industrialization of the world dramatically altered the natural world through new methods of resource extraction,production and transportation"

On March 27,1974, in the remote Himalayan village, a group of peasants stopped a group of loggers from felling of trees. The peasants of Mandal- village which adjoined the forest patch prevented felling by threatening to hug or stick to (Chipko) the trees. Chipko was representative of wide spectrum of natural resource conflicts that erupted in different parts of India and 1980. The National Forest Policy, 1988, the Forest Right Acts, 2006, and even the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme can trace their inspiration to “Chipko Andolan”.

The constitution of India, in Article 48A and 51 A (g)lay down the foundation of protection and preservation of the environment of this country. The Environment (Protection) Act, 1986,which was enacted in the after math of Bhopal Gas Tragedy 1984, was  the trigger point for environment rules  & regulations and formation of ministry of environment of the country today.

The Public Liability Insurance Act 1991, which provides for public liability insurance for the purpose of providing relief in case of industrial accident. The National Environment Tribunal Act 1995 and The National Environment Appellate Authority Act 1997, which have been enacted with the objectives to create adjudicatory body which can handle the complex matters of environment pollution and protection.

Air Pollution is now a chronic problem in smaller cities of India. As per the data shared by the Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change in Lok Sabha (July’2015) for46 cities, spread over 16 states with million population size; close to 85percent of cities exceed air quality standards. Central Pollution ControlBoard (CPCB) currently provided real time monitoring in only 17 cities and on the basis of data, it comes out witha daily air quality index and a health advisory. Municipal Solid Waste generation in India has increased 3times in last five years as erst while Planning Commission. Solid Waste Generation was 50,592  Tonnes  per day (TPD) in 2010 has increased to 1,42,449 TPD in 2015. Only 23percent of the waste generated are disposed scientifically per day.

Government data shows that polluted river stretches have more than doubled in the last five years, threatening supply of clean water t o more than 650 cities / town. Presently, cities of India can treat 37percent of sewage generated (61,948MLD) in Class I & II cities.  According to CPCB, rapid rate of urbanization will generate more than 120,000million litres per day (MLD) sewage by 2050. Widening gap between sewage generation and capacity to treat is going to be tough challenge.

The year 1992, saw the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, the agreement on the climate change convention on Biological Diversity. The principle of equity and that of common but differentiated responsibility and respective capability (CBDRRC) formulated at Rio continue to guide and define the role and responsibilities of developed and developing  countries. In 2011, at the Durban Climate Conference, developed countries managed to chip away the principle of equity and CBDRRC by pushing developing countries to accept that  any post 2020 climate deal would have meaningful commitments from all countries.

The 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP-21) to the United Nations Frame work Convention on Climate Change was held in December 2015 at Paris.  The goal was clear cut to achieve a legally binding agreement, with universal participation among all nations, to keep global warming below what scientist says is the critical threshold of 2 degree Celsius of warming.

Developing and under developed countries have not contributed to the emissions that are causing increase in temperature. But they are certainly worst impacted today. Rising temperatures has horrendous consequences for small island nations.

India has reached to crucial environment crossroad. But any change we desire in coming years is possible by balancing between environment and development. This requires working institutions that can take evaluated decisions and most importantly should enforce environment conditions, so that devastation is mitigated, if not managed well.

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