India is the global host of 2018World EnvironmentDay and this year the theme chosen for the day is “Beat Plastic Pollution”. The theme reflects that we are in an era where it has become necessary evil. Although, it can be banned, but not. Various governments in India have taken measures to curb this menace, but were not successful, because they do not have better alternative for the same. Plastic have become part and parcel of our life and snatching the plastic from the ever growing plastic business industry is not a viable option, because it has so many socioeconomic concerns. However, it may be possible if we have better option in place for the consumers. Although, we have jute or paper bags in place, but they have not changed the mindset of the people or they are not cost effective. Currently, different researchers claim that they have created different mechanisms to deal with the plastic pollution but that has been restricted to labs only and there is a need to bring them in field to cater the necessity that we have right now.
Leading environmentalists, thinkers, academicians, industrialists, journalists, religious leaders will deliberate upon multiple environmental issues today to find an inclusive approach on ways to protect our planet Earth and the human race from the menace of plastic pollution, but if not in practice, it will be of no value for the mother earth. A slew of programmes will be held across the globe to celebrate the world environment day by planting the trees, cleaning the particular area, poster competitions, essay writings and finally distribution of prizes and they who celebrate will not remember it for the other day, in fact every day is a environment day, and we have to remember it every day if we want to make this world a beautiful place to live in. Just celebrations will not make this place better one, but the actions will do it more. India will host it and definitely will have a message to its citizens to contribute for the betterment of environment. But will they think back towards Environmental Performance Ranking that has dropped to 177 in 2018. India is the fourth worst country in the world to handle environmental issues, according to the 2018 Environmental Performance Index (EPI), the green rankings released on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum meet in Davos. Out of 180 countries, India ranked 177, only better in environmental performance than the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bangladesh and Burundi. This is where they have to ponder and they have to act. Will they make another plan to clean the water bodies as previous plans neither worked nor reached to completion. The mighty Ganga river’s tributaries, Himalayan-glacier fed springs, that provide drinking water for 400 million people, as it enters the Indian subcontinent’s highly populated cities, and pours out into the Bay of Bengal, the water goes from crystal clear to trash-and sewage-infested sludge. Prime Minister Narendra Modi steadfast $3 billion in 2015 to clean up the waterway has not helped even to clean the mess from this river.
The Dal Lake’s problems began primarily in the 1980s, when encroachments started coming up around the lake area. With the growing tourist influx, hotels, houseboats came up in big numbers. Waste from these was disposed in the lake, with the growing number of hotels, new sewage lines were also built in Srinagar, and around 12 to 15 outlets disposed untreated sewage directly into the lake, all this happened infront of all the management that are concerned about conservation of Dal, but they never bothered. Research thesis in tons were published by Universities on Dal, but alas! We are yet to come up with solid conclusion to preserve this natural beauty. Similarly, the air quality in Delhi, according to a WHO survey of 1600 world cities, is the worst of any major city in the world. It is irony to note that pollution in Srinagar was recorded to dangerous level during winter when tiny particulate matter was five times more than the permissible limit mainly due to the use of coal for domestic purpose. The study by Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune in collaboration with University of Kashmir found PM 2.5 levels in winter touched 348 µg/m³ in 2013-2014 with the permissible limit at 60 µg/m³ and that domestic coal usage accounts for 84% of the emissions, followed by the transport sector and fuel wood burning. Recently, WHO declared Srinagar among the world’s 15 most polluted cities in terms of PM2.5 levels in outdoor ambient air.
In addition to that the challenge to manage solid waste in India has become worrisome for the concerned departments. Over 377 million urban people live in 7,935 towns and cities and generate 62 million tonnes of municipal solid waste per annum. Only 43 million tonnes (MT) of the waste is collected, 11.9 MT is treated and 31 MT is dumped in landfill sites. Almost all municipal authorities deposit solid waste at a dump yard within or outside the city haphazardly. Experts believe that India is following a flawed system of waste disposal and management. The trend is almost similar in Srinagar city. The CSE study had shown that the ITO intersection in Delhi saw noise levels as high as 106 decibels (dB) due to vehicular honking that is sufficient to develop Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL and may promote, heart conditions, sleep disorders and cognitive impairment in children. We have many problems and concerns, there are solutions, but they need to be applied with sincerity and honestly.
Just celebrations will not suffice, government, policy makers, environmentalists have to think at the common platform and solutions and suggestions must be put in practice for the better environment. Education and awareness will play its role but practical solutions are much valued that may change the scenario of the world environment.
(The author teaches Environmental Science in GDC, Bijbehara and is affiliated to Advanced learning and Career Counseling Naina)