Although the destruction of nature brought about by human beings is a cause for deep concern, the fact that some meaningful steps are being initiated to reverse the damage, albeit in a very small way, is an encouraging sign - a beacon of hope in an otherwise desolate landscape. We need to introspect on what harm we have done and look at the future to see what we can do to prevent recurrence of such devastation. I hope the article contributes to the global efforts at protection and preservation of nature.
The following article of mine was published in Deccan Herald May 02 of 1999.
ECOLOGY & ENVIRONMENT - PRESERVE OR PERISH
“Man is nature’s sole mistake” - W.S.Gilbert
Mankind’s unconcealed intent and unequaled ability to manipulate, exploit and abuse natural surroundings to satisfy self-serving interests are well established and documented. The extensive environmental degradation due to man-made causes has wreaked havoc on Mother Earth and severely disrupted the delicate eco-balance. Materialistic temptations and addictive comforts have blinded us to the irreversible destruction we are causing. Rapid urbanization and unbridled industrialization have seriously undermined nature’s resilience to the extent that our very existence is under threat. We don’t seem to realise that we have only one Earth to live on and nowhere else to go!
Industrialization and urbanization by their very character affect ecology and environment. The remorseless culprits responsible for ruining the ecology and environment consist of power generation stations (hydro, nuclear, thermal or gas based), mining (especially coal mining), quarrying, timber-logging, cement plants, iron & steel plants, dyeing units, tanneries, paper mills, petroleum & chemical industries - the list can be endless. Fortunately, many Indian villages are yet to directly suffer the adverse consequences of industrialization and the resultant environmental pollution. They have not been exposed to deleterious levels of development. Rural areas in India have based their sustenance largely on agriculture and thus remained free of the unusual problems haunting their urban counterparts. Progress and development should necessarily focus on villages and development of our countryside should be high on our priorities. But, such actions should also take care to control or remove the ill-effects that harm natural eco-balance. Progress and development are meaningless if they are detrimental to our existence!
In many developed countries eco-preservation and environment protection have justifiably acquired the prime status they deserve in urban life. Environmental Engineering is recognized as a core subject of study and attracts cream of professional talent. Afforestation schemes generate as much enthusiasm as wildlife safety measures. Water conservation and recycling projects are offered substantial financial support by governments and NGOs. Environment protection groups and ‘green’ volunteers often function with public patronage and abundant support for their pro-nature activities; so much so that even governments consult them and seek their opinion and advice on nature-related issues in order to ensure that fragile natural surroundings remain undisturbed and unharmed. The ideas of co-existence and mutual respect are sought to be advanced through education and entertainment.
However, the green house effect, acid rains, unpredictable climate patterns and an upswing in pollution-related physical ailments due to environmental degeneration have forced the advanced countries to devise and adopt safer and nature-friendly technologies and practices. The people also consciously extend their support and participate in programs aimed at reducing the adverse effects of their lifestyles and practices on nature. Some do not hesitate to willingly sacrifice their conveniences and comforts for the greater benefit of all living beings.
Industries are legally compelled to adhere to strict pollution-control norms. Some industries proudly flaunt their enviro-friendly credentials and their products are favored by people. Vehicular emissions are mandatorily monitored and controlled regularly both at the vehicle manufacturing levels and on road. Eco-friendly materials have replaced hazardous and environment-damaging substances (chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, CFCs etc.). Bio-degradable plastics have found wide acceptance and are routinely substituted for harmful plastics; plastic carry-bags are not offered by retail outlets since customers insist on recycled paper bags. Manufacturers prominently display instructions on product packages for the post-use safe disposal of containers. Waste Management is an integral and essential part of sustainable infrastructure development. Remarkably, waste recycling has been transformed into lucrative business.
We in India are aware of these developments. In some areas tentative steps have been initiated to curtail the usage of natural products thus reducing the strain on natural resources and thereby indirectly minimizing the damage to environment -- the most notable such innovation being the use of precast concrete sleepers on railway tracks thus eliminating timber and steel. The Central Public Works Department has stopped using timber in public works and instead relies on wood substitutes. The usefulness of Neem as an organic-manure and its significance as an effective bio-pesticide are being rediscovered. Renewable non-polluting energy sources like Wind Power, Bio-gas, Solar Energy etc., are being tapped for power generation. Rain-water harvesting technology in urban areas, though in its infancy, is attracting attention. Waste recycling is also gaining prominence. Plastic carry-bags are proposed to be phased out of use. These are some stray cases but welcome developments which indicate that concern for eco-preservation and environmental protection is acquiring importance. Yet more needs to be done.
The responsibility of safeguarding our irreplaceable natural wealth and environment squarely rests on our shoulders. There is an urgent and compelling need to learn from the experiences of developed countries so that mistakes committed by them are not repeated in India. In this era of globalisation we need not hesitate to approach these countries and seek the benefits of their research & development and expertise in the field of environment protection. Subjects related to ecology and environment protection should compulsorily form part of curriculum in our schools and colleges. The imaginative and innovative concepts of paperless offices and home offices must be vigorously persued & implemented by adequate investments in Information Technology & Computerization and Communications. Voluntary organizations and citizens’ groups can and should play a decisive and dominating role in efforts to boost environmental protection measures. The media, with its wide and deep reach must be more effectively used to enlighten the people and create awareness about the importance of balanced ecology and protected natural habitat. Conservation against consumption should be the logical corollary to preservation against procrastination.
Eco-consciousness and living in harmony with nature are no more mere options, they are imperative for the survival of humanity. As Francis Bacon said “Nature cannot be ordered about except by obeying her”. A. BHANU