The mention of the fact that New Delhi has been declared as world’s most polluted capital by the WHO may not be necessary here as we have been reading in newspapers and hearing in TV debates about this since the PM of India launched the color-coded Air Quality Index to track contamination on the scale of severe to good. The recent heed by the government on this subject has brought this critical affair into the public domain and not just thinkers and officials, but the common man even is feeling the heat. The Center for Science and Environment (CSE) reports that more than 6 lakh Indians die an untimely death owing to pollution. Around 8-9 lakh people in India suffer death due to consumption of tobacco products, and fatalities in road accidents are around 3-3.5 lakh every year. Now figures in themselves are a signal how grave is the concern of pollution and why the stakeholders, government, industries, bureaucrats and general public are to be alarmed.
The bottom line is that climate change is abruptly remodeling human civilization and the way we react is to decide the future of us all. Now, when the Indian government has taken the matter into cognizance, not in the way how we retaliated to the WHO survey, (which said that our capital city has the world’s highest annual average consumption of PM2.5) by saying that our air pollution may be comparable with that of Beijing but can’t be the most severe, rather by linking development with environment, there exists a great hope for a healthier breathing atmosphere for the Indians. Prior to finding hasty solutions, however, we need to find out the causes, some of which are hefty burning of fossil fuels, deforestation and change in land use, degrading and rescinding of coastal forests, and deficient funding, awareness, willingness and preparedness. Did we know that tropical forests store carbon and unapprised deforestation releases gigantic amount of carbon into air, or that if emission of greenhouse gases remains in the same manner as today, we would be watching shocking rises in temperature very soon?
Of course, most of the causes are known to authorities and the prevention of many is in the books of law, but hardly implemented. While in the capital city of China, Beijing, the authorities take stricter actions like closing down industries and reducing traffic in areas where the air quality is reported as critical, owners of such establishments in India get the support of the officials by way of bribing. While answers to this fast climate change can be as easy as asking the people of India to trim their energy consumption, they can be harder even like changes in worn-out laws, for say, Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, Indian Forest Act, 1927, and their true execution that will call for dedication of government and its implementing agencies. It needs little elucidation that dreadful events like landslides, floods and other ecological disorders are to become common happenings in case the endeavors to preserve nature fall short of what are required.
Countries, for say, Bangladesh, which could not cope up well are the early sufferers of the degradation which marked unforeseen surge in the sea level, temperature and level of evaporation; for India, the country that can aptly deploy resources towards reversing the trend of climate change, future can be less detrimental. Else, forget unemployment, inflation or rise in interest rates, the bewildering climate change in India will eat up the natural resources, and the most vulnerable will be poor, agriculturists and those living in the coastal parts. Millions of people, including a large proportion from metro cities, will be displaced due to upswing in temperature, lack of clean drinking water, rise in sea level (coastal areas of Gujarat, Maharashtra and South India) and drainage congestion. Impact of climate change on the most relied upon guide of development, the Gross Domestic Product, is estimated as a fall in GDP by up to 9-10 per cent, expenditure towards basics like public healthcare and agro chemicals and towards privileges like air conditioners and beverages which have seen a very steep hike.
Blaming the government of rushed environmental and forest clearances for speeding up halted projects is as pointless as saying development cannot go hand in hand with the idea of environment protection. Of course, climate change and pollution is a tantalizing subject and works in this respect are to be initiated without delay. Some very easy and cheap of these include procuring of a device, Happy Seeder, that can help in retaining the loose stalks of harvested crop, which are otherwise burnt, so as to be used as soil nutrient, reducing the sulphur content in petrol/ diesel by making economical additions in oil refineries, invoking standards for upcoming vehicles to Euro VI/ VII, and paving way for use of electric induction stoves by a relatively larger number of rural families, thus reducing contamination from cooking fires. Although all these measures call for apt shift from current practices to newer ones hence authorities are to play a vital part; in many other ways, however, we all can be a partaker by reducing energy consumption, by using only pollution-check certified vehicles and by cutting on our waste-generating habits.
100 gigawatt solar energy, 60 GW wind energy, 10 GW biomass energy and 5 GW from hydro projects goal by 2022 are appreciable labors of the government. Not just for the country’s sake, this is a global mission to reduce emission of greenhouse gases and to limit the rapid increase in temperature. India is in the phase of speedy development for betterment of vulnerable cluster; however the significance of environment cannot be overlooked; LED bulbs, smart cities, clean India, cess on petrol/ diesel, proper collection and storage of rainfall by rainwater harvesting, plantation in urban areas are some of the actions that can represent us as the principal contributor in the global pledge on sustainable growth. Losses, owing their occurrence from change in standard climatic conditions, are to be deliberated by the Indian government, states be involved in the appraisal process and preparedness be sought.
The latest rollback by the National Green Tribunal, for two weeks, on ban on diesel vehicles older than ten years may be acceptable if backed by high urgency; however we are to be stringent enough when it comes to protecting the environment as changes are likely to cause public inconvenience. To safeguard future generations and to gift them a sustainable growth model, firmness of implementing bodies is much-needed. All in all, the concerns of destabilization of climate due to higher than tolerable release of greenhouse gases, probable decline of up to 50 percent in the availability of fresh water in many areas while flood situations in others, and disruption in growing seasons of agriculturists need quick perusal by all stakeholders, flow of adequate resources and apt technological advancement.