101. Environment 3

Environmental pollution 3

This and a few of the following blogs have been inspired by a very thought provoking article by Mr. Anil Agarwal (former Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi) . I would strongly advise you to read the article published in the book Ethical Perspectives  on Environmental Issues in India published by APH publishing corporation  5 .Ansari Road, Daryaganj , New Delhi 110002 .

Also consult the following blogs in this series: Environment1 and 2

Your comments are welcome on the points numbered in brackets.

Mr. Anil Agarwal concedes that there is a lot that we can learn from the West but he criticizes blind acceptance of the West. The West has largely overcome its problems of development and scarcity but we are still groping n the dark as to where to begin and when. Our politicians and business vested interests come n the way. We loot our minerals and export then to China and the West and they use them for their own benefit. But what about the interests of the unborn generations of India. What about Gandhiji’s ‘last man’ whose interests he wanted us to remember? (1)

Mr.Anil angrily asks whether we really need to educated our villagers in regard to the need for environmental protection. He asserts that it is the educated class that needs these lessons. The rich and the urban classes through their over consumption and generation of waste contribute to the destruction of the environment. Look at our double standards. We stand in the Ganga and pray ‘Gangamayee’ but at the same time disgorge all our filth into the Ganga which has secured the unenviable distinction  of being the most polluted river in the world.  Can you name any rivers that have been killed by the Indians? Can you list all the ways through which we pollute our rivers? The pollution levels are so high that freshwater fish like the Hilsa has practically disappeared. Bengal famous for this variety is now paying Rs 1000/-per kg  and imports a good bit of it from Gujerat!  I would like a discussion on the ways through which we have been polluting the rivers.  Nor  have we  spared our coasts. We allow trawlers to catch fishes and thus endanger our poor fishermen.  (2,3)

No one is advocating a de-development but many are questioning our development approach. The West having secured a high standard of living now wants the luxuries of clean air and environment and expects the Third  World to  proved these. They are resorting to a re-colonization process.   Can you think of the ways through which this re-colonization is taking place. (4)

Nearly three percent of India’s giant landmass is under protected national parks and wildlife sanctuaries and there are demands to strengthen their protection and increase their area. Prof.Anil feels that there is no holistic understanding of the relationship between Environment and the development process taking place in the country. In this connection I would like to ask you whether tourists should be allowed into these national parks. What do you think  are the consequences of Tourist Safaris? (5)

Prof.Anil Agarwal warns us that develop net without concern for the environment can be only for a short run. In the long run such development will cause immense human suffering, increased poverty and oppression. Comment on this view. (6)

I believe that an anti-development thesis will result ; there were signs of this in the Narmada Bachao  Andolan. To a large extent Naxalism is a product of this thesis. I would invite comments on these.

So get going!  And on your own make a list of the major pollutants  of our rivers , seas, mountain ranges and cities. These may be shown to me in the class. They should not be a part of this blog.



15 thoughts on “101. Environment 3

  1. (1) We must use our resources according to our needs and on sustainable basis not merely current economic needs and greed. We have enough resources but the need is to use them in planned manner. Exporting our minerals just because there is international demand does not make sense at the cost of environment, land rights, tribal rights and future domestic requirements. These costs must be built in traditional methods of costing then only we will importance to such issue. For example Australia and New Zealand have imposed carbon tax on mining and pollution creating industries. We cannot of course do the same as we need development but we can prevent over excessive use.

    (4) The re-colonization is the process intertwined with process of globalization and multinational oligopolistic forces. For example,
    – The IP rights (TRIPS) are being imposed by WTO based on non-equity which will discriminate developing countries as they don’t have required R&D infrastructure to compete western companies which are basically having monopoly on many sectors including vital to human development – medicine, clinical research, bio technology, food security, agriculture etc. We already have Monsanto like companies in seed business, Bayer etc in medicines which are selling medicines at exaggerated prices and lobby hard against provisions of compulsory licensing.
    – On the defensive wall of human rights developed countries impose duties and follow discriminatory trade policies against developing countries. At one side they want developing countries to open for FDI but on the other hand put limitations on their labour market for foreign individuals by visa permits and quota.
    – On question of climate change developed countries are not ready to limit and reduce excessive use of resources and consumption of energy in their countries but want developing countries to limit greenhouse gases without giving them technology, assistance and opportunity for development. This will have impact on growth of these countries and conversely on their economic strength and thus human development.

    (5) Complete ban on tourism is not the right and long term policy to follow, it may be warning bell for current malicious practices as it will not allow even people to enjoy their natural heritage. The need is to devise method for properly regulated tourism which does not impact the natural environment and disturb life of wild animals. We should learn from well-organized and regulated tourism industry of Kenya and even in our country in Kerala. The framework of tourism should be such that it should include local villagers, tribals in the process, providing them living their life in their natural environment and at the same time providing them opportunity to earn their livelihood and live their life in better way, this can solve major problem of tribal oppression. The tourist companies should employ local people for providing services as tour guides, food preparation, displaying their handicrafts etc and give them training in hospitality, good lodging, good salary and stake in running the business.

    1. Brilliant! I suggest that Sandeep Gopalpet feads this and gives his views.The country is safe with such progressive minded your people like you.

      When the great Anthropologist Richard Leakey was appointed Guardian of the Kenya National Park, he collected all the elephant tusks stolen by the smugglers and burnt them all. They wee worth thousands of crores. But he wanted to teach a lesson to all elephant poachers. He warned hem to keep off the elephants.



  2. india is a developing country…it has achieved alot in recent years….may b education,industrialisation,in science n technology etc….its made its place in the world…..bt having rejoiced for this….its dishearting that people have forgotten thinking about the environment around them.
    india is a country wherethere is respect for everything from trees to animals to rivers and so on….but y why is all this disappearing!
    have people become so busy in making their life more comfortable n filled with luxury that they hav stopped payin attention to most important things…
    in india we respect da rivers as our mothers…but seeing the disrespect of the mother nwadays is really hurting….
    the yamuna river is one of the biggest rivers in india….people in n around this river have their livelyhood dependant on it….it was a home to many organisms n animals…but nw it has become polluted….the strecth of water dat was being supplied to delhi,agra etc near by places is stopped….apart of the river is marked as polluted,that is it has zero oxygen content….
    the water that we drink with full respect thinkin its pure n holy in brindhavan,is proven to b delhi’s 100% sweage…
    the ganga river on da other hand has become a dumping ground for garbage n al other possible things…
    in bangalore itself we have a lake near by to marathalli,which is so contaminated that u can see thick fomes on the water surface…
    these are just few rivers to name but this is the conditon to almost al the rivers in the country…
    y al this happening..wat is the reason??
    why is the sweage of the cities flushed out into these rivers n lakes..when it is said to b illegal by the government….why arent people taking things seriously….
    y dnt they understand that they are harming themselves in the long run…
    bangalore was known for its nature n was named the garden city….but in no time it has changed to a silicon valley..
    almost al the lakes in the city are covered n huge buildings n apartments are being built….they are hardly one or two lakes to name in the city….
    y isnt the government taking ne action….y are they giving permisssions to construction agencies n other people to close down these rivers n build these structures….isnt the rivers important to us!!
    now due to the metro coming up….thousands of trees are being cut down in the name of development….if this is development wher wil it lead us to….wat wil v have to leave for our generations coming….enviromentalists, some nature loving people have stood against ,but still why is the government not listening….
    why isnt it taking ne strict steps…..
    if this is the case going to go on one day vl b left nothing to live….
    there are many situations arising due to lack of attention to enironment….
    we cant blame the government alone for all this..its the duty of every citizen to take the responsibility to make life better….its only we who wil benefit from it…so why are we thinking so much..

  3. I would like to second the views put forward by Prof. Anil. the questions asked are very timely, and needs immediate attention from all the parts of our society, common man, Govt. machinery, Indian Industrialist, and NGOs.
    What is the problem now?
    The concept of Inclusive growth has failed.
    Rich is getting richer and poor more poorer.
    Nature is being exploited and not for benefit of larger society.
    Developed nations are using 3rd world countries as their dump yards and exploiting the resources of developing nations for their own benefits.

    What should be next step? Does this mean we need an anti-industrialism revolution? Does this mean the Golden dream of Nehru and our “Founders of nation ” of going with a mixed economy has failed? Does this mean that the post 1990’s market reformers were actually incorrect and should be withdrawn? In a single word, i can say “No” as answer to all these questions.

    Yes, Our forest cover is dwindling, Air, water, noise pollution is increasing. Yes, the inclusive growth with the exploitation of nature has not reached the last house of Gandhi Ji. Yes, The purity of Ganges and other rivers have been played awfully in our country. Yes, Poverty has increased in India. Yes, Many of the endangered species are getting extinct. These all failures do not point towards our incorrect plans, but point towards the failure in the implementations of our Plans.

    Population growth, illiteracy, migrations and immigrations are problems which we all know and are working towards finding a solution for; though it is being a very slow process. Corruption in Govt, Industry- Govt – NGOs nexus, political sensitization of issues, have been the prime reasons why we have failed in our implementations. Standards are either not created or nor followed and the big industries flaunting the set rules go away without any major fine or conviction. Corruption in bureaucracy and Govt. makes sure that the enriched and vastly available natural resources of country are exploited not for benefit of common man but for benefit of Industrialists or are used just for export, like the recent news of exports from India to china of minerals like coal while there is a shortage of coal in India for thermal power plants. Sanity of rivers is tampered with the industrial waste and the Executive, Bureaucracy and Judiaciary along with the NGOs fail in coming together and act against the factories doing so due to their nexus with Industrialist. After all, these Industrialist fund the politicial parties during elections, they donate money to NGOs in form of Good will gesture and may personally influence bureaucrats or Judicial officers till certain extent. The nexus at top level makes the country of 1.2 billion pay, rivers have turned into Drainages, with flowing untreated toxic wastes. Even various Municipal corporations which are part of the Government itself are actively treating the rivers are their sewers. Standards sould be created, if not present and should be implemented strictly, and anyone falunting these standards should be penalised and convicted with the highest of permissible charges. The sense of careness towards the environment should be shown now, before it is too late to correct. Only when we are able to do so, we will be able to make sure that the environmental pollution remains controlled and purity of rivers maintained. While rivers are just one part of the environment same principles of rules needs to be set for our forests, coasts, wild life and all elements of environment. There are a large number of people ( for e.g: tribal, coastal fishermen) who have remained dependent upon the mother nature and have carefully expoited it for the benefit of larger society, if the environment is preseved they will find work at home, which will not just take care of inclusive growth of theirs but will also help in reducing the pressures from cities where the cause of migration from villages to cities have strained the resources till certain extent.

    As a country India needs to set first these laws internally and at the same time make it clear through it’s foreign and economic offices that it will treat all with same hand. We do not want another never ending plight like “Bhopal Gas Tragedy”, use of India as a dumping yard. Use of resources of India for developed nation should be stopped, and the gift India has got in form of abundance of natural resources should judiciosuly, and right-fully be used for making the “last man” of Gandhi ji happy.

  4. 1) As per Gandhiji the policy maker should keep in mind the need of the last man walking on the streets. He is reffering to the mass, common or the poor in the country.Apart from exporting the minerals to the west and China we can see the recent incident of the allotment of the coalblocks to the elite group of industries,according to CAG report it would fetch them 1.86 lakh crores of profit.Had the coal blocks allotment took place in the form of auction that would have realised a lot of pressure on the common people shoulders Farmers would have got electricity for irrigation purpose, The draught situation we are facing today could have been delt to some extent , what about the north grid followed by the east grid failure ?

    Umpteen efforts of the government to pacify the need of the elites group of country,the west and China in the name of economy development has lot of questions unanswered.

    In his Independence Day speech, the Prime Minister made the statement that “when the UPA Government came to power in 2004, we had promised that we would provide electricity to all villages.” He then went on to say: “Our next target is to provide electricity to each and every household in our country in the next five years and to also improve the supply of electricity” But the first promise has not been completed hitherto and he made another one that too condradictory to the previous one. The coalblocks were alloted when coal ministry was under the PM.
    If we keep on overlooking the interest of the common people and recalcitrant use of the natural resources. The future seems to be in dark.

    2,3) The river Sarsvati is no more it has been dried up and Yamuna near Noida is no better then a channel, with the face we are building the dams and dumping the industrial,sewage and the domestic waste into rivers, Rituals in Hindu to dispose the ashes of the dead into the river ganga ,the ‘Ganpatti visarjan’ all these activities raising an alarming point. Not only the fish Hilsa but our acquatic national animal River Dolphin is an endangered specie resides in pure water and found in River ganga.
    Our fishermans not only face the problem of trawlers but due to the rise in the sea level the salt containt of the rivers at the coastal land is rising resulting in reduce in the catch of fishes found in the rivrer water.The bengal tigers near the bank of river ganga in sundarban weighs around 110 kg wherease the average weight of tiger in other parts is 180kg. This is due to the increase in the salinity of water due to the rise in sea level.US has demolited 1000’s of its dam to promote the unaltered flow of the rivers. Ironical we are bringing the technologies to build the dams from west.

    Ans 4)

    1. Dear Mithun

      I have only one word for you: you are superb! Dear Sandeep, your analysis of privatization is theoretically correct but unfortunately you looked only at be side of the picture. The other side is presented by Gaurav and Mithun. You comments Sandeep,please.

  5. (1) With respect to exporting our minerals at the cost of common man’s needs, there is one thing that I would like to point. The root cause of depletion of resources and the damage that our environment is undergoing today as a result of this, is that these are needed as raw materials in industry that is engaged in mass production. There is a demand for them and we have the resources. So the only obvious result is that a developing nation such as ours would want to capitalise on it. There are simply too many mouths to feed to look into ethics. So, instead of focussing all our attention into curbing these activities, I think there must be some attention given to the field of research and technology, by our govt. And by research and technology, I dont just mean ISRO, which has been one of the very few govt establishments which has shown results. What I mean to say is we must dare to explore alternative technologies, that are eco friendly, and not just blindly cater to what the rest of the world wants. We have the natural resources. We have the best minds in the world. Some of our people are reknown scholars and scientists of the world. We must make use of them. I think its high time we re-modellled ourselves from being providers to creators. If the govt could invest in such research and technologies, some years down the line, we would see fruitful results. Given all the hype there is right now about being eco friendly, such measures would be appreciated by a lot many countries. The hard part is research that would yield results supportive of mass production within the given time constraints. Once the research and testing of such products is done, its only a matter of time that we benefit from the production. All of this would take a remarkable amount of time i agree. But its not too late to start. And by investing in such technologies, we would reap the economic benefits and in the meanwhile safeguard our environment and resources.

  6. ‘Holy rivers’ are a myth today. According to a report of National Environment Engineering Research Institute(NEERI) all fourteen big rivers of India are badly polluted. They cover 85 percent of surface flow of water in The country.
    The main pollutant of river water is Industrial waste. River Jamuna receives 6000kg of dissolved solids, 3000kg of heavy metals and 200 kg detergent everyday. In its 48 km stretch around Delhi Yamuna gets polluted through 17 drains that bring toxins, acid and a number of chemicals that affect the health of river and also those who depend on it for drinking and bathing water.
    Ganga starts getting polluted by chemicalso from Rishikesh itself. It receives effluents from Indian Drug and Pharmaceuticals Ltd(IDPL) and Bharath Heavy Electricals Ltd.(BHEL). The flow of toxic effluents including chemicals, metallurgic deposits and fertilisers to river Periyar in Kerala is so great that people living on the banks of the river are suffering from high incidence of skin diseases.
    Cauvery and Kapila in karnataka are so polluted that in a stretch 10 km of the banks of Cauvery people are suffering from skin diseases. Cauvery receives Industrial waste from Tamil Nadu. The story of Godavari is no different , It receives 4500 gallons of toxic waste from Andhra Paper Mills alone.Similarly, Hooghly and Damodar receive untreated waste from coal was

  7. Similarly, Hooghly and Damodar receive untreated waste from Coal washeries, pulp and paper mills, steel mills Andnchemical industries in Bengal. Hooghly receives wastfront150 big factories including jute mills, textile mills,Paper and pulp factories, distilleries and tanneries. Eve fish have been greatly contaminated causing bone diseases and arthritis among those who eat fish in the area. The waste of fertiliser plant and Indian Oil Corporation flowing into Mahi sagar in Gujarat has killed fish, cattle and even elephants.
    Human and animal excreta flow to all the rivers in India. As it is untreated It is responsible for almost all water borne diseases. Chambal a tributary of Yamuna is the most polluted river in Rajasthan.
    Efforts have been made to remove pollution of Ganga through the efforts of Central Ganga Authority ( CGA). No serious efforts have been made anywhere else.

  8. 1) For India to achieve the status of an economically sound and developed country , it has to make decisions keeping in mind of all the factors required to achieve such a huge target in a small span of time .
    It has to consider its sustainable environmental growth along with all other factors for the people to heed a healthy life. Commoners, workers, farmers have to be kept in mind while planning policies for any kind of development and the participation of those targeted have to be seen through.
    In the case of Export of minerals, the Mining industry contributes to about 2.2 – 2.5% of the GDP; 10-11% when seen with the total industrial sector .This is the present situation which commits about US$ 106.94 bn to the economic strength of India. Globally, the mining industry is in boom time. World prices of minerals, ores and metals have soared to record levels, a trend that began in 2002 with unprecedented demand from China. In 2006 alone, global prices of all minerals skyrocketed up 48%. India is the largest producer of sheet mica. Indian government though has to keep an keen eye on the future needs to sustain its own growth in the future and export only the amount which allows for the future to be safe.
    It has the 4th largest reserve of coal in the world. India has to learn to make use of its resources in a sustainable yet developing manner, instead of just gaining economic activity by huge exports. It can utilize for example the coal reserve to tackle the power grid problems. Government can use competitive auctioning to provide various agencies equal opportunity to prove their working standards (which can be referred for future purposes). This increases govts economy and allows for faster mode of development limiting the corruption that’s eating away our benchwork.
    2) Water pollution has emerged as one of the gravest environmental threats in India. Its biggest sources are city sewage and industrial waste that are discharged untreated into the rivers. Despite the best efforts of the government, only about 10 per cent of the waste water that is generated in the cities is treated and the rest is discharged into the rivers.
    The main pollutant of river water is Industrial Waste. River Yamuna is the world’s 2nd most polluted river. In Delhi itself, covering a stretch of 48 km, 6000kg 0f dissolved solids, 3000kg of heavy metals and 200kg of detergent is released everyday through 17 drains carrying all toxic waste. And the situation is same in all of the fourteen major rivers in India. Govt. has set up policies like Yamuna action plan, ganga action plan serving them up to a budget of 20000crore, but still progress of any major work done is yet to be noticed.
    Three things essential to ensure the flows of water in the rivers to be free from pollution are:
    – All industries in the cities situated near to the banks of the rivers should, under strict vigilance, treat their effluents before water flows into the river.
    – Municipalities and Corporations should have treatment centres for their drain water.
    – Creating awareness among the common people about the importance of keeping the rivers as clean as they keep their own houses. NGO’s can help spread awareness in the cities and even in rural areas.
    4) GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trades):The Industrialised countries are attempting to extend their control over world trade and production through the inclusion of new areas (like services, foreign investments and intellectual property) into the GATT framework.
    If these Industrialised nations are able to succeed, their transnational corporations (MNC’s) will gain unprecedented rights to set up base in the third world nations, not only in Industry but also in services) and to tighten their monopoly over Industrial technology.

  9. Answer 6.
    I agree with Mr Anil that development without concern for the environment will bring oppression and suffering in the long run. It is inter-related to the previous statements where it was mentioned that the West are in luxury but now need clean air and water to live in, which is to be provided by the Third World countries. It is one of the examples that can explain how suffering can take place slowly in the coming years.
    By reading this news piece on the Kyoto Protocol that has failed to meet its aims since its negotiation in 1997, could also be another example of how countries do not bother about the environment in reality. Developed countries will as far just live in their developed world, depending upon the developing countries to keep them provided and stable, whilst the developing countries have to do this to have some monetary gain for the country’s apparent growth.
    In the end, there’s a circle of debt that effects not just the country, but the environmental resources as well. Though resources are depleting, and there are renewable resources that are being discovered, the question is, how long will Nature continue to provide us with her care, when man has no respect for whatever he is being given with?
    As far as poverty is concerned, India has already seen a rise among the poor. There are many factors that has led to such growth. In connection with the environment, though the poor may know how to use nature’s resources effectively (as they are deprived of modern man’s ammenities) some still choose to extract from nature without learning to give back.
    At the end of the day, we all live in a circle that has contribution from every single thread. Nature gives, we take. After taking, we give back to nature. But today, we continue to take from nature, while she continues to give us though we have nothing to return and maintain the balance to avoid a messed-up future in all areas

  10. 1) There should be and can be a fine balance between development and environmental sustainability. As identified in the well researched article of Mr. Anil Agarwal, the Indian Society or the third world’s society can be classified into two categories:
    a) Those who depends on nature for their needs
    b) Those who depends on nature for their greed

    Keeping in mind these two classifications, all actions of policy making and orientation of development should consider three prominent factors and should make sure all these are met.
    a) Immediate needs that are directly available from nature
    b) Educating the younger generation with the interdependence of nature, life and growth
    c) Creation of environment where the territorial, traditional and natural environment is inter-twined with local economy, which makes the protection of nature indispensable.

    Instead of keeping west as a benchmark of growth and focusing policies likewise, it would make sense if our policy makers focus their decisions understanding the ecology of India, which can be easily done just by studying innumerable research carried out by various individuals and organizations.
    Also India is in very advantageous position, it can learn from the positive developments and as well as the costly mistakes made by other developed countries. By utilizing this advantage, India can make a giant leap forward and set an example for the rest of the countries.

    Below mentioned quote of Mahatma Gandhi sums up the present scenario –
    “I suggest that we are thieves in a way. If I take anything that I do not need for my own immediate use and keep it I thieve it from somebody else. I venture to suggest that it is the fundamental law of Nature, without exception, that Nature produces enough for our wants from day to day, and if only everybody took enough for himself and nothing more, there would be no pauperism in this world, there would be no more dying of starvation in this world. But so long as we have got this inequality, so long we are thieving. “

  11. 2,3) According to National Environment Engineering Research Institute all the fourteen big rivers of India are badly polluted. They cover 85 per cent of surface flow of water in the country. The main source of pollution is industrial waste.
    River Yamuna in Delhi receives 6000Kg of dissolved solids, lots of heavy metals and detergent every day. It gets polluted through several open drains that bring toxics, acids and number of chemicals that affect the health of the river.
    Ganga starts getting polluted from Rishikesh itself. It receives effluents from the Indian Drug and Pharmaceuticals Ltd and BHEL.
    River Periyar in Kerala is infected by toxic effluents including chemicals, metallurgic deposits and fertilizers.
    Cauvery and Kapila rivers in Karnataka are so polluted that people suffer badly from skin deceases, boils and burning sensation.
    Godavari in Andhra Pradesh receives 4,500 gallons of toxic waste every day from the paper mills alone.
    Hooghly and Damodar in West Bengal receive untreated waste from coal washeries, pulp and paper mills.
    Human and animal excreta flow into all rivers of India. Untreated sewage flows into rivers through open drains causing a threat to the aquatic life.
    5) Statistics have shown that there has been a significant drop in the amount of wild life. Hundred years ago there were 100,000 tigers in our country but there are only 1500 tigers today which is still the largest in the world. Constant encroachment into their territory has decreased their numbers. To maintain a balanced eco system there should be a significant amount of wildlife compared with number of human beings, as man and animal go hand in hand since time immemorial. It is ideal to say that wild life should be untouched and not interfered. But wild life safaris contribute a substantial amount to the country’s economy and provide jobs to many local people. Hence you can’t separate the man from animal or vice versa.
    The recent ban on tiger tourism by Supreme Court cannot be justified as it will displace many local people’s life that is primarily dependent on tourists for their livelihood. Providing them employment elsewhere is not the solution as they have been part of wild life since time immemorial. It would affect them psychologically. Hence a well-planned and regulated policy where a moderate amount of restriction as well as allowing the people to enjoy wild life must be set up.

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