The environment in India has been progressively degraded, even more so since independence, almost in a 360-degree frame. India boasted a huge forest cover when the British landed up; which was severely decimated by them for their ship building and other war efforts in both the 1st and 2nd world wars, wars that India and Indians paid for with money and lives and is totally unacknowledged in the annals of British history, war memorials and annual war ceremonies to which no Indian government objects; try that with China. Why the government has not demanded national compensation from the British after independence is beyond imagination, for these things are a matter of record, and our forest wealth was plundered.
Visit http://edugreen.teri.res.in/explore/forestry/history.html for some detail if interested.
After independence, our own politicians and bureaucrats went to town and did their own number to make quick money by denuding our forests to a point where our forest cover reduced to under 9%. Indira Gandhi woke up to the implications and launched a reforestation drive that was fortunately, carried forward by successive governments so that our forest covers stands at around 22% of land-mass today. While ancient forests cannot be brought back, those that survive must be protected even as we intensify the reforestation drives.
Our river systems have gotten heavily polluted throughout India. This is mainly through unprocessed industrial waste and city sewage systems discharge into our rivers, from all cites falling within the river flows and polluting them beyond belief, killing fish and marine life, and causing massive economic losses while delivering negative health impacts to the population living in the areas. This state of affairs has been there since independence and progressively gotten worse, and the condition is now unsustainable. No government has demonstrated the intelligence or will to sort this national and human tragedy till date. Lot of talk and noise, but on the ground, business as usual prevails.
Similarly, our ground water is severely polluted in many areas, especially in cities and industrial clusters, again due to unprocessed chemical and other industrial waste discharge. There seems only talk and no hope in sight even as the current Modi government has made huge promises and passed significant budgets. Question is, can the current bureaucracy within its functioning narrative deliver desired results? The answer is self-evident to the “Swatch Bharat”, and clean the Ganga campaigns and real-time impact in our cities; minimal, if any at all.
The air quality in our nation is very poor in our metros and larger cities. A huge factor for this are coal-fired power plants and other industry using coal for its furnaces and belching pollutant smoke into the air, and fossil fuel burning for cooking, especially in our rural hinterland.
Then, there is vehicular pollution on which no one, certainly not any government or bureaucrats, has got a handle, or even an understanding of the issue, beyond copying and passing EU standard engine emission standards and population unfriendly schemes such as banning cars more than 15 years old. In the same west from which our bureaucrats copy, 50-year-old cars can and are plying on the roads, as long as they have emission check certificates that demonstrate that the engines comply with the set emission standards. Vast number of our middle-class citizens have been forced to suffer financial pain in dumping perfectly functioning cars because of political and bureaucratic arrogance and stupidity.
There are two major factors behind vehicular pollution; one, the vehicle emissions especially from our trucks and buses, many of which still do not have catalytic converters and are on the roads belching black polluting smoke, and unmaintained cars, which are perfectly fixable with good engine maintenance and tuning.
The biggest culprit, by far is create massive traffic jams that are a constant feature of Indian roads in our cities and highways. These are caused by the simple fact that our undisciplined, ill-trained, drivers who obtain their licenses via bribery rather than a genuine training and knowledge of how traffic rules must work, have no clue of basic traffic etiquette or rules and create them without a thought or care. Slow moving trucks and three wheelers hog all lanes; whether these are two, three, four or six; all lanes are willy-nilly hogged by trucks, three wheelers and other slow-moving vehicles.
In the West, that our bureaucrats copy so much, even if there are two lanes, slow moving cars, trucks etc. will always travel in the left lane, leaving the right lane free for overtaking traffic, which on overtaking moves back to the left lane. If there are three lanes, again, the left is occupied by trucks and buses and other slow-moving vehicles, the middle lane is occupied by cars, and the right lane is always left free for overtaking; there are hardly any traffic jams.
In our country drivers are so untrained, illogical and uncaring, that if there is two-way movement in only two lanes, or without road drivers, and traffic has come to a stop for any reason, including at railway crossing, drivers will attempt to get ahead of cars in front of them by moving into the lanes on the right meant for on-coming traffic, or the dirt on the left, and create a traffic jam; then everyone blows the hell out of everyone with blaring horns as if that will clear a self-created traffic jam; and massive pollution!
No bureaucrat has figured this out anywhere in the country, that is how bright they are. What they don’t seem to know is that cars or vehicles that stand still, belch out massive pollution over cars and vehicles that are moving, and millions of cars and trucks on our roads are standing still in self-created traffic jams all over the country each and every day, without fail. There is a relative quick fix available for cleaning up the air immediately, but our bureaucrats cannot get this simple thing done which would bring in huge relief in the short term on the air pollution front, improving air quality in the short term, while the longer-term solutions are being put in place such as planting trees and grass.
Nose pollution is another national malaise. This is largely due to traffic noise in the shape of traffic-jam stalled cars and constant use of horns, often needlessly so. The other major noise polluter is the noise belted out day-in-day-out from loudspeakers. This is mostly due to marriages, religious events, and regular loudspeaker noise of mosques, temples and Gurdwaras, many starting early in the morning in many; perhaps God has gone deaf, though one thought that God listens and hears best in silence and silent contemplation. There is Goondaism everywhere in India, on the streets, in religions, just about everywhere; “Yatha raja, Thatha Praja” holds true and engenders this behavior.
Then there is chemical pollution, throughout the food chain through excessive use of chemical fertilizers, bug-killing sprays and so on, because our government cannot be imaginative enough to enable the natural fertilizer food chain supplemented with minute quantities of chemical fertilizers if required. India has perhaps the largest number of cows, buffalos etc. whose dung, if systematically harnessed, will give more than enough natural organic fertilizer to fertilize our fields and certainly at much cheaper cost; but again, there is no imagination of will amongst our rulers, who really are our public’s servants, being paid for by the public.
Perhaps the multinationals and Indian corporates have too much power and influence; and certainly, our politicians and bureaucrats want it easy, or easiest as far as possible; and the nation suffers escalating incidents of diseases including diabetes, various cancers and assorted conditions as a consequence of the pollution levels in India. Another turn off for global tourists, and our governments and their bureaucrats carry on merrily, being the bosses and rulers of a hapless population.
The we have dust pollution, because we are unable to plant grass and greenery that is dense enough to create an environment so common everywhere overseas; which our bureaucrats and politicians copy all the time. Water scarcity would be cited by the bureaucrats, but no one talks of the massive water wastage because our governments are unable to water-harvest when there is a flood of water in the monsoon. Simple doable solutions that are self-evident are so difficult for our governments, our ruling politicians and bureaucrats; whose egos and arrogance are bigger than Mount Everest, but brains and simple human-care non-existent.
Light pollution in our cities is something no one would even want to talk about, but it is one that impacts on the life story of citizens who, already distanced from nature, divorces them even further, but, this is not as damaging as other pollution that is often life threatening or bad for mental health, but it has below threshold impact on the human mind and soul, a soul that seems to be on a permanent holiday in today’s society and especially in our ruling classes.