developing countries, specially those having huge populations, the deep and
growing threat to life and human well-being is on the increase, resulting in
fast deterioration of environmental conditions. The effect is more in urban
areas where migration has resulted in completely upsetting the existing
infrastructure and quality of life. The civic agencies understand the problem
but are unable to undertake effective mitigation measures. The situation is
further complicated due to a mindset for letting things drift and hoping that
Mother Nature will take care of itself. The people do not understand that it is
their right to clean drinking water, pollution-free air to breathe, proper
housing, good education and health care. Along with these rights, they also shun
away from their responsibilities of keeping their immediate environment clean.
Environment is a subject which has all pervading ramifications. At the macro level, it calls for an attitude to ensure clean surroundings, improved standards of living, an urge to mobilise the community to review their local environmental conditions and take requisite measures without waiting for undue external support. In practical terms, it means ensuring that garbage is not strewn about but placed in garbage cans and removed to dumps for the municipal authorities’ further disposal; utilising of kitchen waste for making compost, thus relieving pressure on scarce landfills; ensuring personal vehicles are tuned to minimise exhaust emissions; preventing effluents from small industries from getting into water bodies; using jute/paper bags for shopping and eliminating polybags; preventing wastage of water and electricity; harvesting water for augmenting water resources and raising the water table; maximising the use of public transport, applying cleaner production mechanisms; clearing slums and providing cheap housing to the weaker sections of the society; creating satellite townships to off-set the population load on city centres; improving sewage and sanitation services; providing better health and medicare facilities; planting trees and preventing existing green areas from getting destroyed, etc.
It is extremely difficult to change a certain mindset which has been continuing since independence, a mindset which equates democracy with a freedom to do whatever one likes, even if it is detrimental to the society. Promulgation of laws and codes of conduct are meaningless unless they are enforced. Over a period of time, this enforcement of civic behaviour will become a part of our second nature which will lead to a healthy environment.
As we move into the new millennium, India (with one billion population) will have 300 million people inhabiting 500 towns and cities. Unfortunately, for the reasons stated above, most of the towns and cities will be unable to cope with this rapid pace of urbanisation. If things are not controlled, we will have a number of these urban centres with the dubious distinction of being among the most polluted cities of the world. This trend of self-destruction has to be arrested in real earnest by creating awareness and hard-headed action. The community has to be educated in terms of the benefits of clean and green urban centres.
This situation demands immediate intervention in the management of rapidly growing urban environmental problems. The quality of the environment needs to be monitored regularly, enforced strictly, and more importantly, the scientific work has to extend beyond the laboratory and become more community centred. The children, who are our future citizens are taking the lead but they must be joined and supported by government agencies, civic bodies, industry, NGOs, the corporate sector and most importantly the community, in this environmental crusade towards a better common future for the very survival of mankind. q