This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
A threat to Human Kind
Erosion of the quality of natural environment caused, directly or indirectly, by human activities
Madhuri N. Sawant
The World Resources Institute (WRI). It is defined as any change or disturbance to the environment perceived to be deleterious or undesirable. healthier lives than ever before. millions of people will be living longer. Environmental degradation is of many types. acute respiratory infections or diarrhea ² illnesses that are largely preventable. and the destruction of forests. primarily because of environment-related diseases. Environmental degradation is one of the Ten Threats officially cautioned by the High Level Threat Panel of the United Nations.ENVIRONMENTAL DEGRADATION Environmental degradation is the deterioration of the environment through depletion of resources such as air. environment is degraded. 1998. UNEP (the United Nations Environment Programme). water and soil. In these poorest regions of the world an estimated 11 million children. . or about one in five. UNDP (the United Nations Development Programme) and the World Bank have made public an important report on health and the environment worldwide on May 1. will not live to see their fifth birthday. and mostly due to malaria. Environmental Change and Human Health. the destruction of ecosystems and the extinction of wildlife. The United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction defines environmental degradation as ³The reduction of the capacity of the environment to meet social and ecological objectives. a special section of World Resources 1998-99 in this report describes how preventable illnesses and premature deaths are still occurring in very large numbers. The rapid growing population and economic development is leading to a number of environmental issues in India because of the uncontrolled growth of urbanization and industrialization. When natural habitats are destroyed or natural resources are depleted. If vast improvements are made in human health. Child mortality is larger than the combined populations of Norway and Switzerland. and needs´. expansion and massive intensification of agriculture.
). deaths (mortality) and human migration (migration) and immigration (population moving into a country produces higher population) produce changes in population size. which adversely affects the natural resources and environment. climate change. India's water supply and sanitation issues are related to many environmental issues. industrialization. land degradation. water logging. An estimated 60% of cultivated land suffers from soil erosion. rocks etc. deforestation. air and water pollution afflicts many areas. forest.Major environmental issues are Forest and Agricultural land degradation. Loss of resilience in ecosystems. poor agricultural practices. particularly cyclones and annual monsoon floods. Environmental degradation. The final outcomes of this are air pollution. distribution and these changes raise a number of important questions of cause and effect. forests. habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. and resource mal-distribution have led to substantial human transformation of India¶s natural environment. increasing individual consumption. The three basic demographic factors of births (natality). water scarcity and water pollution.4% of world's total area has greatly increased the pressure on its natural resources.. Water shortages. population growth. infrastructural development. Livelihood Security for the Poor. The projected population indicates that India will be the first most populous country in the world and China will be ranking second in the year 2050. Resource depletion (water. mineral. Population growth and economic development are contributing to many serious environmental calamities in India. composition. The existence or the absence of favorable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of socioeconomic development. India having 18% of the world's population on 2. global warming. These include heavy pressure on land. Environmental issues in India include various natural hazards. soil exhaustion and erosion. Public Health. Changing consumption pattern has led to rising demand for energy. and salinity. The uprising population and the environmental deterioration face the challenge of sustainable development. Major issues One of the primary causes of environmental degradation in a country could be attributed to rapid growth of population. sand. It is also estimated that . Loss of Biodiversity.26 billion by the year 2016. It is estimated that the country¶s population will increase to about 1.
34% of India¶s geographic area (637000 km ). These trends. shifting precipitation patterns. Nearly half of the country¶s forest cover is found in the state of Madhya Pradesh (20. just 209 have partial treatment facilities. Downstream. and declining intervals of drought recurrence in many areas. 114 cities dump untreated sewage and partially cremated bodies directly into the Ganges River.7%). and only 8 have full wastewater treatment facilities (WHO 1992). Forest cover is declining because of harvesting for fuel wood and the expansion of agricultural land. Forest area covers 18. bathing. and washing.7%) and the seven states of the northeast (25. Punjab. Civil conflicts involving natural resources most notably forests and arable land have occurred in eastern and northeastern states. combined with increasing industrial and motor vehicle pollution output. the latter is experiencing net forest loss. These are substantial problems for a nation with such a large population depending on the productivity of primary resources and whose economic growth relies heavily on industrial growth. From 1947 to 2002.119 towns and cities. . and overexploitation of groundwater is problematic in the states of Haryana. POLLUTION: 1. Open defecation is widespread even in urban areas of India. average annual per capita water availability declined by almost 70% to 1. have led to atmospheric temperature increases. Water pollution Out of India's 3. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute of Parvati has estimated that a 3 °C rise in temperature will result in a 15 to 20% loss in annual wheat yields.822 cubic meters. and Uttar Pradesh.between 4. the untreated water is used for drinking.7 and 12 billion tons of topsoil are lost annually from soil erosion. This situation is typical of many rivers in India as well as other developing countries.
particularly on the Narmada River. Plus the water had high concentration of COD and BOD (chemical and biochemical oxygen demand). nickel and cadmium. arsenic and chlorpyrifos pesticide. Possible exceptions include some communal violence related to distribution of water from the Kaveri River and political tensions surrounding actual and potential population displacements by dam projects. while the tap water has high concentration of lead. phosphate. and after passing through highly populated Ludhiana district. . India. calcium. The ground water also contains nickel and selenium. before draining into Sutlej River. magnesium. fluoride. ammonia. revealed that in villages along the Nullah. which flows through the city of Mumbai. chloride. Buddha Nullah. a tributary of the Indus river. A joint study by PGIMER and Punjab Pollution Control Board in 2008. a rivulet which run through Malwa region of Punjab. chromium. The Ganges .Water resources have not therefore been linked to either domestic or international violent conflict as was previously anticipated by some observers. is today an important case point in the recent studies. is heavily polluted. for example. Punjab is today another hotbed of pollution. mercury.Millions depend on the polluted Ganges River. The Mithi River. beta-endosulphan and heptachlor pesticide were more than permissible limit (MPL) in ground and tap waters. which suggest this as another Bhopal in making.
It is filled with chemical wastes. sewage and even the remains of human and animal corpses which carry major health risks by either direct bathing in the water (e. In places. take a wary stroll along the Ganges in Varanasi.Air pollution is high in Indian cities. ± The Economist on December 11.g. the concentration is 3. 120 times more than is considered safe for bathing.000 Indian children die of diarrhoeal sickness every day. The spiritual and religious significance could be compared to what the Nile river meant to the ancient Egyptians.: Bilharziasis infection). Four miles downstream.000 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters. The Yamuna Newsweek describes Delhi's sacred Yamuna River as "a putrid ribbon of black sludge" where fecal bacteria are 10. In the Hindu religion it is said to flow from the lotus feet of Vishnu (for Vaisnavadevotees) or the hair of Shiva (for Saivites). As it enters the city.000 times over the safety limit. 2. of semicremated adults or enshrouded babies.000. While the Ganges may be considered holy. Cholera epidemics are not unknown. there are some problems associated with the ecology. 2008 More than 400 million people live along the Ganges River. .To know why 1. the Ganges becomes black and septic.000 pilgrim-bathers. with inputs from 24 gushing sewers and 60. Air pollution .000 over safety limits despite a 15-year program to address the problem. which is considered holy by Hindus. An estimated 2. or by drinking (the Fecal-oral route). Corpses. Hinduism¶s sacred river contains 60.000 persons ritually bathe daily in the river. drift slowly by.
Noise pollution The Supreme Court of India gave a significant verdict on noise pollution in 2005. Of course the biggest problems are in the big cities where there are huge concentrations of these vehicles. The use of loudspeakers for political purposes and by temples and mosques make for noise pollution in residential areas. around 50% of children suffer from asthma. the government appears to have noticed this massive problem and the associated health risks for its people and is slowly but surely taking steps. mainly those with engines. On the positive side. be converted from diesel to compressed gas (CPG). 4. After a court ruling.Indian cities are polluted by vehicles and industry emissions. Unnecessary honking of vehicles makes for a high decibel level of noise in cities. Recently Government of India has set up norms of permissible noise levels in urban and rural areas. How they will be monitored and implemented is still not sure. Road dust due to vehicles is also contributing up to 33% of air pollution. One of the biggest causes of air pollution in India is from the transport system. The first of which was in 2001 when it ruled that its entire public transport system. excluding the trains. It also appeared that the excessive pollution was having an adverse effect on the Taj Mahal. all transport in the area was shut down shortly followed by the closure of all industrial factories in the area. Land pollution . In cities like Bangalore. Hundreds of millions of old diesel engines continuously burning away diesel which has anything between 150 to 190 times the amounts of sulphur out European diesel has. (Pollution through Cremation by Savita Sethi published by Paryavaran Sanrakshan Nyas 2005) 3. Electric rickshaws are being designed and will be subsidized by the government but the supposed ban on the cycle rickshaws in Delhi will require a huge increase on the reliance of other methods of transport. India has emission standard of Bharat Stage II (Euro II) for vehicles since 2005.3 higher than the amount recommended by WHO (world health organization). The air pollution in the big cities is rising to such an extent that it is now 2.
0% of flowering plant species.Land pollution in India is due to pesticides and fertilizers as well as corrosion. further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with over 500 wildlife sanctuaries. 25 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention Let us answer four simple questions to understand Environmental Degradation 1. 12. India now hosts 14 biosphere reserves. In March 2009. lying within the Indomalaya ecozone. this . caused by fly ash ponds of thermal power stations.6% of avian. the issue of Uranium poisoning in Punjab came into light. first established in 1935. the system of national parks and protected areas. in response. was substantially expanded.2% of reptilian. which reportedly lead to severe birth defects in children in the Faridkotand Bhatinda districts of Punjab. hosts significant biodiversity. What is Environmental Degradation? Environmental degradation is defined as a process wherein the natural environment of the planet is degenerated to such an extent. human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife. Conservation Wildlife in India India. India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat. In recent decades. 6. In other words. four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves. that the biodiversity and the general health of the planet is subjected to drastic reduction.6% of allmammalian. In 1972. it is home to 7. and 6.
2. deforestation. On one hand. while excessive deforestation to accumulate the growing population has resulted in degradation of air and water on the other hand. as well as some natural processes. greenhouse gases. soil etc. thus leaving the water unfit for drinking. hunting. thus making the planet vulnerable to a range of problems. Humans have seldom sacrificed their basic necessities. What are the Effects of Environmental Degradation? More recently environmental degradation effects are becoming more and more obvious in form of a range of environmental issues affecting the planet. Exploitation of the fossil fuels is the best example of this phenomenon. incessant agricultural activities have resulted in degradation of soil. What Causes Environmental Degradation? Environmental degradation can be attributed to various human activities. These resources include water. thus leaving us with no option but to find an alternate source of energy. air. and the rate at which we are exploiting them have already brought some of them to the brink of exhaustion. fauna. the life on the planet is interwoven to such an extent that a decrease in a particular attribute triggers a domino effect on all the other attributes dependent on it. 3. The hazardous waste let out by the industries tends to contaminate the water bodies in the vicinity. Basically. flora.phenomenon can be defined as deterioration of the Earth's natural surroundings as a result of excessive exploitation of the available resources. Similarly. pollution. let out in the atmosphere have a devastating effect on the environment. Most of the resources on the planet are vulnerable to depletion. Other human activities which have been contributing to environmental degradation include urbanization. but lately exploitation of resources to fulfill these basic necessities . etc. including global warming and climate change. Large scale exploitation has depleted the fossil fuel reserves across the world. with the later having an insignificant share. such as CFCs and carbon dioxide. overpopulation.
the most intelligent species on the planet. the onus is on us ..itself is taking a toll on the environment. avoiding the use of things that pollute the environment. soil conservation etc. to make sure that such problems are kept at bay. are trying their best to save our environment. and the balance is attained. The need of the hour is to identify the causes of environmental degradation. That being said. and any problems. we humans need to step in. the world over. and ensure that the damage is curbed. Environmentalists. How to Curb Environmental Degradation? At one point of time. In such a situation. like environmental degradation and environmental pollution. . Simple measures. We need to understand the fact that we are a part of the interwoven life system on the planet. can help in saving the environment from the threat of degradation. such as conservation of electricity. use of alternative energy sources. the damage caused to the environment reaches a stage wherein the environment can't attain the required balance on its own. that doesn't mean it will never happen at all. Though the disaster is not expected to happen tomorrow or a hundred years from now. and eliminate them one by one. 4. and we need to do our bit to make sure that they succeed. are bound to affect us directly or indirectly.