, by PROF. M.A. HAQUE
The reckless felling of trees, denudation of hills, industrial pollution in the form of effluents from the factories, burning of fossil fuels, human and animal excreta along with excess pesticides, insecticides, weedicides and other chemicals finding their way to ponds, lakes, reservoirs and rivers have brought human kind to the precipice of disaster of sorts. We must reinvent agro-industrial-technological civilization to balance the self, community and other elements of nature in relation to environment such as air, water, energy and soil, which are in a precarious condition. In the midst of all diversity of various life forms, we are one humanity and one Earth family with a shared destiny. We swim or sink together. We have to cultivate and act with a sense of shared responsibility to the well-being of the Earth Community. Every person, institution and government has a duty to advance the indivisible goals of justice, world peace, sustainability and respect and care for the larger community of life. We must preserve a strong sense of belonging to the universe.
Today our world stands at a defining moment. It is at a crossroads. It has to take a firm decision which way it shall go? Will it ignore the laws governing the biosphere (living place for all forms of life – human, animal and plant) and hasten its end, or will the wiser counsels prevail? Lack of foresight to view all the creation of Allah with a just approach threatens the fabric of life. Man’s greed and lust for immediate gain trampling upon others’ long-ranging benefits, has landed the entire mankind into unimaginable situation where its very existence is in danger. Human beings have acquired the ability to radically alter the atmosphere, their surroundings and the evolutionary processes by their interventions – acts of commission and omission.
WORLD: HOME TO ALL CREATURES
The Earth is our home and home to all living beings who are held in a condition of ecological balance as living beings and non-living beings are inseparably woven together to facilitate survival of life on this planet earth. Human beings are an interdependent community of life. The life has a magnificent diversity of life forms and cultures. We must feel fascinated and humbled before the grand and wise scheme of the creation of the universe. We must share deep regard and consideration for the sources of our being. Consequently we owe thanks to the creator and a sense of indebtedness to our past generations which bequeathed us a rich heritage. We must also embrace responsibilities to maintain ecology for our safe living as also handing over an atmosphere congenial to life and growth to our future generations.
CAUSE OF DISTURBANCE
There is great violence, poverty, discrimination, unequal distribution of natural resources’ utilisation, absence of sense of responsibility to own liability for setting right the environment by the polluter, consequent suffering, disease, ill-harmony and lack of ecological balance for a happy living. Wonder of wonders, this is happening even when scientific instruments and implements give exact measurement of various pollutions and induced imbalances due to man’s actions, and scientific process of analysis has made the corrective measures possible. Economic analysis gives the exact quantum of loss in monetary terms of the detrimental actions and technology adopted by developed countries to further their interests. The tragedy is that the polluter avoids his moral and social responsibility to bear the expenses for the corrective measures.
NEED FOR PUBLIC AWARENESS
The thoughtless and unchecked consumption of natural resources has depleted environmental resources. These have been used for agriculture, industry, transport and communication, development of science and technology, materials and energy, and for the sake of man’s comfort and luxury. The result is that vital life-supporting systems like air, water and the soil have been disturbed. Hence the imbalanced ecology. To improve this deteriorated environment and to avoid its further deterioration, the human beings have a great responsibility. For this purpose one must know about man’s needed eco-friendly conduct.
This vital knowledge must be disseminated on a large scale by including the subject matter in syllabi of different courses, through effective means of public opinion formation and mass communication, through meetings, debates, dialogues at gatherings, conferences, seminars, workshops, discussions and public participatory techniques. Individuals and groups of people pursuing very different occupations and professions have to be involved in the process of improving the environment.
BE WARNED OF MAN’S ACTIVITIES
Among the many species that existed, flourished and vanished from the earth, mankind has withstood the turbulence and vicissitudes of testing times. Owing to its vast capabilities, reasoning faculty, minute observing power, multi-activity performance and curiosity, mankind has been responsible for carrying out development and disturbing the environment. The comfort of using air-conditioners and refrigerators has led to depletion of ozone layer, which is responsible for many skin diseases and other adverse effects. Global warming is yet another dangerous phenomenon whose ill-effects are becoming obvious day by day.
The scope of such studies extends to almost all living and non-living beings and influences them each moment of their life. The natural resources drawing our attention are forests, water, soil (land), air, food, minerals, plants, animals, energy, etc. Consequently pollutions caused due to air, water, soil, solid wastes, medical wastes, noise, radioactive and magnetic materials, etc. are sources of great disturbance and adverse effects on the health of living beings.
We need pure air i.e. air free form undesired ingredients viz. harmful gases, suspended matters, etc. Likewise, we need pure drinking water which should be free from bacteria and other pollutants. While impurities in air and water can be allowed up to some extent, called permissible limits, their excess causes deterioration of health of human beings and other living organisms, and they may be affected by air-borne diseases such as asthma, cough, bronchitis (due to sulphur-di-oxide), giddiness, defects of nervous system etc. (due to lead), cancer, lung and kidney problems, unconsciousness (due to carbon monoxide), chronic fibrosis, bronchopneumonia due to nitrogen oxide and nitric oxide, nasal cavity, bronchitis and respiratory problems like breathing trouble. In case of excess of undesirable impurities in water, cholera, dysentery, typhoid fever, hepatitis, etc. are caused. These are serious diseases which require careful treatment. It is therefore, necessary that due care must be taken before-hand.
BEHAVIOR OF WATER
We know that water flows, erodes and damages river banks, deposits sand and silt, inundates areas, destroys crops and brings devastation to people, animals and trees during flood. Its short availability causes famines. During flood, it fells trees, submerges precious cultivable land, uproots people from their homes and hearths, severely damages roads and means of communication. In normal times also, it evaporates into atmosphere and leaves salt layer on the surface of the cultivable land decreasing its yield successively, rendering it ultimately unfit for cultivation. Then it becomes impossible to obtain any crop from it. It flows as sheet of water on land, creeps and seeps into ground raising ground water level.
Rivers changes their course and meander, carry away with them men, animals, tree and house-hold goods when rivers are in spate. Water endangers, weakens and damages civil engineering structures constructed to store, control and regulate water such as canals, dams, reservoirs, barrages, cause-ways, etc. As such water must be correctly assessed, cautiously stored, carefully diverted, wisely allotted to different sectors of its use (such as for drinking, agriculture, industries, hydro-power, thermal power, horticulture, environmental cleaning, and domestic use, etc.) equitably distributed and judiciously used to make people’s life satisfying economically and free of the uncertainty of the present or fear of the future.
The large scale damage to our ecological system has resulted from our misconceived perception that we can conquer nature and subjugate it according to our whims and fancies. In our struggle for existence, we had to face many challenges on many fronts and in so doing we forgot the idea of peaceful coexistence with nature. While conceiving development projects in the sectors of irrigation, power, agriculture, industries and mining, etc., we forgot the time-tested norm that a decent life and sustainable development is possible only in harmony with nature.
The process of planned economic growth through 5-year plans and annual development plans ignored the ecological disturbance resulting from deforestation, industrial wastes, harmful plastic pollution and destruction of fresh air by intermingling of toxic gases from chimneys of various industries, etc., which all took a heavy toll of clean water, air, soil and food. Man has been shouting about his conquering nature but the fact is that nature has been silently posing threats to his existence as a consequence of man’s mindless actions giving no thought to their ill-effects.
We have to relearn the unforgettable lesson from the perusal of history that indiscriminate use of water, abuse of land and disturbance in eco-system have caused many celebrated civilizations of the world to perish. The ancient civilization of the Nile, the Tigris and Euphrates, the Indus Valley, all collapsed when the onslaught of man’s vagaries could not be withstood any more. Removal of vegetative cover, excessive soil erosion, due to over-grazing by the cattle, land slides by man’s developmental activities such as construction of roads, etc. are some of the reasons causing ecological imbalance.
THE WAY AHEAD
If we were to review the use of water, the direct and indirect problems causing ecological imbalance and their results over last five decades, we get clear warning signals loud and powerful enough to awaken us from our deep slumber. There are problems of irrigating fields for crop production, fruit-trees (orchards), vegetables, grasslands, agricultural productivity per unit area of land, drought, flood, water logging, water pollution, medical care and health. These will assume increasing frightening postures in coming times. This is so because water is needed for agriculture (mainstay of about 70% Indian population), environment, animal husbandry, horticulture, industries, urban and rural development, medicine and health and in fact, in many segments of human developmental activities.
The problems related with these aspects require lasting solution with a view to have stable agricultural production and all-round developmental atmosphere for a better life. This is required to bring sunshine to the dismaying and neglected lives of teeming millions who become the first victims of natural furies and man’s mismanagement of natural disasters.
The unwise use of surface and ground water along with indiscriminate use of chemicals has made life risky, painful and threatened with annihilation. We must desist from wastage of natural resources and must use those resources which are renewable under the working of natural processes. This will check depletion of limited available natural resources.
Unfortunately, concern for ecological balance dawned upon us quite late. The ecological problems of the West in the aftermath of their industrial revolution must have acted as an eye-opener for us to be forewarned of the danger lying ahead. We moved on the road to material development without ethical and moral concern for deprived sections of our society, plant and animal kingdom. We did not pay heed to the consequences of employment of heavy machinery for large scale industrial production.
Slums, unhealthy and unhygienic living, air and water pollution, degradation of land etc. without preventive and remedial steps.
We must adopt a long-term approach to the vexed question of development which is essential but must not sacrifice the genuine interests of the future generations to live in a clean atmosphere. We must bequeath to our future generations a world with liveable atmosphere. Ecologically, man’s action at one place does not have consequences limited to that man or that place only but reach far and wide as water and air cannot be compartmentalised. Ecological oneness of whole world must get deeply ingrained in our psyche. Science, technology, communication and transport facilities have knit the whole world into one entity. Devastating effects of development on ecology must force us to adopt ‘sustainable development’ by restoring loss of “depleted ecosystems”.