Environment Protection Environmental modification is as old as the history of human development. In the last century, development and modification have come much faster then ever before. While it took a few thousand years for man to pass from Paleolithic to Neolithic tools, it has taken less than a century to modify conventional weaponry to nuclear devices. Development has been so rapid that nature has not had time to adapt to these changes and to human requirement and greed. The last century has seen an unmanageable increase in population, placing a tremendous burden on natural resources. There is not enough food for the world’s hungry. Also, the earth itself is worn out due to excessive farming, use of chemicals and pesticides and excessive use of ground water. Water resources are badly polluted and emission of toxic fumes from industry and vehicles has deprived us of clean air. Industrialisation and a growing consumer economy have led to the creation of huge megapolises with their problems of undisposed garbage and uncontrolled sewage. To combat these problems, world bodies like the United Nations and the World Commission on Environment and Development have been formulating ideas for environmental protection and sustainable development. Several international conferences have been held on this subject, starting with the first one in Tbilisi in 1977 to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, the Population Summit at Copenhagen, the world Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg and several others. It is clearly evident that 25 years after the first conference in Tbilisi, there has not been an appreciable change in lifestyles or the level of awareness. Countries have put their own interests ahead of environmental protection and the future of coming generations. What has been India’s stand on environmental protection? How far has our governing body succeeded in their avowed aims of cleaning up the environment? Various acts have been passed down the years, too innumerable to be put down here. The Ministry of Environment and Forests laid down its objectives: A. Conservation & survey of flora, fauna, forests and wildlife B. Prevention and control of pollution C. Afforestation & regeneration of degraded areas D. Protection of environment, all within the frame work of legislations. The main tools utilized for this include: A. Surveys and impact assessment B. Control of pollution C. Regeneration programmes D. Support to organizations and NGOs E. Research to solve solutions F. Training to augment the requisite manpower G. Collection and dissemination of environmental information H. Creation of environmental awareness among all sectors of the country’s population. Through the years, the ministry has passed innumerable laws to help them in their task of environmental protection. Sadly, all the regulations and acts have not done enough to protect the environment. The greed of many in the governing bodies has led to misuse of the laws and ruthless exploitation of the land, leading to ecological destruction and social injustices. Most leaders of industry, too, have been lacking in a social conscience. They have exploited our country’s resources and polluted our earth, water and air. Public apathy has not helped either. We, as citizens of this country have not made our voices heard. The openings up of our economy and globalization have put a greater pressure on our resources, further vitiating our fragile eco-system. A recent trend which is heartening to note is the role of the Indian Judiciary in environmental protection, which has adopted public interest litigation (PIL) for the cause of environmental protection. This has proved an effective tool. For example, an attempt to acquire forest land and change the course of the River Beas to facilitate the construction of a motel was made by a company reportedly having direct links with the family of Kamal Nath, former Minister of Environment and Forests. The Supreme Court quashed the prior approval granted by the central government for leasing out forest land and also the lease deed between the government of Himachal Pradesh and the company. The Government of Himachal Pradesh was asked to ensure that the space was restored and that there was no construction on that area. The culprit company was strictly directed to end and remove all construction and had to pay for the restoration of the area’s ecology. It was also clarified that the river and surrounding region was and would remain public property. This is a very small step when what is needed are giant strides in an eco friendly direction. The crying need of the hour is to educate the public and make them aware of their rights as citizens of this country to a clean environment, to clean water, clean air and clean surroundings. They must act together to fight corruption in governance and ruthless exploitation by the captains of industry. A strategy for environmental protection could be adopted: a. Reduce fertility rates and control population, reducing pressure on natural resources; b. Phase out non-renewable inputs – in energy, agriculture and industry c. Educate and inform the people about the gains of environmental protection and sustainable development. They MUST stand up for their rights. There is still hope for us. We can, to a certain degree, reverse the process of degradation of our surroundings, for Mother Earth is forgiving and able to heal her wounds if we do not inflict more grievous ones on her. As Paul Bigelow Sears said, “How far must suffering and misery go before we see that even in the day of vast cities and powerful machines, the good earth is our mother and that if we destroy her, we destroy ourselves. ” So we should act today for a better tomorrow for our children.
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