Industrial Wastes: An Environmental Hazard

Robert Redfort once said, “I think the environment should be put in the category of our national security. Defence of our resources is just as important as defence abroad. Otherwise what is there to defend? “

The relationship between man and environment is a two-way traffic – if we don’t care about the environment then it won’t care about us. For long man has taken the environment for granted. We have pursued development like mice follow Pied Piper. Yes, we are to an extent developed today. But the question to be asked is, at what cost? It is has been at the cost of our health, our ecology and mostly importantly, at the cost of the future of mankind, which looks bleak.

Of the many sources that are polluting the environment, one of the major sources is pollution is industrial waste which pollutes the air, water and land alike. Industries emit harmful gases in the atmosphere and let nocuous organic and chemical effluents flow into rivers. They not only make water unfit for drinking but also contaminate the soil and make the land infertile. The problem is further complicated as these gases escape into the environment and come down as chemical rain. The extent of pollution is such that substances like polychlorinated biphenyls(PCB’s) and diphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) are today found in the tissues of human beings and animals.

Also many industries dump their solid and chemical wastes in spaces where people live, thus putting their lives in danger. These dumping areas are breeding grounds for disease carrying germs and make the air unfit for inhaling. Cholera, diarrhoea, malaria, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases , etc., are a result of unsafe drinking water and unhygienic sanitation and living conditions.

India ranks 120 among 149 nations on the list of the environmental protection index with a paltry score of 60.3 on a scale of 100.

In India, Gujarat and Maharashtra are in the leading industrial states. Thus, they are also up in the list of most polluted states. Along the Mumbai-Pune highway, hundreds of industrial units dealing with chemicals and fertilisers dump their sludge along the roadside. Factories which produce pesticides, agrochemicals, insecticides, etc, discard untreated effluents in the rivers from which many people catch fish to eat. Numerous of cases of tuberculosis and cancer have been brought up and though, some action is taken every now and then but they are temporary and do not provide permanent solutions.

Some of the industries work with amazing chutzpah, as they continue to function overruling court orders and caring only about their business while the environment and the people both carry on their struggle. The problem is compounded by the absence of credible environmental data as Pollution Control Boards seldom come out with surveys or studies on pollution. It is the poor who continue to perish, plagued by disease as they neither have the money nor the evidence to fight the powerful industrial giants. They are the ones who face the immediate consequences of these careless practices.

WHO has estimated that more than 13 million lives are lost every year due to avoidable causes and says 33% of diseases in children under the age of five are caused by environmental exposures. The worst part is that most of these diseases are caused by environmental hazards that are modifiable and readily amenable to change by policies and technologies that already exist.