Our Environment: Raising a Voice of Concern

It’s not as if I’m not concerned about the environment, or am not affected by the degrading quality of air in our cities. Like many others, I too have read the reams reports written about on global warming in the newspapers (a term which seems to have entered common parlance, pretty much like recession and downturn). I do know that the polar ice caps are melting due to the increased world temperatures, threatening to deluge many low lying coastal areas. I am also aware of the fact that the river Yamuna is no longer just that, a river. Thanks to the untreated sewage that flows into it every day, it has now been reduced to a drain. The erratic water supply to my home tells me that due to rapid urbanization and uncontrolled population growth, there just isn’t enough fresh drinking water for all of us. The long hours spent without power clearly indicate that although the government has been commissioning new plants and the power generation capacity is increasing, it is just not able to keep up with the demand.

So as you can see, I am pretty well informed about the problems confronting us viz-a-viz our environment and I do know that something has to be done to reverse this trend of damaging our ecosystem. But what is this something? I’ve read enough about global warming to know that it is caused by greenhouse gases, namely Carbon Dioxide. So the best way to tackle this problem would be to control the emission of these gases, right? But how exactly do you go about doing that? Come to think of it, almost every other activity of ours contributes towards the emission of these gases. The car that we drive(okay not we, you as I’m yet to be able to convince my dad that I can drive his car without causing any grave danger to the lives of unsuspecting innocent civilians) is a major fossil fuel guzzler that produces copious amounts of these gases. The plant that manufactures these cars is an even bigger contributor. Approximately 60% of total electricity produced in India comes from thermal power stations that run on coal. Now it does not require a rocket scientist to imagine what the byproducts from these stations would be doing to our environment. Even the food that is cooked in our homes using gaseous fuel leads to the emission of these gases, although in much lesser amounts as compared to solid fuels. The chemicals that we use in our homes, from disinfectants to soaps and detergents, along with the chemical waste from the industries, all end up in rivers and ultimately oceans, all thanks to the nonexistent and sometimes dysfunctional sewage treatment plants.

Clearly it is our modern lifestyle that is responsible for wreaking havoc on the environment. So to undo all the damage, all we have to do is stop using our cars (or any motorized vehicle for that matter), electricity, or simply all the marvels of 21st century. In other words, go back to Stone Age. Or, we can let better sense prevail and stop fighting the forces of nature. Mother Nature has provided us with plenty of energy options, which when used wisely will help maintain the delicate balance between man and environment. The world over, this very fact has dawned on the decision makers and a start (albeit a bit late) has been made to tap the vast sources of renewable energy. In India too, recent developments in this sector have been encouraging. India ranks 5th in the world with a total wind power capacity of 9587 MW in 2008, or 3% of all electricity produced in India. Renewed interest in nuclear power stations as a substitute to thermal stations as the primary source of electricity is a step in the right direction. However, the chief responsibility for ushering in a revolution of sorts lies with us, the common people. Ordinary measures like installing rain water harvesting systems and minimizing the use of electricity by installing energy efficient appliances along with recycling water for further use before draining it can go a long way in this fight for a healthier future.

Prateek Jain

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/melaniedefazio/3444863022/]