Social Domain - Environment





Most of the states in India are facing the problem of increasing air pollution. The pollution caused by automobiles is an issue of great worry. The ‘Centre for Science and Environment’ studied the problem of pollution in Delhi and made the public aware of it severity. It has been proved that the cause of pollution in Delhi is basically the increasing number of automobile, vehicles with poor maintenance running on the street that cause emission containing poisonous gases and carbon particles. The heritage monuments in Delhi are also getting affected because of the pollution. The institution recommended the use of CNG – Compressed Natural Gas as fuel for vehicles to overcome the pollution problem. Based on this recommendation, the Supreme Court issued an order of using CNG for public transport vehicles, in 1998. Later, a policy of permitting only those vehicles as roadworthy, which passed the test of ‘Pollution Under control – PUC’ was adopted. It was decided that vehicles without ‘PUC’ certificate will not qualify for insurance and renewal of insurance. Several centres issuing PUC certificates were opened. Chemical effluents drained into rivers and streams is the major source of water pollution.

Efforts of a number of environmental activists have contributed significantly to environment conservation and preservation. Among them, Sundarlal Bahuguna (‘Chipko’ Movement), Medha Patkar (‘Narmada Bachao’ Movement) and Dr Rajendra Singh (Water Conservation) are some prominent names.

The pollution of water and food is increasing because of artificial and non-biodegradable materials like plastic and pesticides. This is also causing the degradation of the soil. It causes a spurt of various diseases in humans, animals and plants that creates a harmful situation for general health.

Water pollution caused 1.8 million deaths in 2015, according to a study published in The Lancet. Contaminated water can also make you ill. Every year, unsafe water sickens about 1 billion people. And low-income communities are disproportionately at risk because their homes are often closest to the most polluting industries.

Waterborne pathogens, in the form of disease-causing bacteria and viruses from human and animal waste, are a major cause of illness from contaminated drinking water. Diseases spread by unsafe water include cholera, giardia, and typhoid. Even in wealthy nations, accidental or illegal releases from sewage treatment facilities, as well as runoff from farms and urban areas, contribute harmful pathogens to waterways.

When water pollution causes an algal bloom in a lake or marine environment, the proliferation of newly introduced nutrients stimulates plant and algae growth, which in turn reduces oxygen levels in the water. This dearth of oxygen, known as eutrophication, suffocates plants and animals and can create “dead zones,” where waters are essentially devoid of life. In certain cases, these harmful algal blooms can also produce neurotoxins that affect wildlife, from whales to sea turtles.

Three experiments in Maharashtra, in the context of conservation and preservation of environment, are indeed worthy of mention.

Rahibai Popere:

On 8th March 2018, Rahibai Popere was felicitated by the President of India by ‘Nari Shakti Award’. This award was given to her for her work in ‘Kalasubai Parisar Biyanee Samvardhan Samiti’. She is popularly known as ‘Beejmata’ (Seed Mother). She has worked for preserving seeds of native cultivars for the future generations. Her grandson got ill because of the diet consisting of food made with hybrid varieties of food-grains and vegetables of lesser quality. She thought of native varieties of food-grains to overcome the problem. She decided to grow the food- grains and vegetables of native variety to meet her family’s needs. She began to do it and store the seeds of those landraces (Deshi Van). Bitter gourd (karle), Spinach (palak), Amaranthus Tricolour (tandulja/lal math), Sweet beans (hyacinth beans/pavata), Bitter beans/twisted beans (kadu wal), Ghevada (kidney beans), Groundnut (bhuimoog), Barnyard millet (varai), varieties of rice - Dhavul Bhat, Kalbhat. Ambemohor, Black Gram (udid), etc. She did not confine her efforts only to her family; but, through micro banking groups (bachat gat) she spread it to the surrounding villages. The movement started by her grew well with the partnership of ‘Bharatiya Agro Industries Foundation (BAIF)’.

Rahibai preserves the seeds in earthen pots. Once filled she closes the pot by plastering its mouth by a mixture of soil and cow dung. This method saves seeds from insects and ants. Before closing the pot the seeds are covered with a layer of ash and neem leaves. Now in her seed bank, she has a collection of more than 50 landraces of food-grains and 30 landraces of vegetables. She is one of the three Indian women selected as ‘Women of the Year 2018’ by BBC, among 100 women from various countries.

Bhau Katdare:

Bhau Katdare and his associates work for the conservation of nature through an institute, called ‘Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra’. In 1999, Bhau Katdare read about the ‘White-breasted Sea Eagle’ as an endangered species. He began his work in Ratnagiri district to save and conserve this bird. He created public awareness about this bird by trekking the sea coast of the district. In this, he found out 62 nesting sites of the bird. While doing this, he and his associates detected some instances of smuggling of the nests of birds known as ‘Indian Swiftlets’ (Pakoli) at Bandra island, which is located near Vengurla Rocks, in the vicinity of the Nivati port in Sindhudurg district. The nests were smuggled out and sold in foreign countries. There was a need to save these birds and their nests. ‘Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra’ worked in that direction. As a result, Indian Swiftlets were included in Schedule ‘I’ (a list of wildlife, an offence against which is punishable) of the ‘Wildlife Protection Act - 1972’. This is a remarkable contribution of ‘Sahyadri Nisarga Mitra’.

‘Sahyadri Nisarg Mitra’ also worked for the protection of Olive Ridley turtles. The females of this species come to Velas beach (Ratnagiri district) for nesting. Bhau Katdare and his associates planned an operation for the protection of these nests. In the first year, they were successful in protecting 50 nests. 2734 baby turtles from those 50 nests, were successfully released back into the sea. This proved to be the start of an annual event, ‘Turtle Festival’. Hundreds of tourists come every year to watch the occasion of baby turtles returning to sea. To accommodate them facilities for ‘Home Stay’ were developed. The peasants were trained for the management of ‘Home Stay’. Thus, efforts for conservation of nature resulted into the development of tourism as well. The news of this development was well appreciated in Maharashtra. Now, Bhau Katdare and his associates are working for the protection of the endangered ‘Pangolin’ (anteater/Khavalya Manjar).

Premsagar Mestri:

The number of vultures is rapidly decreasing in India. Vultures are the scavengers in nature. Two species of vultures, ‘Long-billed Vultures’ and ‘White back Vultures’ are observed in the region around Raigad. Prem Sagar Mestri and his associates are working for increasing their numbers and to make available safe food for them through ‘Society for Eco Endangered Species Conservation and Protection-SEESCAP’, a non-governmental organisation. Painkillers (a drug called diclophenac) given to animals has proved to be toxic for vultures. Besides, the dearth of trees with adequate height, scarcity of food, has also caused a decrease in vulture population. People working for SEESCAP are gradually getting success in changing these circumstances.

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