Pollution: to be or not to be

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Pollution: to be or not to be

Vipin Kumar

Dehradun , Nov 29

The debate on pollution is unending as are the probable causes & answers. One solution which is often suggested is the banning of  the entry of the pollutant in the eco-sphere. It implies structural changes in the techno -sphere delivering such goods which do not harm the physical and the biological environment. Environmentalists suggest that “prevention” through non-production of the pollutant is the remedy to all environmental ills. This  theory automatically negates the industrial revolution and its advancement and puts the clock behind by over a thousand years.

If one was to carry forward the theory of  “prevention” rather than “cure” it would automatically mean change in consumption pattern, evolution of viable alternatives and development of green compatible technologies. Delving into the historical evolution and decay of ancient civilizations’ it was not the use or misuse of industries rather than the “land use” pattern which was accomplished through large forest felling for agricultural purposes. It was not the hand of the pollutant in this case but a topographical modification for survival and growing grains. It is also fascinating that all such sites are excavated in desert areas which are scarce in water and greenery. For the sake of argument how can men and his cattle survive in such conditions. It implies that it is not only the much cursed industry the only cause for pollution but also “progressive metamorphosis” which can bring about the fall and extermination of  civilizations.

plastic waste dump at badrinath.

The theory of control and cure has often failed to counter the environmental hazards as there exists a void between production and optimum utilization of resource. The use of unleaded gasoline  to leaded petrol and then to compressed natural gas (CNG)may look to be innocent but it fails to check the emission of Sulphur and nitrous –di- oxides. The hypothesis focusing on the issue of lead being more hazardous than the acid rains. The discharge of effluents and waste waters in rivers and lakes have eliminated aquatic life forms due to eutrophication. The feedback mechanism of water failing to negotiate the excessive discharge of chemicals, industrial effluents and waste waters in them. The leaching of nitrates through the use of fertilizers in the soil has contaminated ground water aquifers which is an interesting example of “non-point pollution”. Therefore cure through control is supposed to be an ineffective tool.

This paradox  needs to be addressed through driving a balance between the realm of the natural and human created environment. The hairline wedge which separates both of them needs to be understood in the interest of human welfare. Thus extracting only subsistence from the natural environment for sustenance remains the answer. Minimising anthropogenic pressure through population control, switch over to clean technologies and checking indiscriminate exploitation of resource remains the reply to human triggered catastrophes. In the same context the term “development” needs to be redefined  keeping in mind both sets of Environment. The policy makers have a daunting task ahead of them in the present millennium for providing an “ecologically” based economic development.

(Vipin Kumar is an eminent environmentalist who has worked on garbage management in the Himalayan region.)



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