Environmental protection or conservation is willful efforts to protect the natural environment on individual, organizational or governmental levels. This is done in order to benefit both the natural environment and humans (mutually).
Ex Chief Scientist of National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) Dr C V Chalapati Rao in an exclusive interview with Nagpur Today spoke about the present scenario of Pollution and the urgent need to conserve our environment. He has been working as a Scientist for 40 years. He is working with many social welfare organizations like orphanages, children’s organizations and NGOs.
A born teacher that he is, he made very difficult concept easy to understand.
He opined that due to the pressures of population, the biophysical environment is being degraded, sometimes permanently. According to him, Nagpur is a growing city and as compared to other cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata and other metros, the pollution is relatively less. However, he said that this cannot be so for a long time. With many development projects underway like MIHAN and other industries coming up, the results will soon be at par with Delhi, Mumbai etc.
He said that conserving environment from today, maintaining a discipline in various fields would certainly help, since prevention is always better than cure.
Chalapati Rao said that Indira Gandhi once said that “Poverty is Pollution”. He went on to justify that by saying that if we are poor, we live off the land, the forest and other natural resources causing other natural resources to get depleted.
Chalapati Rao opined that wherever Man exists, pollution automatically is present there. What is required is that we should reduce the consumption of our natural resources. These consumptions are calling by scientists as foot-prints. Therefore there are Water Foot-Prints, Ecological Foot-Prints and Air-Foot-Prints.
He said something that startled Nagpur Today. He said that one of the International statistics say that human beings all over the world, combinedly consume 2.3 times what the land can produce. He added that this can also be said that it will take 2.3 Earths to produce what we are consuming daily. Therefore we have 1.3 % deficit as on today. This rate may definitely increase to 4.3 soon. This is the average figure for the globe.
As far as pollution is concerned, we often say that Mumbai, Delhi are very polluted. This is because the city is fully developed and there is no scope for any more development, whereas, Nagpur has a lot of scope for development. This is what makes Nagpur less polluted.
Rao explained this point by giving an example of how much can a person eat. Only as far as his belly would permit.
He opined that there is an urgent need for a Carrying Capacity based Development Planning.
This will help in defining how much development is possible for the environment to bear.
There are two factors that define the capacity of consumption (here the area, population, industry, infrastructure etc).
- Assimilative Capacity- this dictates the rate of development.
- Supportive Capacity.
While speaking specifically about Nagpur, optimum and careful utilization of our natural resources will define our pollution and environmental conservation. This will also define our sustainable development.
He opined that a comprehensive study needs to be done on all the available natural resources and the quantity thereof. Optimum and judicious utilization will dictate our environment conservation. He added that such a study has not been done so far.
With sectoral conflicts like Mining-Forests in areas, depletion of one natural resource to tap another and causing ecological imbalance makes no sense. He said that all the natural resources are inter-linked. He explained what Media-Transfer is. We often transfer one problem to another. That is we clean the land and put the waste on the water. In order to clean water, we clean it and put the waste in the land, that waste is burnt and waste (pollutants) are sent into the air and then after precipitation, it comes back to land. Thereby forming a vicious circle.
So what is required is an integrated Environmental Management, that brings everything into control. This is the need of the day. He said that some of solutions have their own problems i.e Pollution. This is what necessitates a Comprehensive Development Plan in totality. He spoke about Cumulative Effects Assessment (CEA). He explained this by citing a simple example. We cut an old tree which has taken years to grow into a big massive tree. It has adopted itself to the environment, it is living in and has evolved into one that sustains itself against all odds. We cut this tree in the name of development (Roads, infrastructural development etc.). We promptly advocate and claim that against every tree that we cut, we shall be planting 4 tree-saplings.
Chalapati Rao claimed that this is never and can never equal the tree that was cut. Can a collector or a Managing Director be killed and replaced by four daily wages labourers? Definitely No! There is no guarantee that the new saplings will grow even for a year. There is no guarantee that they can adapt to the changing environment. Therefore development should be based on logically sound analysis. Cutting off one of the natural resources can never be replaced by another. He added that remedy should not be worse than the disease. There is no justification for such acts.
He said that Environmental protection is influenced by three interwoven factors: environmental legislation, ethics and education. Each of these factors plays its part in influencing national-level environmental decisions and personal-level environmental values and behaviors. However he opined that we have all the right policies. What is required is the implementation. Government machinery alone cannot be expected to take the onus of implementation. This requires people, private participation.
He had a funny 5 Ps that harms our environment.
- Paise earning.
If we do not curtail all these ‘P’s, Our peace will turn to pieces.
While elaborating our water resources, he gave example of River Ganga. He explained how the river flows from Gangotri to lower areas. However, on the way, it continuously becomes polluted. If one needs to conserve it one needs to go backwards cleaning the river till the point of origination. So the Dhara (Flow) of the river should become Radha (wife of Lord Krishna) and work devotedly to clean the river.
He quoted an American environmentalist who had come to NEERI to impart knowledge of waste management, delivered his lecture. After his lecture, he expressed his desire to see the famous temples of India (that he had heard so much about, back home). So these officials took him on tour to all the major temples across India. Finally after the tour, before going back, he said to the scientists that what is required is not the skill, but the will to conserve nature. This doesn’t require finances, bills, legislations etc. All that is required is the will to conserve the nature and natural resources so that we leave behind a clean environment for the generations to come.
As told to Samuel Gunasekharan.