Dr Banarsi Lal
Now-a-days environment, development and disaster management is the burning topic of many conferences. Climate change is one of the most complex challenges of this century. The question is-do we have enough policies and the legislations to deal with the climate change? What are institutional mechanisms we have in our country to deal with such kinds of issues? Such types of questions are valid and they need to be addressed holistically. From the last one decade Indian economy has been able to maintain its consistent growth rate of over 7-8 per cent per annum and India is making strenuous efforts to even enhance it to 8-9 per cent growth rate or even higher than that. The higher growth rate is very important for the country to fight against unemployment and poverty. Indian economy growth is because of excellent performance of the industrial sector, manufacturing sector, agricultural sector, textiles, pharmaceuticals and basic chemicals production sector. But the development has influenced environment and natural resources capacity. The population pressure has already increased rapidly. High population density, vulnerable ecology; climate change and a significant dependence of the economy growth on the natural resource base have posed the greatest challenge for the sustainable development. The goals of economic and social development must be defined in terms of sustainability in all the developed or developing countries across the globe.
Environment refers to the sum total of conditions which surrounds the space. The scope of the term environment has been changing with the passage of time. In the ancient age, the environment consisted of only physical aspects of the planet Earth’s land, air and water. As the time passed on, human beings extended the environment through the social, economic and political activities. Environment mainly consists of four segments as: (i) Atmosphere: The atmosphere implies the protective blanket of gases surrounding the earth. (ii) Hydrosphere: It comprises all types of water resources such as oceans, lakes, rivers, streams, reservoirs, glaciers ground water etc. (iii)Lithosphere: It consists of minerals occurring in the earth’s crusts and the soil e.g. minerals, organic matter, air and water. (iv) Biosphere: It indicates the realm of living organisms and their interactions with environment, viz. atmosphere, hydrosphere. In present era environmental issues are increasing and threatening the survival of mankind on the earth.
Poverty is a major concerned area which causes a number of problems including unhygienic sanitation and clean drinking water facilities. Increasing population is decreasing the natural resources. Economic growth and technological advancements are also playing major role in disturbing natural environment and causing air, water and nuclear pollution. Government of India is making endevours for the healthy environment and formulating many environmental policies to keep pace with this alarming situation but still there is lot to be done at the ground level. The key environmental concerns are climate change, global warming, natural disasters, soil health, loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution. All these disturb the balance of the living environment in a big way. In the entire gamut of environment and development, the peaceful human existence is gradually becoming a dream. It is all happening because we have lost the balance in the keys of human existence i.e. air, water, earth, fire and land which are mainly responsible for the survival of living beings. If the equilibrium of air, water and earth is lost, the risks of life will be multiplied manifold. All the natural disasters are happening because of some variations in the environment. The frequency and intensity of cyclones, flash floods, drought, avalanche, heat waves and cold waves have gone up exponentially in the last one decade. It is happening across the globe and is a greater cause for concern. With so many in hunger and poverty, growth and poverty alleviations remain the overarching priorities in most of the developing countries of the world.
Climate change is making the challenge more complicated. The impact of changing climate are already being felt with more floods, droughts, storms , more heat and cold waves etc. leading to enormous economic loss. Continuing climate change, at current rates, will pose increasingly more severe challenges to development. It is expected that by century end, environment could lead to warming by 5 degree C or more. Even our best efforts are unlikely to stabilize temperatures at anything less than 2 degree C. It is a challenge to maintain the equilibrium between the development and climate change. Species and ecosystems with limited climatic ranges could disappear and in most mountain regions, the extent and volume of glaciers and seasonal snow cover will be reduced. Climate change would affect agriculture, tourism, hydropower etc. These changes will potentially have wide-ranging effects on the natural environment as well as on human beings and economies. Although much progress has been made in understanding the climate system and projections of climate change but its impacts still contain many uncertainties, particularly at the regional and local levels. Water is essential not only to survival but is also equally or even more important than nutrients in food production.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) water scarcity will affect over 1.8 billion people by 2025. This could have major impacts on health particularly on agriculture. It is estimated that water demand is likely to double by 2050.For poor countries with rapid population growth and depletion of groundwater, water-deficit induced food insecurity is a major issue. One major factor beyond agricultural, industrial and urban consumption of water is the destruction of watersheds and natural water towers such as forests in watersheds and wetlands. The contamination of surface waters and the spread of pathogens are promoted by the alteration of catchments and watersheds that have accompanied rapid urbanization and intensive farming. Despite significant improvements in rural water supply and sanitation over the past few decades, water-related diseases still account for a large number of avoidable child deaths every year. Coastal development and livelihoods are under stress due to increase in the incidence of severe weather events. Water, land and air contamination is increasing exponentially. These trends indicate the need for huge investment in environmental management. There is growing pressure to protect the country’s biodiversity. Environment has become more fragile and risks prone. People and the eco-system have increasingly become more vulnerable due to climate change. The uncertainties and risks are having different dimensions. It is important to see the environment more holistically. The solutions must flow from an integrated framework and it is equally important that all the national and international stakeholders must work together in translating policy, legislation and programmes on the ground so that the disturbed equilibrium of the environment is restored otherwise the consequences would be more disastrous.
(The author is Head, KVK Reasi, Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences