India, home to 21 out of 30 cities with the most air pollution in the world, is facing a crisis. This is a crisis to the continuously decorating lifestyle off people, increase pollution levels. Water scarcity plagues many provinces in India. And the states with abundant water face the problem of pollution of the same. If you look at the picture shown below taken from a satellite, the white cloud you see is the presence of aerosol as well as smoke that can be seen along the length of the Ganges basin. This is caused by the burning of biomass for various rituals.
Many people blame the high population density and the cities in India for the pollution. But to contradict the same, there are plenty of cities around the globe with much more population density, even nations Beth how much less pollution plaguing their countries. This Blog tries to explore the relation of environmental issues in India’s population density and alternative factors.
Environmental protection acts relevant to pollution in India
During the time India was ruled by the British, there were a few laws related to the environment put into practice. Two of the laws of the major impact of those times were; Shore Nuisance act and the Oriental Gas Company act.
Shore Nuisance act was implemented in 1853. It was targeted at Bombay and Kolkata in the beginning. Similarly, the Oriental Gas Company Act was implemented in 1857. A law in the Indian penal code, 1860, declared that purposefully polluting water from any public reservoir is punishable. Additionally, it was declared that punishment could be fined for those whose negligence causes harm to the environment. There are laws aimed to decrease the level of pollutants in the atmosphere.
The Bengal Smoke Nuisance law, 1905, aimed to prohibit air pollution. Similarly, the Bombay smoke nuisance law aimed for the same. However, despite the acts, implementation of the law in practice failed. While the above-mentioned acts didn’t turn out to be effective enough for decreasing pollution in India, they did open a discussion. Independence from Britain came with a lot of responsibility for the Indian leaders. Lack of prior experience with governing a nation, as well as lack of the resources easily available to a multi-continental empire like Britain, hit India hard at the beginning.
The Indian Constitution was comprised of many smaller components taken from different constitutions in the world. Most of the laws during the British government were kept as they are. Unfortunately, there was no specific law aimed at environmental protection. In 1976, the constitution of India was revised. Two articles were added which aimed towards the betterment of the environment. Those were Article 48 (A) and Article 51 A (g). Article 48 (A) aimed at protecting wildlife and forests. Article 51 (A) aimed to add mandates relevant to environmental protection and the responsibilities of the Indian government.
Furthermore, three more acts were added after the revision of the constitution. Those were, air act, water act, and forest act. The water act aimed to prevent public reservoirs and similar water bodies of significance from being tainted. It was implemented in 1974. The forest act, implemented in 1980, aimed to conserve nature from deforestation.
The air act was implemented in 1981. Its goal was the prevention of the causes of air pollution as well as to control the release of pollutants that tend to increase air pollution. Inspiration for the air act was derived from the Stockholm conference. In addition, one of the most triggering events that propagated the enactment of the environment act implemented in 1986 was the disastrous Bhopal gas tragedy. In 2000, a set of laws regarding the control and calculation of noise pollution were enacted in India.
Failure in implementation?
The Ministry of environment and forest was created to rule over matters of Environmental protection and relevant responsibilities. This was done in 1985 by the Indian government. Since then, it has acted as the administrative authority aiming to ensure the protection of our environment by regulating the piloting factors, while there were plenty of laws passed by and then authorities to stop the environment from getting more polluted. However, most of these laws didn’t turn out to be effective enough for proper environmental protection in India.
As time went on, pollution kept increasing, firstly in the urban areas and then spreading to the rural ones as well. Implementation of the laws was not successful enough to be of practical use. From the year of independence, 1947, to 1990, the quality of the environment kept worsening. In the case of rural citizens, they had little choice than to try and survive through the means attainable to them. Urban lifestyles have become accustomed to modernization, which has a major hand in polluting the environment. During this time, India suffered from increased levels of pollutants in the air, worsening quality of water in reservoirs, and deforestation.
The time after the 1990s was a time of major turnaround for the environment of India. Strict reforms were put into practice. These This has led to people and companies being more mindful of the pollution emissions. Moreover, it should be noted that a significant drop in the pollutant concentration was noticed in a succession of five-year periods.
Government awareness initiatives and movements by non-government organizations worked to make people aware of environmental protection. An additional course in the School curriculum was added as well, that taught the learners about environmental protection and their responsibilities. After a long time of suffering from deforestation, the Indian subcontinent finally saw some progress in environmental protection. A whopping 7% increase in the total forest coverage area was observed from 1993 to 2010. A ban on the use of single-use plastics was also put into practice by the government in 2019.
Usually, population density is blamed as the major factor behind the cause of pollution in India. However, the fact that Singapore, England, and Japan have regions with much more population density, and still have better environmental quality, pricks a loophole in that logic.
Major types of environmental pollution in India
Water pollution in India
Most of the water pollution issues arise from untreated sewage being dumped into rivers and similar water reservoirs in India. This also becomes A cause for concern for pollution in the groundwater which is used for drinking purposes.
The problem involves a lack of proper sewage treatment facilities as well as proper maintenance of already present facilities. In 1992 a survey by World Health Organisation revealed that in 3119 cities and towns of India only 209 had facilities available for sewage treatment. And out of those a complete wastewater treatment facility was found in only 8. On a generous estimate, more than 100 cities in India are known to discharge their untreated waste into the river Ganga.
Air pollution in India
One of the most serious threats to the quality of life in India is the continuously deteriorating breathable air quality. Some of the major sources of air pollution in India are the burning of biomass which can be waste obtained from animals in rural areas as well as wood and smoke emissions from various vehicles. The delay faced by India in the coming of monsoon season can be credited to the Asian brown cloud. This phenomenon caused by air pollution has destroyed many crops throughout India. Agricultural waste fuel load and biomass are some of the most significant resources used by India for energy. In fact, India is known as the biggest consumer of the same in the world.
Out of the 30 most populated cities with a high rate of air pollution, 21 cities belong from India. This data was estimated up to 2020.
Some of the other kinds of pollution which are a serious issue relevant to Environmental Protection in India are; Solid waste pollution, Noise pollution, and Erosion of sands.
Main environmental issues faced by India
As the population has continuously grown in the Indian subcontinent environmental issues have only grown. Deforestation, depletion of resources such as minerals, sand, and water have continuously plagued the nation. Moreover, degradation of in environment, as well as agricultural land, is another major obstacle in the way of the Indian government. Continuous changes in ecosystem resilience have led to the weakness of the environment, resulting in their lack of biodiversity in comparison to before.
India is a country of villages. Despite modern times most of the rural areas use fuelwood and biomass like waste obtained from livestock as energy sources. one of the most significant problems faced by the Indian government to better the Quality of the ecosystem, Is the implementation of a proper savage and drainage system. As an Indian myself, I’ve seen, almost every place I have been to facing similar problems. In recent times, there have been developments in the same area but the road to proper sewage treatment operations and water drainage system is far still.
Declining levels of groundwater tables
During the monsoon, you can see many of the states in urban areas inaccessible by roads. flooding is a significant problem faced by many provinces in India on yearly basis. many of the industries divert their granite systems into the river. It can be said to be one of the major causes of water pollution in India. Despite the constant efforts by government and non-governmental organizations, the level of scarcity of water in India has only grown.
As someone from a village with an agriculture background, I can affirm the continuously falling levels of groundwater tables. it was not so bad back when I was still in school however with time I have seen that the machines need to go deeper and deeper still with time. it paints a dangerous picture for the future of water availability in India. And I come from a province known as the rice bowl of India, a state of many rivers and Formerly known as having abundant water. If I am a witness to this water scarcity for agriculture purposes, what must the provinces with already drier climates be facing?
With each passing year, more land becomes unfit for agriculture. And, for a nation known for its agriculture, that is a piece of dire news indeed.
Impact of population growth on quality of the environment
Every time there is a debate about pollution in India the first fact to be thrown in everyone’s faces is about rapidly mounting numbers of the population. On one hand, it seems quite logical. more people means more consumers of the same amount of resources. more burning of fuels and pollution in the air. Agricultural land degradation as many more people to do agriculture.
Or.. is it?
Manila has a higher population density than the most population-dense city in India. Yet you can’t find its name anywhere in the top ranks. In fact, India tops the first seven places in a list naming the “most polluted cities in the world” documented by WHO according to a survey. The top 5 places are filled by Indian cities not known for their population density.
Many experts of the field have researched this topic thoroughly over time and the data obtained within the last decade puts a question mark on or the impact of population density on the quality of the environment. let me share with you some data obtained from reliable resources, that may prove this. So, the population density in India was 368 persons per square kilometer. this data was obtained in 2011. the population density in Singapore was calculated to be 7148 persons per square kilometer. 6349 people per square kilometer were the population density of Hong Kong and 487 persons per square kilometer was of South Korea. All of the above nations how the better quality of the environment as well as lifestyle off an average person when compared to India. this is despite the population density.
The above-mentioned factors indicate that, while the population is definitely a major factor behind pollution in India. It’s not the only one to blame everything on.
The best way to counter the pressure applied by population growth is by increasing the economic capability of the region. Usage of modern technologies can also work to replace the concerns caused by population growth. The research was undertaken by environmental economics which states; “there is a relationship between Environmental Quality measured by ambient concentrations of air politicians per capita income“(Resource Wikipedia). In simpler terms, economic growth may help in decreasing the pollution of an area drastically.
Modern technologies are also heavily geared towards pollution control. Saving the environment has become a trend among people. A trend signifies consumer demand. An increase in demand is always the first step in luring businesses. Now, industries around the globe have also started showcasing their participation in environmental causes. This may be to enhance consumer interest in their products. A few might be doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. But most maybe implementing it as a measure of digital branding campaign. The reasoning behind the actions of MNCs matters little to me. If high-end technologies can help the environment, then so be it. While the rapid increase in productivity can lead to increased wastage and in turn, pollution, if the government becomes successful in implementing strictly the laws already in place, it can still be more than managed.