One lazy afternoon in 2013, I got a call from a dear friend of mine who was then the sub-editor of an English magazine published from Guwahati. She asked me to write an article on ‘pollution’. The first thought that knocked my brain cells was-‘damn, what the fish shall I write?’ For me, pollution is like that old book placed in the library which has gone through a lot of wear and tear, and a number of repairs, yet the book is always in demand; sometimes genuinely but most of the times to represent the pseudo intellect of the book borrower.
Pollution is also one such topic on which lot has been said, and lot has been already done; yet it does not stop from interfering in our lives. Whether we are awake or asleep, working, walking or playing, pollution is there with us, like our bosom friend.
The dictionaries around the world say that ‘pollution is the degradation of the environment due to the involvement of external forces and it is mainly soil, water, noise, and air pollution.’
When external pollutants mix with the soil or due to any activity the productivity of the soil is washed or erased away, then it is called soil pollution. Similarly, when the water around us becomes unsuitable for any purposes like washing or drinking, then we say that water is polluted. A bunch of scientist, many years ago after a lot of calculation (and lot miscalculation) calculated a particular ‘decibel’ point, which a normal human ear can easily listen to. But, when due to certain reason the noise decibel in the atmosphere increases and we are exposed to sounds of higher decibel points, we call it as noise pollution. Air being our lifeline when gets friendlier with chemicals that it should befriend with, then the air gets unhygienic and at times poisonous to breathe; then we say that air is polluted.
I guess, the above paragraph has sum up the entire chapter of pollution. Now I can go home and have a good nap! Well, of course not. When I have aroused the problems, then I must also speak about the methods to curb the same.
Right from our childhood we are taught to love and respect Mother Nature and if we follow our childhood teachings, the problem of pollution will be stopped forever. There are many ‘environmental scientists’ who are working day in and day out to find different ways to protect the environment, and then there are the environmental NGOs, who are doing their bit to preserve the environment. All we need to do is work according to the preaching and teachings of these scientists and NGOs and thus the environment is protected! But, reality is vast different from what is being written here.
Moving on, if we minutely observe the details and facts of pollution of each kind, then we will find a staggering percent of death and health related issues associated with each of them.
Soil or land pollution though is not directly associated in causing death, but it contributes immensely and acts as the ‘third front’. Because of soil pollution, productivity level of the soil goes down, thereby resulting in the low productivity of crops and food grains. When the productivity of food crops is low, then people suffer from malnutrition and malnutrition causes death. Effect of soil pollution is long term and not short term. Protecting our land, planting more trees, protecting the reserve forests and wetlands are some of the basic ways, following which we can put a ‘stop’ to soil pollution. Thus, there needs to be a check on the abrupt and improper construction of apartments, as heavy construction is also a factor contributing to soil pollution.
Water pollution is the most severe of all pollution and it s not only huge ecological problem but also huge health problem. It is believed that water pollution is the leading cause of deaths and diseases worldwide, responsible for around 15,000 deaths per day. According to latest reports, over 500 million Chinese lack access to safe drinking water. In India the number, it is 700 million people have no access to proper toilet. The two main causes of water pollution are waste water and sewage waste.
Each year the world generates around 400 billion tons of industrial waste, and lot of this waste gets discharged into different water bodies causing serious water pollution problem. Recent studies carried out by different organisations have confirmed the link between the water pollution and high miscarriage rates. It is also connected with the lower IQ rates among affected population. A survey has revealed that Indian rivers are among the most polluted in the entire world. This is because; around 80 percent of urban waste in India ends up in its rivers. One of the best examples of this excessive river pollution is the pollution of Ganges, India’s holy river, where in some areas researchers found the level of pollution 3,000 percent higher than what is considered safe for bathing.
According to the surveyors, water pollution is one of the main reasons why freshwater resources are constantly in decline (despite being renewable resource), and since only 3 percent water on our planet is freshwater, world could experience global water shortage much sooner than expected. Globalisation of water pollution, great!
So, whom and what do we blame for this? High population, lack of social awareness or lack of government initiatives! The government too is helpless I guess when it comes infusing social education to our ‘super educated’ citizens. Just imagine, had the citizens been aware then we would have protected our very own Bharalu River (credited with the freshest water in NE once upon a time) and not used it as the dumping ground of waste of all sort.
According to a Times of India report- air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death in India after high blood pressure, indoor air pollution, tobacco smoking and poor nutrition, with about 620,000 premature deaths occurring from air pollution-related diseases.
Like China, India faces an unprecedented public health crisis due to air pollution, the Centre for Science and Environment’s (CSE) analysis of government data and the Global Burden of Disease report’s data on India has shown. Air pollution is now the seventh leading cause behind the loss of about 18 million healthy years of life in India due to illness. It comes after indoor air pollution, tobacco smoking, high blood pressure, childhood underweight, low nutritional status, and alcohol use.
Economic development India and the increase in population is one of the prime reasons for the rise in air pollution. With the increase in economy, there has been a rapid increase in industries, and also in the vehicular traffic. And because if this, emission of deadly gases like the Carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2), and on a limited scale carbon monoxide. Their rise has also raised the decibel level in the atmosphere, and thereby polluting the sound that we hear.
A survey carried out by the final year students of Masters of Business Administration (MBA), studying in a reputed MBA institute of Guwahati from June-August 2012 found out that, every day (on average) around 15 unit of cars were registered across the various car showrooms of the city and 10 unit cars (on average) were sold to customers. Now we can imagine the rise in pollution-both air and noise, because of this.
The affects of the emissions of the above mentioned gases and the increase in the decibel point is known to all and it is pointless to talk about the ‘ozone layer depletion’ or ‘green house effect’ etc., at this point of time. The damage has already been done!
Pollution is proportional to economic development (?) and our most respected CM (not very long ago) has also referred to it.
“It is because of this economic development that people now are able to shop and eat more than they were able to do earlier. Due to this extra shopping, more and more garbage on the streets has increased. Garbage is a sign of development, you see,” he had quoted then
Well, he isn’t wrong either as some 100 years back there was less polutants than compared to today. Pollutants have increased as humans have marched forward from being under developed to developing to developed.
In English, there is a saying-as you sow, so shall you reap and we are reaping the harvest of our own misdeeds now. The abrupt temperature rise in the city, excessive rain at some parts, the ‘Tsunami Ganges’ in Uttarkhand are some of the harvest that we are reaping now. We know our faults and we have experienced the results and now the big question in-front of us what shall we do next? Shall we keep ruminating over the measures that need to be taken or shall we wait for the government to take further intervene or we wait more until our conscience completely dies out.
Facts, data and figures speak only a fraction of what wrong has been done.
Neeraja Pathak, a city based psychologist feels that the rise in pollution has ‘unlevelled’ our thoughts and thus we are experiencing a high rates of crime. She, in her words, calls this as ‘social pollution.’ Until we don’t act, in the way we really need to act, all the teachings and the preaching and the charts and the information on pollution will be shallow, yielding no concrete result.
(Article previously published at Good Times of North East)