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    Dr. Sumi Gupta, Founder Director TATSAT Foundation shares views on Protecting Environment the innovative and sustainable way

    Published on September 27, 2021

    Mankind is currently consuming more resources than ever, exceeding the planet’s capacity. Given the speed of exploitation of natural resources, the time has come for a concerted, multi-pronged and innovative efforts to contain and repair the damages before it’s too late. Depletion of resources has long been talked about but sadly lack of consistent efforts towards its conservation has been the sad story of the world. For decades, humans have prioritised development over conservation- and the consequences are devastating. The disregard towards the elements of nature is appalling, this despite facing its fury to the fullest, time and again.

    Dr. Sumi Gupta Founder Director Tatsat Foundation

    The five major global threats for Earth and humans that must be solved if the world is to remain a supportive habitat for humans and other species are-

    Deforestation

    According to the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2020 (FRA 2020), India had 31.3 mega hectare of natural forest, extending over 11 per cent of its land area. In 2020, it lost 132 mega hectare of natural forest. Fortunately, rising awareness about the ill-effects of clearing vast forests for agriculture and industries has led to reforestation. But sadly, its thoughtless implementation is killing the bio-diversity of our forests. It takes almost 100 years for a natural forest to grow while the artificial innovative forest creation methods like the Japanese technique ‘Miyawaki’ gives result in just 50 years. ‘Miyawaki’ method works on growing native species. More and more NGOs and corporate houses, as part of their CSR activity are opting for this species rich plantation for increasing green patches. Besides this, other innovative methods like the SeedPaper and Seedballs are also catching up. SeedPaper is a special eco-friendly paper made from post-consumer materials embedded with flower, or vegetable seeds. When the paper is planted, the seeds in the paper germinate and grow into plants. Seedballs, also known as earth balls consist of a variety of seeds rolled within a ball of clay, which might also include humus or compost. Developing such pockets as carbon absorbents will help maintain atmospheric balance for the survival of flora and fauna – reversing the extinction process, thus preventing catastrophic climatic disruptions.

    Another fallout of rampant deforestation or overgrazing, is soil erosion, floods, land-slides, overexposure to pollutants, land-use, etc. A wide range of soil conservation and restoration techniques exist like no-till agriculture to crop rotation to water retention through terrace-building. A new innovative technology of growing plants (usually crops) ‘Hydroponics’ is a type of horticulture which involves farming without soil using mineral nutrient solutions. This reduces water usage considerably.

    Water pollution

    The innate hypocrisy of human nature of worshipping the water body Goddess on the one hand, and on the other maligning her exposes the inherent conflict between practices and preaching. In this context, the Government of India’s ambitious project “Namami Gange” (which involves water treatment, sewage treatment plant, not dumping chemical waste in water etc.) and several other similar projects assume greater importance. The various rejuvenation projects are helping clean the rivers and lakes across India. Besides this, the depleting potable water resources has also become a matter of concern. According to Central Ground Water Authority, the per capita water availability in India is reducing due to increasing population. As per Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs, 135 litre per capita per day (lpcd) has been suggested for urban water supply and for rural areas, a minimum service delivery of 55 lpcd has been fixed under Jal Jeevan Mission. But, the fact is that the per capita consumption is much beyond the prescribed limit and hence the frequent water shortages. Live smartly, use water judiciously – the less water you use, there will be less runoff and wastewater that eventually ends up in the ocean.

    Air pollution and climate change

    The air in cities is being over-burdened with emissions like carbon from exhaust fumes, greenhouse gas or nitrogen which is 300 times as potent as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide formed due to burning of fossil fuel like coal and wood, and methane and other similar substances from rotting matter in landfills. The Lancet Planetary Health Report has stated that some 1.7 million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019. The only way to reduce the pollution in cities is adopting smart solutions like developing vertical forests, installing smog free towers which would suck up pollutants, and using electric cars and bicycles. To deal with rampant burning of fossil fuels, the only visible solution now is replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources (solar plants and wind mills). Government owned, National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) Limited, India’s largest conglomerate, and private energy producers are turning towards creating solar parks across India to utilize the abundant sunlight, instead of the depleting sources like coal and water. The good thing is that India has clean energy in plenty and it needs to be harvested. With advancing technology, 100 per cent renewable-energy based future looks a possibility for India now.

    Waste management

    Do you remember that time when you saw the amount of waste you are generating and decided that you want to lead a more eco-conscious life? Since the accumulation of waste is difficult to avoid, the earlier we realise the need to globalize the 3Rs (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle), the better it would be for us. Use of non-biodegradable plastic is the biggest concern. The Indian Roads Congress (IRC) has formulated guidelines for the use of waste plastic in road construction and periodic renewal coat of pavement on National Highways. One could start with procuring environment-friendly materials such as recycled bags, cloth bags, and kitchen utensils. Using dispensers and initiating a bring-your-own-mug to work program to reduce the use of disposable materials too.

    If we must be honest, we are very well a part of a global system that has made its business to destroy its resources. But truth be told, this climate and resources silver lining will soon fade unless individuals care more for the environment and adopt sustainable and innovative practices. We have to realize that the overall problem is leading to global warming with serious repercussions. Unless every individual is aware of its responsibility towards future generations, only government’s efforts cannot bring the desired difference. Small steps taken at an individual level will go a long way in curbing the environmental crisis. The life form exists only on Earth, and we do not have any other option. If we continue to exploit our resources at the present rate, sooner or later all life forms will perish. The stakes are staggeringly high, and we must act now, before it’s too late.