The last one year should have made one thing clear — a country that doesn’t protect it’s environment can’t really progress.
Air pollution, for example, is a killer, as we all know. It impacts cardio-vascular health, causes acute respiratory distress and lowers the potential and productivity of a population. That is why the impact of traditional indoor chulas on women and their infants is such a severe problem.
Eighty percent of rural India burns biomass to cook-what is the state of the women here? How can a country progress when 400,000 of its population dies every year of indoor air pollution?
Now think of the environmental clearance controversy in this context. The Ministry of Environment and Forests has come under fire from other ministries for delaying development by not giving prompt environmental clearances. But prompt environmental clearances also mean several green issues will have to be overlooked. You just cannot get a meaningful environmental impact assessment done in two years if you don’t already have the data.
Most recently, the environment minister suggests that fragile coastal areas are coal rich. Should mining be allowed here? Regardless of how it is done, mining will always be harmful, damaging the ecology and wildlife, possibly poisoning the sands and seas, increasing air pollution and making the area more vulnerable to cyclones as vegetation is lost. These dilemmas and their implications should compel us to agree that environmental clearance should not be reduced to a necessary nuisance but an essential element of sanity and development.
A green model
Legally, you can’t burn waste-it causes severe air pollution. Yet, people do this all the time. Fortunately, the city of Faridabad has decided to act tough on this problem and begun to fine anyone burning waste. Such action by local authorities has important repercussions, because its acts as a deterrent, force citizens to learn the law and sometimes, may even become part of standard operations.
In this case, everyone should learn from Faridabad and at least stop leaf burning in their own areas, for their own health.