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On World Environment Day, a look at the global green problems killing Mother Nature

The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is ‘Beat Air Pollution’, which assumes importance for India as it is facing a major air quality crisis.

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New Delhi: Climate changes, air pollution, destruction of bio-diversity are some of the biggest environmental challenges the world faces today.

These issues, among several other environmental concerns, pose serious risks to global stability. Although people seem to know about these challenges, but hardly does anyone take them seriously.

On World Environment Day, 5 June, ThePrint takes a look at some of the worrying global environmental trends and what people can do to change them.

Also read: This World Water Day, remember, a cup of coffee takes 130 litres & meat’s a guzzler

Brief history

The World Environment Day, which officially came to be celebrated from 1974 onwards, has its formative beginnings in 1972. It was in that year when the international community took the first major decision to come together to discuss environmental concerns. This happened with the 11-day UN Conference on Human Environment in Stockholm, Sweden, starting 5 June.

According to one of the UN General Assembly’s documents, it was the report submitted by this UN conference and another by then Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim that were among the several factors that led the UN body to declare 5 June as the World Environment Day.

Worrying global environmental trends

According to the United Nations, celebration of this day provides people an opportunity to broaden the basis for an enlightened opinion and responsible conduct by individuals and communities in preserving the environment.

However, there are some deeply worrying environmental trends, which make one feel that this day should be observed throughout the year.

Overpopulation remains a lingering concern for its burden on the environment. There’s also the massive waste management crisis. Just last week, Malaysia said it will send back as much as 3,000 tonnes of plastic waste to countries from where it came, citing how this was “illegally” shipped to their country, causing many recycling factories operating without licenses to take advantage of this without realising the damage they are inflicting to the environment.

These apart, there are some harsh environmental facts that ought to worry everyone.

The average temperature of Earth has risen by approximately 0.7°C in the last century and the UN has predicted the figure may further climb to even 3-5°C by the end of this century.

Also, the world today has more carbon dioxide than it ever had. According to data, sea levels on an average have alarmingly increased by 8 inches since 1880, rising 3 inches in the last 25 years alone.

Last year, over 10,000 people lost their lives due to natural disasters and that also cost the world a staggering $225 billion. Research studies suggest increasing links between extreme weather conditions and climate change. India’s case is no different with examples like the 2013 Uttarakhand floods and last year’s Kerala deluge.

Also, around 1.3 million square kilometers of forest cover was wiped out from the planet between 1990 and 2016, an area larger than the size of South Africa.

Development vs environment

While the developing countries are pushing themselves to bring about consistent economic development, many have been debating whether development can go hand in hand with environmental preservation. In other words, does development have to happen only at the cost of the environment?

Powerful environmental movements across the world, in India for instance the Narmada Bachao Andolan or the Chipko movement, tell us precisely what happens when development poses threat to the welfare of the environment.

If India is now the one of the world’s fastest growing economies and on its way to becoming the fifth largest economy this year, it has also become notorious for being among the worst countries in the world in terms of air pollution.

Newspapers were flooded with headlines this March, saying 7 of the world’s ten most polluted cities are in India or 22 of the top 30 most polluted cities in the world are in India says a new study.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has also been accused of showing lethargy in taking action with regard to climate change, environmental preservation and biodiversity destruction. On top of it, attempts to weaken the provisions of the Forest Rights Act, for instance, were made. Last year, veteran environmentalist and Ganga crusader G.D. Agrawal died after months of fasting and waiting for the government to act on his plans to save the river.

Also read: On World Health Day, a look at what ails India and status of Ayushman Bharat

Environmental concerns for India

For Anubha Jain, a Ghaziabad-based environmentalist and founder of NGO Nurture Planet, air pollution, water scarcity and its contamination are some of the most pressing environmental concerns for India.

“With our current lifestyles, we are not realising how much devastation we are causing to our environment. We are soon going to lose control on air, which is getting polluted everyday.” On water shortage, she said, “We could be soon fighting with each other for it.”

She said it’s up to individuals to do all they can to protect the environment, adding that initiatives such as plantation drives “are the best thing we can do right now” that doesn’t require much effort.

Pravin Mishra, a Delhi-based environmentalist, said global warming, air pollution, never-ending traffic jams, shortage of drinking water and lack of proper waste disposal are some of the most pressing environmental concerns in India and all over the world.

He also strongly recommended that people recycle domestic waste instead of just throwing it away.

This year’s theme

This year’s theme — Beat Air Pollution — has been chosen by China, which has been acknowledged for reducing its air pollution menace. The theme assumes greater significance for India that is battling severe air pollution.

India hosted last year’s World Environment Day with the theme ‘Beat Plastic Pollution’. Back then Dr Harsh Vardhan, who is now the Health Minister, had said, “Indian philosophy and lifestyle have long been rooted in the concept of co-existence in nature. We are committed towards making Planet Earth a cleaner and greener place.”

To mark the World Environment Day this year, India has released an anthem titled ‘Hawa Aane De’ (let the air come), which was launched by C.K. Mishra, Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, last week.

The video features several well-known personalities such as actors Akshay Kumar, Rajkummar Rao, choreographer Shiamak Davar, music composer-singer Shankar Mahadevan, among others.

Also read: This is why 1 May came to be celebrated as May Day the world over


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