ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AND SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Dr. Ashok Kumar Panigrahi & Dr. Nirakar Jena,
Department of Zoology, F.M.Autonomous College, Balasore, Orissa, India.
Sustainable development is defined as the process of development that meets the need of the present generation without compromising the ability of the future generations to meet their need.
The idea of sustainable development emerged from the Brundtland report of 1987 titled “Our Common Future“, through which it was recognized that the natural resources are exhaustible. Consequently there was a global change in approach towards the developmental processes. The shift in the developmental paradigm led to a paradigm shift in ecological science. Human beings which thus far were not included in the ecosystem functioning were seen as an important constituent and the process of impact assessment was initiated. There was broad consensus for living in harmony with the nature because the traditional societies living close to nature and natural resources were found to be better integrated than the industrialized societies. The role of biodiversity as a natural resource was realised. This was more so in ecological point of view. The paradigm shift in ecological studies emphasizing the role of biodiversity led to the concept of sustainable development. Thus, ecology and development became synonymous and together they led to formulation of strategies for natural resource management whereby ecology was linked up with social processes.
The Brundtland Report or the report of the world commission on Environment and Development emphasized the following three points, which according Kofi Annan, are pillars of sustainable development. They are-
i. Economic growth
ii. Social progress
iii. Protection of the Environment together with the natural resources.
The report was time appropriate in view of the global change which includes the following facts.
i. Climate change- arising out of material development and without impact assessment, climate change is directly responsible for enhanced global disasters like polar ice cap melting, magnitude of sea born disasters etc.
ii. Biological invasions- technologies directed at altering the basics of biodiversity and nullifying the species barriers through the transgenic which fail the desired results.
iii. Biodiversity loss- owing to lack of understanding the importance of biodiversity, from food through health and ecological consequences to biological inter-relationships are very often forgotten.
iv. Land use- owing to lack of proper vision and far sight there is nothing called land use plan consequent up on which the quantum of arable land is diminishing when the population and hunger is rising.
Consequent to the above facts the following impacts were recognized.-
i. Scarcity of water, fresh water and especially drinking water true to its definition.
ii. Land and soil- especially arable land at a time of increasing urbanization and decreasing agricultural land owing to population explosion; over exploited soil due to green revolution practices.
iii. Energy- depleting energy resources like fossil fuels of petroleum crude and coal and limited availability from alternative sources like solar and wind etc.
iv. Pollutions- due to non sustainable industrialization, green revolution and implementation of non sustainable developmental practices, all habitats of life like air, water, land and food today stand highly polluted.
v. Population explosion- unchecked and unplanned population growth is taking place which by itself exerting tremendous pressure on planets life support systems.
vi. Poverty- more than 70% of the population in the developing countries today are living below the poverty line; a great majority of them do not own a house and a source of regular income, no land of their own to grow food and feed themselves.
Poverty is rampant in the slums of the cities and towns and far away villages in the country sides in all developing countries. These are the pockets where the population is growing at faster rates. In addition to this, high human activities which do not conform to the basic ecological necessities have been found to be the causes of various types of avoidable environmental pollutions. Besides, uncontrolled and unregulated human activities in search of employments to earn their daily breads, through the society in disarray and disorder. As a consequence, the original master plans drawn for all cities and towns in most developing countries like India are either undergoing frequent changes or are n ever really implemented.
The various types of human activities may be identified as-
Land clearing, grazing, urbanization, agriculture, forestry, fishery, aquaculture, water diversion, fuel consumption, industrialization and recreation.
The intentions are, however, aimed at improving the quality of life such as-
Shelter generation, food and fiber production, water supply and irrigation, consumer goods production, knowledge and enjoyment.
But the actual and unintended results together with the environmental costs thus achieved are enormous and they may be summed up as under-
Deforestation and habitat destruction, soil degradation and desertification, acid prepitation, eutrophication, ozone depletion, loss of biodiversity and climate change.
Thus, the current trends of development without assessing the consequential environmental impacts may be labeled as ‘non sustainable’. Consequential to such types of development the stocks of vital important and limiting resources like fresh water, fuel, timber, fodder, biodiversity and healthy food are fast depleting in most developing countries like India. It is, therefore of paramount necessity that these basic amenities of life must be sustainably harvested without further delay through sustainable development using indigenous technology where ever available.
The ways of sustainable development, some examples
1. Water harvest and aquifer recharge.
There was a news flash in the ToI,. 6 March 2003 that India stood at the
bottom of the heap on water quality and availability. Taking excerpts from then just published world water development report of United Nations, the paper reported that India ranked a poor 120 in a list of 122 countries for its water quality and in terms of water availability India ranked 133 in a list of 180 countries where the survey was undertaken. As compared to India, its neighbours like Bangladesh, Srilanka, Nepal and Pakistan stood at 40, 64, 78 and 80 respectively in the same list. The top five water rich countries of world were identified to be Greenland, Alaska, French Guyana, Iceland and Guyana in that order. Similarly the top seven countries identified in terms of water quality were Finland, Canada, New Zealand, U.K., Japan, Norway and Russian Federation.
It is an established fact that global weather patterns and precipitation rates are highly influenced by ENSO ( EL Nino- La Nina Southern Oscillation) in the pacific besides other episodic events as forest fire and a few other independent factors such as microclimatic changes and mean temperatures etc. With references to India it is known that states like Tamilnadu received much less rainfall consequitively for last several years where as states like Kerala and Karnataka were identified to be the wettest regions
As regards to water precipitation, it is widely known that India receives much more rainfall than Europe. But compared to India, Europe never faces water scarcity. It may be because; the 80% of the total amount of rainfall that India receives annually comes in just about 100 hours. In such a situation, harvestation of rain water is of paramount importance in India. However, there are no organized governmental efforts to this aspect yet anywhere in India.
In Delhi, the capital city of India, the under ground water table has been in decline, going deeper and deeper with increase in population. In some regions of Delhi, the water table has crossed 200 feet. To meet the ever increasing water need of Delhi, dams like the one in Tehri has been constructed with a huge capital investment. But Tehri being in the seismic zone is unsafe. Therefore, the problem has to be solved locally. Few retired persons in different areas of Delhi went on a mission of water harvesting and aquifer recharge in the last couple of years and achieved encouraging results which as summed up in the survey report of th Centre for Science and Environment and published in the ToI sometime back employing simpler technology as shown below-
Execution Under ground water availability depth
Area Before After
1. Panchsheel park > 92 feet 87 feet
2. Jamia Hamdard University. >148 feet 132 feet
3. Rajinder Nagar 118 feet 73 feet
4. Vasant Vihar 119 feet 115 feet
5. Tughlaqabad defence colony drawing drawing 10,000 liters 20,000 liters
Similar methods can be successfully employed in all water stress areas in India including Chennai taking examples from countries like Germany where by law it is mandatory for every household to harvest rain water. In Germany, the government levies a tax on those who do not harvest rain water in order to raise funds to build and maintain structures to harvest the same, especially storm water.
Besides, rain water harvesting has achieved tremendous results in Rajasthan which led to Rajinder Singh being awarded with the prestigious Magasasay Awaards and revived native vegetation in Asola-Bhatti, a large patch of barren land near Delhi scarred with pits from which red sand had been dugout over a long period.
2. Sustainable agriculture and real green revolution:
Scars left by the imported technology used during the so called green revolution in India in the late sixties are difficult to fill up. By the impact of that green revolution, the soil now stands degraded with reference to plant nutrition availability
and water retaining capacity. The food today contains excess of hazardous chemicals like nitrate, pesticides residues and lacks important constituents like carotene and vitamin C and is deficient in food mineral contents like copper and zinc. Besides, by volatilization, nitrogenous fertilizers contribute to acid precipitation and ozone depletion. Free use and applications of pesticides increased the resistance in the
desired species like the crop pests, eliminated beneficial insects like honey bees, an array birds like the scavenging vultures and pest feeding insectivorous birds and ended up in appearing in bottled waters and soft drinks in dangerous proportions.
Pests are creations of the nature. Nature has its own methods to contain them. We have a huge biodiversity at our disposal to keep the pests in check, like the Azadirachtin of Neem and other such botanicals; the predators like the Spiders, Mantis, Dragon flies, the parasitoids like the Bracon and Trichogramma. In such a situation why apply the pesticides and put the human lives in danger? Pearson (1985) has opined that pesticides related deaths in developing countries account for about 10 thousand per year and many more suffer.
Earthworms have been known to be friends of farmers even to school children but there has been no comprehensive effort to employ these creatures to agricultural advantage in a large way except for some NGOS like the Navdanya Trust of New Delhi which are doing exemplary work in that line to change non sustainable chemical agriculture to sustainable organic agriculture.
Awareness creation through facts and figures:
Results obtained from the just concluded UGC funded Major Research Project on Organic farming conducted by the authors are glaring examples to show that only organic farming is sustainable. Growing HYV paddy (Lalat) in Rabi with Azolla culture and Pongam oilcake for providing plant nutrition and using pheromone traps and Trichocards to keep the pests in check, yielded 1.5 quintals of paddy per acre over and above the quantity produced using agrochemicals and that too with less cost.
As far as NPK parameters of the soil to provide nutrition to crop plants are concerned, the following data were obtained through organic applications which may seriously be viewed.
Soil fertility status in transplanted HYV kharif paddy
Sesbania + Pongam oil cake (@ 375kg/ha)
worm cast in lateritic soil
Worm cast in saline soil
Compost + Earthworm
1 month after worm inoculation
Compost + Earthworm with vegetable plants in fruiting state
Worm cast of a geophagous
Contribution of Earthworms to Soil fertility in form of Worm casts (in kg./ ha.)
General soil sample
Worm cast of Metaphire posthuma
(Giant tropical earth worms of Orissa)
Initial soil sample
Worm casts of mixed species of native worms
-do- Perionyx excavatus
-do- Eisenia foetida
Contributions of Biodiversity to soil fertility under 20 % soil incorporations (kg./ha)
Biodiversity N % P2O5 % K2O%
Casuarinas leaf ash trace 1.4% 14.0%
Pongam (dry leaves) 3.7% 2.41% 2.42%
Bone and blood meal 10-12% 3-3.5% 0.5-0.7%
Poultry litter (fresh) 3% 2-6% 14%
Cow urine (fresh) 0.083 ppm 9.73 ppm 387.5ppm
Neem oil seed cake 5.2 % 1% 1.4%
Til (sesamum) oil cake 6.25% 2.05% 1.25%
Sesbania (whole plant) 3% 1.2% 2.2%
Eucalyptus leaf ash trace 5.9% 24.0%
Major Nutrient Removal by different crops:
Unit – kg. per quintal of product
Crops Crop parts Nitrogen Phosphorus Potash
Paddy grain/straw 1.34/0.61 0.54/0.37 0.27/3.70
Groundnut Pod/calm 3.02/0.4 074/0.14 0.52/0.7
Potato Tuber 0.74 0.28 1.4
Gram Grain 5.25 1.65 4
3. Reclaiming waste arid land through biodiversity service:-
Land degradation is a threat being faced World Wide. There are several factors responsible but open cast mining is the chief is the principle cause. Presently about 2 billion hectares of land world wide lie degraded. Of this about 3.5 consists of dead ecosystems that can not be revived and restored back to normally. Sustained efforts and planned executions can reactivate the rest 96.5 percent of degraded land.
Asola Bhatti near Delhi was one such degraded land which bore the precious red sand that was exploited since the Moghul era and through the British period for constructions of monuments in and around Delhi. Centuries of exploitation left Asola Bhatti a dead ecosystem. There was not a single blade of grass growing any where in the vast expanse of Asola Bhatti until 1994. Delhi University scientists led by Professor CR Babu established the Centre of Management of Degraded Ecosystems and worked overtime using simple cost effective technology in an area of 1.5 hectares of Asola Bhatti. Encapsulated seeds of some local varieties of plants in microbial gel blocks were released in the dry and hot environment of Asola Bhatti. Microbe diversity used was direct and associated nitrogen fixers, phosphate solublisers (both bacterial and fungal) and plant growth promoters. The seeds used belonged to plant diversity such as Acacia (a leguminous plant) and various grass species in line with those found in the Aravalis in the first phase. Miraculously, these encapsulated seeds germinated with the scanty rainfall that the region received during the monsoon. Encouraged by this development, Delhi forest department constructed several check dams in the area for harvesting rain water. In the second phase, seeds of other plant diversities like the ‘dhak’ and ‘junglee jalebee’ were released. Over a period of six years, the topography of the degraded Asola Bhatti ecosystem changed dramatically with many native flora and flora reappearing of their own. Today there is a forest in the region of Asola Bhatti which once lay barren for centuries.
4. Saline Land Reclamation through Agnihotra
Dr. Ramashray Mishra, Professor of Plant Genetics at Chandrashekhar Azad Agriculture University in Kanpur has been experimenting with Agnihotra farming for the past 25 years, both under laboratory and field conditions. Among his many achievements the successful reclamation of saline waste land in Kanpur within 10 years through Agnihotra is a unique achievement. After reclamation of the said land, a residential colony that came up on a part of it was named Agnihotra Nagar. The rest of the reclaimed land is lush greenery and is covered by luxuriant vegetation. The topography of the area changed dramatically within a period of 10 years. Similarly the Homa Therapy Association of North America reclaimed a 17 acre patch waste land and turned it to its own farm in Alabama (USA) through Agnihotra in a short period of 2 years, whereas left to the mercy of nature, the said land would have taken about 100 years to rebuild its top soil. It is for this and other agriculturally advantageous reasons that many developed and developing countries like USA, Germany, Japan, Peru and Chile have officially accepted Agnihotra as the principal method of organic farming. The Latin America states like Peru and Chile have accepted Agnihotra as their State agricultural policies principally due to its cost effectiveness, superior crop yields and simultaneous conservation of top productivity soil and water resources.
5. Reclamation of Indian waste (usar) land
India has landmass of approximately 329 millions hectares; out of which more than half i.e., 175 millions hectares is categorized as waste land. These lands are on the steep slopes, saline affected, alkaline affected and subjected to excessive erosion, soil toxicity and lack of soil fertility. These soils are often referred to as ‘problem soil’. Saline and alkaline soils cover nearly 7 millions hectares land in our country. These soils are inhospitable for crop production due to high pH, high concentration of soluble salts and exchangeable sodium. These are called usar land or degraded land. The soils are deficient in nitrogen and phosphorous and do not support any plant growth. There are vast tracts of usar land in and around the ancient historical townships like Ayodhya, Mathura, Varanasi and Delhi etc.The banks of river Yamuna has only degraded land. In addition to the usar land, vast stretches of water logged land have added to the total degraded land in India and such land are in the increase in every passing year. Special planning strategies and systematic executions are essential in reclaiming such degraded land for agricultural purposes if we are to increase our food production.
The resources and the environment are getting depleted and degraded mainly due to human interference under the disguise of development. It is time appropriate to have a fresh look to the entire process of development globally without which life will not sustain for long in this planet. Approach to other resources like the wet lands, forests and above all, the biodiversity must be made globally and in a sustainable manner by which they become substantially productive and support the life system of the planet, Earth. This is of paramount importance now.
P.S. The authors invite innovative ideas on this issue from the readers of this article.