This cut with impunity, whole forests being denuded

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This was a cycle which continued for millenniums and the green cover continued to be extensive. The cutting of trees and foliage was a necessity then and not governed by greed. Hillsides were densely packed with greenery, the soil remained firm and even heavy showers were absorbed into the ground soil with the excess flowing into the rivulets.

Landslides and flash floods must have happened but was quite a rarity in those ages due to the above reasons. The situation has become alarming now. With trees being cut with impunity, whole forests being denuded of the tree covers, hillsides bereft of foliage, these phenomenons have been recovering every season.

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There are several organizations that have taken up cudgels against this but to put a stop to this rampant wrong doing, a stricter legislation is needed. Mankind has taken optimum advantage of Natural resources be it minerals, crude oil, gold, diamonds, sea food or medicinal plants. The greed for more and more, over the centuries as now started taking its toll. It is a well known fact that we have been changing the balance of our ecological system. Crude oil and liquid petroleum gas are being lapped ever in seabeds. Although precaution is being taken to avoid spilling directly from these oil wells but how can we ensure that accidents like these may not take place.

The seas and oceans are a major factor in the ecological balance and the creatures living in these vast and important water resources play an important role in this. Spillovers from oil tankers are taking place with regular monotony resulting in the pollution by these oil slicks which cover hundreds of square kilometers at a go. The fishes living in these areas are starved of oxygen and die in huge multitudes. Birds living near these seashores depending on the small fishes for their food get coated with these oil spills and die. To break up the spill and reduce its poisonous effects would take decades even with the help of chemicals. Oil pipe lines laid underwater on sea-beds are now being planned. Who can guarantee that there would be no leaks and can we imagine the ecological disaster as a result of such a leak. Photographs and video clippings of fish lying dead on beaches or floating in the slicks, of birds originally white and active, coated black with crude oil and dying on the shores should be enough to turn the hearts of even the very strong hearted but the industries and money earning machines are hardly moved.

To top it all, there are new cases of highly industrialized nations, dumping toxic wastes into oceans of whaling fleets, fishing for whales, until recently, to the point of near extinction. Blue whales have become a rarity now. The giant squid has also joined the ranks and so have several other mammals and amphibians. The living species are dying out at such an unprecedented rate that more than half would be extinct during our lifetime.

Land based animals are facing the same situation due to indiscriminate killings. The Britihus and the Maharaja’s of yore were profoundly fond of army of hundreds of drum beaters, elephants and an array of guns to trap a single tiger and shoot it. Thousands of tigers had been killed in this manner and what we have left may be a few hundreds only. The Indian Cheetah is already extinct. Mankind has become its own enemy and subsequently the foremost enemy of our planet. We are in danger of losing the ecology which sustains life.

It is time to confront this danger and take remedial measures. Air pollution is the foremost, and the leading culprits in this factor are the pollutants emitted by fossil fuel based industries. This has resulted in an astonishing and unexpected factor – Acid Rain. Acid Rain is made up of 65% sulphuric acid, 30% nitric acid and 5% hydrochloric acid. The sulphur dioxide coming from the huge oil fired power plants and smelters, is transformed into sulphuric acid on reaching the atmosphere, through a chain of complex chemical reaction. Similarly oxides of nitrogen emitted from automobile exhausts and high temperature combustion engines are being transformed into Nitric Acid on reaching the atmosphere.

These then fall on the earth with rain and wind in the form of Acid Rain. This issue has been raised several times in the United Nations and has become a major environmental issue threatening forests, farms, aquatic life and humanity. Soil acidification ahs reached alarming proportions seeping downward to poison groundwater. Sweden, Canada, Brazil, Norway and even third world countries have reported the fallout of this phenomenon with fresh water lakes decaying, destroying aquatic life and the depletion of friendly bacteria and micro-organisms which sustain aquatic life forms. These are the results of the surging human population and the industrial, technological expansion inconsiderate of the havoc they are wreaking on the ecology. This self-development may ultimately see the end of life on this planet unless checked in time.

And the time is now! Our complacency is a result of a living standard totally dependent on the consumption of earth’s resources and we have not defined our limits yet. The upsurge of Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere is again the result of denudation of forest cover and presently it is at the rate of one football field per minute. Are we taking these facts into consideration for our health and that of our future generations? The result of this level of Carbon Dioxide in our atmosphere has resulted in 1998 being the hottest year on record. It has been predicted that we shall see an increase of around five degrees centigrade in world temperature within the next fifty years. Forests and animals are an important part of our ecology and to maintain the cycle of life, they must be protected and allowed to play their role. Unfortunately most of the energy used and generated is produced from coal, oil, natural gas and uranium. These energy sources pollute the air and water change the climate of the world, destroy plant and animal life and are harmful for health. A lot of energy we generate is wasted, making the cost expensive.

We have to ensure minimum wastage of energy. Of course the cleanest of all energy is the energy not used and saved but optimum used and efficiently used energy is a must. The best solution would be the immediate change over to renewable sources of energy like the sun and the wind.

These are non-pollutants too and there is no fear of their running out. Without the use of fuel, energy is no fear of their running out. Without the use of fuel, energy is generated with little pollution, causing no oil spills, nuclear wastes, smog or acid rain. Another solution which has been advocated to save our natural resources and extend their run, is recycling. Garbage has not been considered from that angle in our country, although their disposal has been a regular concern.

Many countries recycle their waste papers, glass bottles and beverage can include that of ours. The remaining trash can be converted into fertilizers, fuel gas and recycled metal. Garbage can also be burnt and the heat generated can be used to create electric power. In rural areas, dung and agricultural wastes provide household energy like gobargas. Similarly we need to pay attention to recycling of water.

This has been attempted earlier in the 70s in USA called the Living Filter Technique. Soil was used to filter out the living impurities and other impurities. This benefited by adding nutrients to the soil as well as cleaning the water. City household water is taken to sewage plants, purified for bacteria and chemicals and then piped back. We are aware of the delicate balance of ocean and sea levels around the world. With this projected increase in temperature, the chances of the iceberge loosing their moorings and melting are alarmingly high with the melting of even 25 percent of these icebergs. The sea/ocean levels may be raised considerably and the chances of Mauritius, Holland and other such nations getting submerged as a result of this, are undoubted. We must use our intelligence to keep a balanced biodiversity.

We are squeezing out other forms of life due to our greed and selfishness. Biodiversity is necessary for our survival. We know this but are still callously forcing entire species of plants and animals to die out. Green Peace is one organization which has a dedicated cadre and agenda to protect the environment. We need NGOs of this caliber all over the world, if our Earth is to remain an unsullied place for our future generations. Serious efforts are now being made to reduce the levels of chlorofluo-carbons used in air conditioning and refrigeration so that the Ozone depletion is checked.

Automobile pollution is also being stringently implemented with the issuance of Euro II norms. The meeting at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil attended by 117 countries from all over the world has tried to make a genuine start. Efforts should be made to implement the decisions taken to control the environmental degradation in order to give healthy atmosphere to our coming generation.


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