World environment day: Challenges & responsibilities
Every year 5th June is widely celebrated as “World Environment Day” in more than 143 countries across the world. The day commemorates the Stockholm Conference on Human Environment held in 1972. The main aim of the celebration of World Environment Day is to aware and educate all the people irrespective of caste, creed, colour, sex, religion, region, country etc. about the importance of clean, safe and quality environment and conservation of the quality environment for the welfare present and future generations. It also creates awareness about critical environmental issues facing the world today particularly climate change, global warming, ozone layer depletion, acid rain, air pollution, water pollution, deforestation, water crisis, rapid melting of glaciers, flash floods, extinction of many flora and fauna species etc. The theme of world environment day for 2022 is ‘Only One Earth” highlighting the need to live in harmony with nature in a sustainable way and choosing a cleaner and greener lifestyle. The Jammu and Kashmir State is well known for its ecosystems, such as fresh water bodies, dense forests, rich wildlife, productive agricultural lands, fruit gardens, fishing grounds etc. The rich ecosystems in Jammu and Kashmir is due to its healthy environment that provides healthy air, water and food for all living organisms. Its eye-catching and heart attracting beauties of nature along with pleasant and invigorating climate are major sources of attraction to lakhs of people all across the globe.The quality and healthy environment contributes significantly to all sectors of Jammu and Kashmir.
However, for the past two decades, environmental challenges in Jammu and Kashmir State are at alarming rates and Jammu and Kashmir stands as one state among most polluted states. Currently, our environment is facing tremendous pressure and threat due to unabated pollution and other human activities that harm our environment. Pollution of fresh water bodies like lakes, wetlands, rivers, streams, irrigation canals etc. has increased many fold. Many water bodies are being used as dumping sites and many suffocated due to pollution of solid and liquid wastes. Pollution of fresh water bodies has caused severe drinking water scarcity for people in all areas of Kashmir valley. Increasing urbanization, concretization, agricultural expansion, rapid industrialization, and economic development for the past one decade have put tremendous pressure on our natural resources that contributed much to our environment destruction. Even forestlands are being used for garbage and dumping sites. Illegal encroachments by vested persons in and around forestlands for residential, agricultural and business purpose besides unprecedented degradation of dense green gold due to deforestation, industrialization, road construction, installation of power transmission lines have increased soil erosion, drying of water sources, floods, climate change, weather irregularity etc. The air quality index of Jammu and Kashmir is also bad and figures among the most air polluted states. Setting up of unregulated industrial units, bricklins, cement factories, and destruction of riverbeds without licensing and environment clearance have enhanced air, water, noise and soil pollution.
The Jammu and Kashmir Environment Impact Assessment Authority which works under the ministry of Environment Forests and Climate Change Government of India issues environment clearance certificate only after proper verification and fulfilment of strict standards and specific conditions of industrial units, bricklins, cement factories and other activities like dredging, mining etc.. The main aim of EIA is environment protection and conservation. It is pertinent to mention that unregulated growth of brickilins in district Budgam is so high that fruit orchards, vegetable and paddy fields are continuously getting deteriorated due to smoke, black soot and lethal gases coming from bricklins. The gravity of air pollution particularly in district Budgam villages is such that visibility in fields and villages has been very much reduced and one who visits to agricultural land or apple orchard is returning home with sprinkled black soot all over the body. Majority of people suffer respiratory diseases and even agricultural and horticultural production in district Budgam have declined. Massive soil excavation and illegal sand mining all across the valley have resulted in environmental destruction in the form of soil erosion and water pollution. The climate change in Kashmir valley due to environmental destruction has melted and disappeared most glaciers that are sources of our perennial water bodies. Forest fires and habitat loss have increased. Survival of rare and threatened species declined. Food chain and food web imbalance and disturbances have been created.
Man animal conflict also has increased due to environmental destruction. How we can restore, revive, rejuvenate our environment and its ecosystems so that we can make the Kashmir valley a very better place to live in. All stakeholders must work tirelessly for the improvement of a quality environment by eco-friendly and other activities. Education and awareness among all people about the importance of quality and healthy environment and planting trees in homes, schools, colleges, and public spaces will improve the environment. Ban on single use plastic and polythene, use of biodegradable bags like jute bags instead of polythene bags, scientific waste disposal and cleaning of all water bodies, canals, rivers, streams etc. will save water bodies from water pollution and dying. Reduction of the carbon footprint, control on deforestation, illegal mining and soil excavation and strict implementation of environment laws and policies, stringent punishment and fine on environment polluters will definitely protect our environment and correct the destruction caused by many responsible factors. Judicious use of natural resources, reduce, reuse and recycling of non-biodegradable waste, introduction of environment impact assessment, awareness and outreach programmes by the government and role of government as policy maker can play a very important role in conservation and prevention of the environment.
Appreciation of tireless and selfless workers like the Chairman Jammu and Kashmir RTI Movement Dr. Raja Muzaffar Bhat who has been always raising voice against all kinds of environment pollution for its protection and conservation. The environmental destruction in Jammu and Kashmir is at its high peak. It is a good time for the people and the government to save the environment from further degradation and devastation so that the needs of present and future generations are not compromised and survival of biodiversity is not threatened. Let us pledge sincerely not to destroy our environment due to sheer negligence for materialistic gains and protect it in all respects, as it deserves genuine protection and conservation.
(The author is a teacher at Govt Boys Higher Secondary School Beerwah. Views are his own)email@example.com