The Twin Challenges – Indian Currrents’ Editorial

Dr. Suresh Mathew

Climate change and pollution — two issues people across the world dread to think. Both are subjects of global concern which is evident from the fact that over 120 heads of States have confirmed their participation at the Paris convention on climate change starting from November 30. The issue is close to the heart of every human being as is evident from what Ban Ki-moon, the UN Secretary General, recently wrote: “Like any grandfather, I want my grandchildren to enjoy the beauty and bounty of a healthy planet…..Climate change carried no passport; emissions released anywhere contribute to the problem everywhere.” 

Several studies point out that burning of carbon even at today's pace will raise global temperature by several degrees. This would lead to a hotter planet unworthy of living.  Experts point out that the likely scenario in such a situation will be: rising seas, intense storms; droughts; extinction for vast numbers of life forms from the face of the earth. Hence countries are faced with a major challenge to reduce global emissions so that the rise in temperature can be kept below 2 degrees Celsius. The sooner the world achieves the target, the better will be the planet to live in. The most widely accepted solution is reducing use of fossil-based energy such as coal, oil and gas.

But, closer home, we are faced with a still greater and immediate danger: pollution of air and water. It is lurking in our backyard ready to choke us to death. Reels and reels of paper have been used to write about the Indian cities which are becoming garbage dumps and unlivable places. Of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India. China has got only three of them. India is in the third position in carbon emission and its impact on the degenerating environment is becoming clearer day by day. Newspaper reports this week, quoting experts, said that the level of toxic pollutants in Delhi’s air has exceeded the amount recorded on Diwali night which was supposed to be the most polluted day because of widespread use of firecrackers. 

On the water-front too, the situation is alarming with some of the lifeline rivers like the Ganga and the Yamuna ranked among the world’s 10 most polluted rivers. Almost 70 per cent of the surface water resources and an increasing percentage of groundwater reserves are severely contaminated by various lethal pollutants. In most cases, water is rendered unsafe for human consumption and other activities. The worst impact of water pollution is reflected in the long queues of patients, suffering from water-borne disease, seen outside hospitals and health centres.  

All experts agree on one thing: it is high time to act before we become fatal victims of pollution that chokes and blocks our systems; does major harm to the animal world; and irretrievably damages the environment. Tackling pollution should get top priority of all concerned. Or else we will be left to live with a daily dose of agonising news of people falling prey to the northward moving pollution level.

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