Since most of our cities are on the banks of the rivers or the coast, our rivers and seas too have turned murky and polluted and fishes and other creatures living in them are found rotting on the shores. The atmosphere in the cities is saturated with such pollutants as carbon monoxide, oxides of sculpture and nitrogen, hydrocarbons, pesticides, fly-ash, soot and sometimes, radioactive substances. The air is also choked with foul smells and toxic fumes. These have found their way into our foodstuffs. The toxic chemicals, industrial wastes and effluents discharged into rivers and seas from the mills and factories have proved fatal to marine life. Heaps of garbage, rising in ugly mounds in the cities, tells a story of our blind, foolish and lopsided urban growth and development. Our villages, too, are not free from this ecological degradation. They have lost much of their forests and pastures. This depletion of natural resources and imbalance in ecology will make our cities collapse under their own weight of contradictions.
Obviously, pollution has crossed all the tolerable limits and if no effective remedial measures are taken soon, the results may prove catastrophic. Vehicles belching smoke should not be allowed to run on the roads of the city. Eco-unfriendly vehicles should be strictly banned and there should be frequent pollution checks, and those found guilty of violating the rules should be adequately fined and punished. They must be forced to follow some absolute minimum standard of emission.
Noise is one of the great pollutants. The general noise level in the cities is rising alarmingly, causing many mental and physical diseases. Noise from the factories vehicles, trains, public address systems, TV Sets, aircrafts, and sirens, etc. is really too much. It has been proved that noise beyond a safe limit causes various kinds of disorders, both mental and nervous. Concentration is difficult in a noisy place, if not impossible. To perform anything creative and fruitful, concentration is a pre-condition. Noise also adversely affects our rest and sleep and thereby gives rise to many problems related to psychosocial behaviour. Frequent loud noise may cause decreased flow of blood in the small vessels, dilation of pupils, tension of muscles, digestive upsets, nervousness, anxiety and irritation. It lowers the working efficiency. The most glaring effect of noise is in the form of gradual loss of sense of hearing. There are noise-controllers but they are not of much help because of the lack of public awareness. We can reduce the menace to some extent by planting more and more trees.
The presence of pollutants in the sources of water, like rivers, lakes, ponds, and seas, is another great health hazard. Water reservoirs are full of pollutants, which include toxic chemicals, industrial effluents, suspended solids, organic and inorganic substances, and bacteria, etc. The sewerage has seriously damaged the health of our water resources. The discharges contain a variety of poisonous effluents, which cause the outbreak and spread of water-borne diseases and epidemics. The detergents, fertilizers, pesticides, oil spills are other major pollutants of water. Waste from slaughter houses, dairy and poultry farms, breweries, tanneries, paper and sugar mills have caused havoc.
In order to check water pollution, the sewerage and factory effluents and waste should be properly treated and cleaned before being discharged into streams, rivers and seas. Chemical industries should not be allowed to be located on the banks of the rivers and the coasts. There should be strict rules in regard to the observation of pollution rules and regulations, and the guilty should be severely punished. Gradually, people are becoming more and more aware of the growing problem of pollution. It is reflected in the first Act passed by the Indian Government in 1974, to have control over water pollution. Then in 1980 another Act was passed to prevent air pollution. And, finally, the Department of Environment was created as an independent agency in November 1980, to look after the environmental needs. But the measures, so far, to check environmental pollution have been more or less symbolic and half-hearted.
More than 70% of all the water available in our country is polluted. Like water and air, our soil is also getting polluted. It is estimated that over 35% of our total land area suffers from environmental degradation. Deforestation and excessive use of artificial fertilizers and pesticides are the main factors of this degradation of our land. Overgrazing has further worsened the problem. A number of solid wastes, such as garbage, trash, ash, sludge, plastic material, useless bottles, and cans, etc., dumped here and there make the atmosphere dirty and polluted.
In order to fight this menace, vigorous efforts should be made and anti-pollution laws should be strictly practiced. More needs to be done through mass media in order to seek people’s participation in the movement. Pollution holds out a great threat and danger to us and to the generations to come. Therefore, it should be fought tooth and nail. The use of solar and wind energy should be encouraged because it is clean and pollution-free. The awareness against the scourge seems to be growing but it needs to be matched with nationwide pollution control measures.