Around 2010, India is likely to become the world’s most populous country, surpassing China. The projection is about 1.07. It means that in terms of population, a second India will be emerging in a few years.
Some aspects of environmental pollution vis-a-vis increasing population are outlined in the following sections:
(i) Availability of Land:
India counts for 15% of the world’s population, while its land area constitutes only 2.4% of the world area. As such, per capita availability of land in the country is 0.48 hectare as against 4.41 hectares in the USA, 8.43 hectares in the USSR, and 0.98 hectares in China. Furthermore, the population in India is concentrated in well-watered plains, creating further problems.
Judged by the international standards, in 1984, our urbanisation rate of 24% is rather lower than those of Philippines and Brazil, where it is 39% and 72% respectively. But the economic and social strains of the urban life in India, particularly in metropolitan centres, have already reached such frightening proportions that few would advocate further massive urbanisation in India.
The urban population in the 1981 census was 156 million which represented 24% of the total population. According to an estimate, the urban dwelling population will reach a figure of350 million by 2000 A.D. doubling from present figure which would then place India in the first position, with regard to the size of its urban population.
The result is over-crowding of built-up areas and growth of unauthorized colonies, leading to slum formation. At present, 20% of India’s urban population lives in slums.
In the big cities, it ranges, from 10% in Bangalore, 37% in Kanpur, 38% in Bombay to 42% in Calcutta; 40% of all slums’ population lives in the metropolitan cities.
(iii) Water Supply and Sanitation:
Notwithstanding the improvements over the years, lack of potable drinking water continues to be a serious problem for a large part of our population. In 1947, the percentage of rural population, having access to potable water, was only 6%; it rose up to 31% in 1980. In urban areas, the percentage was 60% in 51.75% and 1977 in 1988.
On a national level, 41% of the total population had access to potable water as compared to 17% in 1970. As such, more than half of our population, i.e., 59% is still to be provided with the basic need of potable water supply.
Clean air, clean drinking water and clean nourishing food are the three pre-requisites of a decent existence. These require conservation of soil and water and sufficient vegetative cover. Management of our land and water resources must receive highest attention.
Greening our common lands could be a major employment generating programme. Reducing pests in agriculture must be attended to by resorting to organic measures of pest control and providing soil nutrients to the soil.
A poor return in agriculture, with increasing cost of input, is giving rise to farmer unrest in areas, which were responsible for green revolution. Stalling feeding of catties to conserve biomass and to prevent overgrazing of common lands especially in hills, must be promoted.
Every habitation in the country should have its own woodlot to meet the fodder, fruit, and fuel and biomass needs of that habitation. Every road should be lined with tress to counter the pollution caused by the exhaust of motor vehicles.
In the hill regions, tourism based on trekking needs to be encouraged. Instead of multistory five-star hotels to come up in future, it would be advisable to promote small tourist lodges as extension of existing houses of the local residents.
Hill areas, where further road construction is not an economic necessity, should not be subjected to dynamite blasting, which does irreparable damage to the local flora and fauna.
Gentler methods of landscape development need to be resorted to in the Himalayan regions, lest our sentinel, the Himalaya is washed down the rivers into the Bay of Bengal. Cultivable lands in areas higher than 4000 meter, above sea level, should be used primarily for fodder cultivation to stall-feed all the cattle there.
Growing of vegetables and herbs may also be encouraged as cash crops at high altitudes. Employment generation in the hills should come out primarily from government sponsored tree-plantation programme to cover bare hills. All prominent hill stations should develop satellite hill stations to prevent overcrowding and insanitary conditions during peak tourist seasons.
In areas of water scarcity can rainfall on roofs be conserved for use as drinking water? Every village and town should be geared to store rain water for irrigation and for water supply systems. Our town is using potable water for flushing their lavatories and irrigating their parks and lawns while large areas of our country are short of drinking water.
Existence of waste of all kinds is a prominent feature of our landscape. If we want to make our environment livable, proper management of waste seems to be inescapable. Can we not generate employment in the cottage-industry sector by using the locally available waste as raw material? Thus, restoration of the ecosystem, and management and recycling of waste should be the two prominent areas to generate employment in future.
As regards sanitation, only 27% people of the urban population were provided sanitation facilities up to March 1981.
Thus, it is clear that with growing population, the need for increasing food grains, consumer items and other materials, not only to maintain proper standard of living but also to have better standard of living, compared to those of developed nations, will be there for some time to come.
At the same time, with increasing socio-economic activities, there will be further degradation of environment. Hence, in order to have proper environmental protection, a balanced approach, with built-in provision for pollution control, with each development activity will be essential.