27 Indian cities are counted amongst the Top 50 World’s most polluted cities in 2019
The rate of urbanization in India is faster than the rest of the world. By 2018, 34% of the Indian population was crammed in the urban regions. This percentage is estimated to increase to 40.76% in the next 10 years.
Such rapid migration and urbanization give rise to social issues like poverty, unplanned urbanization and industrialization, and several related problems responsible for the rapid degradation of the environment.
Key Environmental and Sustainability issues faced by India include:
- Air Pollution :
- Water Pollution :
- 86% of the water bodies in India are considered “critically polluted”, that is unsafe for drinking or any other domestic purposes.
- The Ganges river tops the list of the world’s most polluted rivers, with Yamuna river being the 10th.
- Groundwater is also exploited, as over 94.5% of all the farming, irrigation, and other activities are dependent on it.
The Ganges being choked with waste (theguardian.com)
- Waste Management :
- Urban India produces 62 million tonnes of trash annually, that is more than 10 times the weight of the Great Pyramid of Giza!
- Out of this, only 70% is collected, 20% is treated while half of the waste is dumped in the landfills
- India has also recorded a 56% increase in the number of hazardous-waste (like pesticides, toxic wastes, heavy metals, etc) generating industries in the last decade
It is estimated that by the year 2030, the waste generated annually in India would increase to 165 million tonnes (that’s more than 27 Great Pyramids of Giza!).
BRIDGING THE GAP
The Indian administrative has recognized these pressing issues and passed several laws and committees to help the environmental restoration,
- Companies Act, 2013
- The National Green Tribunal Act, 2010
- The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981
- The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974
- The Environment Protection Act, 1986
- The Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, etc.
But, even after all these efforts, there is a gap between the idea and the action. There are many ecological ‘blunders’ caused in the past due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the environment and sustainability practises in various sectors.
- Faulty plantation drives at Delhi
After spending more than ₹ 137 million in planting and replanting trees, the attempts of restoring the forest cover in the country capital was in vain. This was because of improper plantation practices or planting species which were too ‘high-maintenance’.
- Promotion of ‘monoculture’ plantation
Monoculture aka ‘biological desert’ is a practice of growing only one type of crop or trees in the region for commercial purposes. Although this is counted as ‘forest cover’ the lack of biodiversity is a threat to the environment and people.
The unfortunate lack of biodiversity in monoculture plantation (globaljusticeecology.org)
- The disaster of converting Mangrove zones to Shrimp farms
More than 80% of the mangrove cover has been converted into Shrimp farms in Sundarbans and Godavari Delta in the east, which is a bad idea as shrimp cultures do not work in the naturally acidic soil of mangrove forest . These shrimp farms are funded by the state as well as the multinational companies. They are a major contributor to the export revenue of the country but an even greater contributor to environmental disaster.
- Frauds and loopholes under CSR
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) was mandated under the Companies Act, 2013 in India in an attempt to involve social and environmental values into businesses. But this hasn’t stopped the companies from making some profit.
Many scams have been exposed where the companies were found to use charities and trusts for money laundering. New rules were implemented in 2020 to curb these frauds but the system is bound to constrict the freedom of CSR implementation.
NEED FOR ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION IN VARIOUS SECTORS
Environmental Education is fundamental in understanding the problem and creating a balanced solution between the Social, Environmental and Economical aspects.
“Education can play a major part in environmentally sustainable societies”~ Education for people and planet (UNESCO, 2016)
Principle reasons why India needs people trained in Environmental Education in various sectors are,
- For Nature and Conservation
- For the Community
- For Sustainable Development
- For Research and Project Development
And of course, to avoid the blunders and frauds as mentioned above.
CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY AND ENVIRONMENTAL EDUCATION
Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is a management concept whereby companies integrate social and environmental concerns in their business operations.
It is, essentially, the responsibility of businesses towards the consumers, workers, stakeholders and the community to create higher standards of living, while preserving the profitability of the corporation.
India is first and the only country to have mandated CSR for a certain class of companies
It is based on the “Triple-Bottom-Line Approach” to achieve a balance between the economic, environmental and social imperatives.
People, Planet, Profit (viridis.energy)
The corporate involvement in environmental and sustainability practices is seen as a costly burden and ‘not-worth’ the efforts, but the data says otherwise.
- Reduces Business Costs
- Inculcating sustainable practices takes an initial investment, but, over time, it helps save money by prioritizing sustainability
- A survey found that 33% of businesses that were integrating sustainable practices were doing so to improve operational efficiency and cutting costs.
- This includes small changes like shifting to renewable energy like solar, more efficient lighting and appliances, or creatively reusing existing materials.
- Bottom line, the more sustainable the business becomes, the less it will spend on energy and materials.
- Improves the brand value
- With the current trend set for sustainable and ‘green’ products and services, consumers view sustainability as a plus.
- According to a survey, 76% of Americans expect companies to take action against climate change.
- The companies are also eager to showcase these green values as a marketing strategy and improve their brand value.
- These factors provide a competitive advantage as the consumer trend continues to shift towards eco-friendly, sustainable and healthier alternatives.
73% of American Consumers would stop purchasing from a company that doesn’t care about climate change.
- The Environmental Impact
- While the target year for accomplishing the UN Sustainable development growth is in the next 10 years, many Indian companies and industries are still trying to solve the issues of incorporating sustainable methods.
- 95% of plastic packaging — the equivalent of $120 billion annually — is single-use. This is not only a global environmental threat but also a huge waste of potential for revenue generation through a circular economy.
- Over 140 million people will be displaced from their homes by 2050 due to environmental and social impacts caused directly or indirectly but the industries.
Impact of a rabid production-consumerist trend (plasticoceans.org)
FEW SUSTAINABLE STEPS TAKEN BY PROMINENT COMPANIES
- INFOSYS has collaborated with the United Nations for awareness about plastic pollution and pledged to make their campuses free of single-use and non-recyclable plastics by 2020 while also reducing the per capita generation of plastic waste by 50%.
- ITC aims to go beyond the requirements of Plastic Waste Management Rules, 2016 to ensure that, over the next decade, 100% of packaging is reusable, recyclable or compostable.
COURSES TO UNDERSTAND SUSTAINABLE PRACTICES
Many institutes are offering an array of courses on environmental and sustainability topics. A better understanding of these topics are is sure to help everyone from any sector. Some of these Certificate courses you might be interested in are,
- Strategies for sustainability program offered by Stanford
A self-paced online course, which explores frameworks and tools needed to promote sustainability. It is a 3-day course on how you can become a change agent through transformative leadership and design thinking.
- Harvard sustainable business strategy course
The course explores the different business models that companies can use to drive change and explains why purpose-driven businesses are particularly well-positioned to tackle the world’s biggest problems including environmental problems and climate change.
- Circular economy – sustainable materials management by Lund University
This course looks at where important materials in products we use every day come from and how these materials can be used more efficiently, longer, and in closed loops. The course also teaches skills and tools for analyzing circular business models in the transition to a Circular Economy.
- Certificate Course by Earth5R on Global Sustainability and Climate Change
Earth5R Institute of Social and Environmental Sustainability (EISES) offers certificate courses on Global Sustainability and Climate Change. The program blends online and offline learning (within 3 km of your location) with the ongoing projects. Students receive one-to-one learning and experience which offers great flexibility.
The course covers topics like Circular Economy, Social Entrepreneurship, Climate Change Mitigation Facilities and more.
Earth5R is an environmental organization from India with its head office at Mumbai. It works with the NGO sector, Companies and helps them conduct environmental corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs across India. Earth5R specializes in circular economy based projects. Earth5R also offers short term and long term environmental courses.
Earth5R’s Global Sustainability Hub is a cross-sector and cross-country collaboration in pursuit of UN Sustainable Development Goals. It is an excellent opportunity for governments and the private sector to engage with communities, use Sustainability-based models to drive economic changes and create social and environmental impact.
Reported by Riya Dani and Aastha Dewan, Edited by Riya Dani