A First-Of-Its-Kind Magazine On Environment Which Is For Nature, Of Nature, By Us (RNI No.: UPBIL/2016/66220)

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Mr VN Garg

TreeTake is a monthly bilingual colour magazine on environment that is fully committed to serving Mother Nature with well researched, interactive and engaging articles and lots of interesting info.

Mr VN Garg

Mr VN Garg

Mr VN Garg

Expert Expression

Green Revolution has turned out to be unsuitable

During the summer of 2019, the four lakes that supply drinking water to Chennai have very little water (Only 1 percent of the volume they had last year). This is just one such example of India’s water scarcity; though, to a large extent, Chennai’s water crisis is man made. India has had two consecutive years of weak monsoons. According to a report released by the Niti Aayog, 21 major cities of India (including Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad and others) are heading towards zero ground water levels by 2020. This will affect 100 million people. The report also says that by 2030, India’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply.

Ground water depletion means excess of the amount of water taken from aquifers over the amount that is stored naturally. In India, rate of ground water depletion increased by 23 percent in the period between 2000 and 2010 while global ground water depletion increase during the same period was 22 percent. In 1951, the per capita water availability in India was about 5177 cubic m. In 2011, this was less than one third, i.e. 1545 cubic m (Water Resources Division, TERI).

The water scarcity is expected to worsen as the population is expected to increase to 160 crores by year 2050. As many as 100 crore people in India live in areas of water scarcity. Out of these, 60 crore are in areas of high to extreme water stress. India is currently ranked 120 out of 122 countries in the water quality index. According to Water Aid (a non-profit organisation), by 2040, many countries including India, China, USA and South Africa will face high water stress.

In India, where a third of the population  lives in cities,  agriculture uses about 90 percent  of fresh water, compared with 64 percent in China,  60 percent in Brazil  and 44 percent in Nigeria. Recently, the Government of India’s Jal Shakti Ministry has announced a plan to give every household access to piped drinking water by 2024. This requires agriculture to take a smaller share of available water. Otherwise, there will not be adequate supply of water.

Wheat and rice are the two highest water consuming crops of India. One kg of wheat requires an average of 1654 litres of water and one kg of rice requires 2800 litres of water. In addition, too much water is wasted because of inefficiency and misuse.  Indians revere the Green Revolution of the 1970s when the North West became India’s greenery thanks to canals and tube wells that pumped out ground water, but green revolution has turned out to be unsustainable. In 2011, 245 billion cubic metres of water was withdrawn for irrigation - a quarter of total ground water depletion globally that year. North-western states should grow less water intensive crops like maize, millets and sorghum to reduce the demand of irrigation water by one third. Areas in the east of the country that receive much more rainfall should grow more wheat and rice. In 2014-15, India exported 37.2 lakh tonnes of basmati rice. To produce this rice, India used 10 trillion litres of water. In a way, India exported 10 trillion litres of water. This policy needs to be revised. 

A similar situation of water scarcity prevails in urban India in respect of drinking water.  In many Indian cities, water is not properly distributed in different parts of the city. In Delhi and Mumbai, some areas/ wards are getting more than standard norm of 150 litres per capita per day (lpcd) while other areas get 40-50 lpcd. Further, water being supplied is of drinking water standards. Moreover, an individual requires around 25 litres of water per day for meeting his basic hygiene and food needs. The rest is for mopping and cleaning, for which a quality lower than drinking water is required. Water must be supplied according to usage.

Precious water meant for drinking is also being wasted due to many modern technologies. Water purifier is one of the fastest growing businesses in India. But it wastes large amount of water. For one litre of drinking water from a RO (Reverse Osmosis) based water purifier, four litres of water is required to pass through it. RO –based water purifiers waste 74 percent water. Water purifiers are usually attached to the running taps in homes, which source water either from groundwater or supplied through municipal pipes. Thus, drinking water is used to purify water. Bottled water is another source of loss of drinking water. Bottlers use 65 percent of groundwater extracted from aquifers, in packaging as drinking water. This wastage in ground water is increasing because consumption and production of bottled drinking water is growing at about 15 percent every year in India. Soft drinks making is another reason for fast depletion of ground water in the India.

Some common ways in which we waste water are:

Showering for five minutes can consume up to 37 litres of water. We should use either low flow shower or fill up a bucket for having a wash;

Using huge quantities of water for cleaning the lawn, basement, or stair case. Instead of washing, we should sweep these areas;

Letting the water run the whole time while we are brushing, we waste 15 litres of water;

Flushing the toilet every time you pass the urine. It is advisable to use a small bucket of water to replace the flush;

Washing fruits and vegetables in a pan full of water;

Lack of proper maintenance of existing infrastructure causes further losses of almost 40 percent of piped water in urban areas.

At macro level, we need to reduce the use of water for irrigation. We also need to replace the traditional irrigation techniques by modern, water efficient techniques like drip and sprinkler irrigation. We should make ground water recharge and rain water harvesting a national priority. India captures only 8 percent of its annual rainfall. This is among the lowest in the world.    Local water bodies should be preserved, restored and recharged. We should reduce leakages of water at all levels. Treatment and reuse of waste water. Waste water needs to be treated, at least for non potable purposes. SDG 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water for all by 2030. We should make all possible efforts to achieve the targets set under SDG6.

World Water Day is celebrated every year on March 22 to build public awareness and involvement in protecting water resources around the world. We should build public awareness on the challenge of water scarcity that India and many parts of the world face so that every citizen contributes to face this situation.



Consuming sustainably is key to environment protection

Whatever we consume - food, water, electricity, transport, buildings, paints, chemicals, or use buildings, appliances or elevators – has an impact on our environment. But the kind of things that we consume and their quantity may help to preserve or destroy our environment. Sustainable consumption includes pattern of consumption as well as levels of consumption. Sustainable pattern means substitution of more resource efficient and less polluting goods and services. Sustainable levels means reducing the levels or quantities of goods and services consumed. We must encourage consumption of organic foods. We must use water economically, use renewable energy like solar energy and wind energy in place of fossil energy, encourage energy efficiency and use energy efficient refrigerators, dish-washers, washing machines, air-conditioners. We should use public transport and car-pooling in stead of using private cars, use eco-friendly cars and in travels and cargo transport, use rail rather than road, use staircases in place of elevators. In other words, we should use eco-friendly goods which have been produced through eco-friendly processes and usage of which pollutes the environment the least. Three categories of consumer goods/services -food, transport and construction - generate about 70 percent of negative environmental consequences, though they represent only 50 percent of total consumer spending. Further, waste has to be reduced and recycling has to be encouraged. Sustainable consumption is essential to meet challenges like climate change and environmental pollution. Global Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 requires us to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns. Oslo round table on Sustainable Production and Consumption also stressed on above points and also the equity dimension. The UN Guidelines of 1999 envisage promoting sustainable consumption, conducting sustainable consumption research, promoting recycling and sustainable government practices, encouraging eco-friendly products and developing standards for regulating environmental claims. UNEP has developed guidelines for National Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production. The term sustainable consumption takes different meaning in the context of developing countries as compared to the meaning in developed countries. There are great differences in pattern and levels of consumption across nations. Developing countries have challenges of growing population, poverty and growth. These demands put extra pressure on environmental conditions and natural resources. Sweden and the UK are two countries with dedicated sustainable consumption programmes and action plans. Governments and businesses can increase consumer awareness and help them to make sustainable choices by providing information to them. For example, by asking them to use less paper (to protect the trees) or to use only bio-degradable plastics (to preserve the environment). Efforts must be made to reduce the prices of eco-friendly goods so that they are not beyond consumers’ budgets. Government can encourage sustainable consumption by providing standards and labelling, taxes and charges, incentives and subsidies, education and driving campaigns on sustainability. Standards Most countries have laid down standards for energy efficiency for a variety of house hold appliances like air-conditioners, refrigerators, washing machines, dryers, televisions and home entertainment products. Certification Forest stewardship council certification of forests, certification of coffee farms in Colombia and other countries have contributed in popularizing certified products; similarly there are guidelines in many countries for certification of organic farm products. Mandatory Labelling In many countries, there are legally enforceable guidelines for labelling consumer products like food products and household appliances. Labelling food products covers statutory warning labels on cigarettes, nutrition values of food products, genetically modified contents and organic food .It has been found that food labelling has a greater influence on consumer behaviour than energy efficiency labelling on appliances. In India, in order to safeguard the interests of consumers, The Food safety and Standards (Packaging and Labelling) regulations 2011 provide that every packaged food article has to be labelled and it shall provide the following information: The name of the food List of ingredients. Nutritional information. Declaration regarding vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Declaration regarding food additives. Name and complete address of the manufacturer or packer. Net Quantity Code number/Lot number/batch number Date of manufacture or packing Best before and Use by date. Country of origin for imported food. Instructions for use. Standards, certification and labelling are weak tools for encouraging sustainable consumption .They tend to induce rebound effects .For example , one study found that 86 percent of companies surveyed reported compliance with key sustainability criteria but only 11 percent actually met them. But despite all this , certification has accomplished a lot .Certification has encouraged sustainable practices around the world and has contributed in a big way in protecting environment , wildlife and habitats and have discouraged illegal felling of trees .They have also been responsible for increasing the incomes of local population .Certified coffee farms in Columbia have preserved endangered species and have higher biodiversity, higher productivity and higher revenue than non-certified farms. But no certification process is perfect. To some extent, consumers drive the production and its environmental impacts .When consumers choose certified products, they encourage farmers for adopting sustainability practices, and discourage industry from deforestation. Customers by choosing consumer products wisely, make a huge impact on environment and also provide markets for sustainable products. Mahatma Gandhi said:” The world has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for everyone’s greed”. If we assume that all countries of the world soon reach the consumption levels of the developed countries , it would require three times the natural resources as our planet is capable of supplying .We shall need three planets. There is a need to change our lifestyles to minimize our needs and reduce consumerism, in the interest of sustainability. Marketing by multinational companies encourages consumerism and materialism but we must go for frugal, rational and responsible consumption .We should give up attitudes of possessing more and more of latest goods as a status symbol .We should learn to do more and better with less. We should balance growth with sustainability and equity. Technology plays a big role in preserving environment. An environment-friendly revolution has recently taken place in the transport sector. Elon Musk in the United States has demonstrated that electric vehicles (EVs) like Tesla are an effective substitute for cars with gasoline engine. China’s biggest car company has invested $3 billion in Electric Vehicles. The Chinese government set a target to put five million EVs on the road by 2020. There is a looming transport revolution with clean energy technology of EVs, with no adverse environmental impact. Consumers also face difficulties and doubts, making their purchase-decisions complicated. They lack time, and information about eco-friendly products and services while making a purchase decision. But if they are aware and environmentally conscious, they will make extra efforts and spend more time in purchasing eco-friendly products. If all citizens of every country decide to consume goods and services sustainably, and every government supports in this effort, our environment will be less polluted and challenges like climate change will be met successfully.

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