Environment & Pollution

Pollution causes irreparable damage to the environment. Air, water, soil, noise and light are the five basic types of pollution that we face today.

With climate change and burgeoning populations, the environment of many countries across the world is under enormous strain. Overuse of resources, improper management and outright neglect have caused immense harm to our environment.

India, being the world’s second largest economy in the world, it is required to support 16% of the world’s population on 2.4% of the world’s land area. Successive governments have enacted a slew of legislations to protect the country’s environment however innovative and smart technologies are also required to tackle this issue.

Demand

India’s population is projected to grow to 1.6 billion by 2050, from the current 1.252 billion. This will cause an additional burden on the country’s resources.

Water

The demand for water from industrial, domestic and agricultural sectors will outstrip supply within the next twenty years, as the graph below demonstrates.

The per capita availability of water will go down by 36 percent in 2025 and 60 percent in 2050 , as per the Ministry of Water Resources.


Air

Air pollution due to vehicular, industrial and domestic activities has been a key concern for India over the last two decades. 456 ambient air quality monitoring stations are operating in 190 cities and towns across the country. Pollutants such as Sulphur Dioxide, Carbon Monoxide, Nitrogen Oxides and Particulate matter are measured.

However, the situation on the ground is alarming. The country’s capital New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world. Other cities in the country are not far behind. The lack of clean air affects the lung capacity of both adults and children adversely. The following graph depicts the statistics regarding the lung condition of children in the age group of 10 to 14 years in New Delhi.


Soil

Soil pollution occurs due to release of chemical contaminants such as pesticides, chlorinated hydrocarbons, heavy metals, MTBE etc. This causes excessive contamination of soil and affects the environment and the health of the population.

Solutions

Government organizations, think tanks, non-governmental bodies and environmentalists have put forth several solutions for India’s environmental crises, including:

  • Incentivizing technology upgrades in industries, vehicles and domestic use
  • Securing efficiency improvements, often aided by technology
  • Strengthening enforcement of policies and laws that are already in place; keeping laws updated to match ground realities
  • Enhancing monitoring technologies such as:
    • Air Quality Measurement and Monitoring using Sensors
    • Predictive Intelligence through Pollutant Source Appropriation
    • Air Quality Modelling and Forecasting
    • Noise and Traffic Monitoring and Modelling
    • Water Quality Measurement and Monitoring using Sensors
    • Water Quality Analysis and Forecasting using Predictive Intelligence
    • Water Emission Analysis etc

Global Best Practices

Environmental conservation is a major focus among developed countries, particularly in Western Europe. India may consider studying some global best practices from these countries, and adapting them for Indian conditions:

  • Voluntary environmental agreements that provide incentives to companies to move beyond mere compliance and support the development of best environmental practice. Establishing baseline data, targets, monitoring and reporting become key in this context.
  • Strict enforcement of mandatory regulations to remedy severe non-compliance.
  • Better information exchange, conflict resolution strategies and improved cooperation among regional authorities can greatly improve conservation.
  • Encourage “imaginative integrators” (organizations and individuals).

Enlightened leadership can bring together technologies, innovative new methods, regulatory authorities and citizens. This can perhaps be the most effective best practice that Indian lawmakers can implement.

Smart cities around the world often exchange information to make their urban environments sustainable. Smart city associations like C40 and Living-Labs global showcase the best practices of their member cities.

Source: C40.org


Metrics from some leading smart cities around the world point to the efficacy of green measures taken by their urban bodies:

Source: Urenio.org, Green Cities Performance

The recent policy fillip given by the Indian Government to smart cities is a big step forward in this regard.