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Ideas to convert Clean India Campaign into Mission Achieved



Last updated 06 Jul 2016 01:02 IST

  Swachh Bharat, Clean India, Mahatma Gandhi

As the most sacred river Ganga is highly polluted and the situation is same with all the rivers and wetlands of India, as most of our urban areas are very dirty with inadequate facilities for waste management, New Delhi being rated as the most polluted city, and the wastes and effluents of our urban areas causing a lot of diseases and premature demise of millions of our people, "Swachh Bharat" should not be counted as another campaign or a programme as usually, but it is a necessity for India's all-round growth.


Mahatma Gandhi was fully justified when he said, “sanitation is more important than independence.”  We have never cared to give enough importance to the advice of the father of our nation. As a result, we have not been able to achieve much in the direction of “Swachh Bharat,” the clean India. Today, nearly 30 to 40% of our people do not get clean drinking water throughout the year. Most of the rural households have no access to toilets as a result they defecate in open field causing a lot of pollution to our water, land and air. The most sacred river Ganga is highly polluted, and the situation is same with all the rivers and wetlands of our country. Most of our urban areas are very dirty with inadequate facilities for waste management. New Delhi, the capital of our country is the most polluted city. The wastes and effluents of our urban areas are causing a lot of diseases and premature demise of millions of our people.

“Swachh Bharat” is a prerequisite for socio economic development of people. Since Independence, through many developmental programmes, the living standard of the people in India has improved considerably compared to pre-independence era. However, the developments are not in harmony with the environment and conservation of resources. Most of the developmental programmes are one sided and have many times missed to take care of the eco-friendly aspects of better living. For example, the government has provided water for drinking and other domestic purposes without taking necessary measures to avoid its contamination with the wastes. Modern cities have been developed with least concern about proper management of the solid wastes and effluents generated due to various human activities and mining of minerals are being done in an unscientific manner without protecting valuable resources like water, forest and soil quality in the region. Further, mushroom growth of industries takes place without caring for proper disposal or treatment of their solid wastes and effluents. As a result of such half hazard developmental activities, our land, water and air are getting polluted and inflicting a lot of miseries to people. The ill-effects of such environment unfriendly developments are surpassing the benefits we except to derive from these. Our goal to ensure better living standard for our people remains mostly unfulfilled.


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The vast amount of solid wastes and effluents which are generated particularly due to industrialization and urbanization are polluting our land, air and water bodies extensively causing a lot of miseries and fatal diseases.

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India, compared to many other developed countries in the world, possesses a lot of valuable natural resources including water, soil, minerals, forest and marine wealth as well as the man power. But, the developmental projects implemented in the country are not bringing improvement in the life style of our people whereas, at the same time, our resources are being harnessed unscientifically. The vast amount of solid wastes and effluents which are generated particularly due to industrialization and urbanization are polluting our land, air and water bodies extensively causing a lot of miseries and fatal diseases.

In this modern world, science and technology have advanced considerably to make ways and means for the human beings to utilize the natural resources in order to lead an eco-friendly life style. While developed countries like Japan, Canada, USA, Germany etc. are able to lead healthier life style, India even with rich natural resources is not able to ensure such a comfortable living. In key areas like utilization of water for drinking and other domestic purposes, managing the industrial, agricultural and domestic wastes including human excreta, harnessing the renewable energy like solar, wind, geothermal, bio-energy etc. through application of environment friendly technology, the people of India can no doubt lead a healthy, long and happy life. In this task, science and technology which have been developed considerably in recent years, have a major role to play.

In order to build a “Swachh Bharat,” the role of chemical science and technology is very important. By utilizing our knowledge in this area, we can maintain our rivers and other water bodies as well as the aquifers free from pollutants and provide our people safe drinking water throughout the year. The major portion of the health budget of our country is spent on treating water borne diseases mainly diarrhoea, cholera etc. According to world health organization, failure to invest in water and sanitation costs about 84 billion US dollars per year to the developing world through loss of lives, low productivity of sick workers, increased healthcare cost and children remaining absent from schools etc.

While “Swachh Bharat” is a necessity for all-round development of the country, following programmes may play important role in achieving success in the mission within a stipulated time frame.

1. Integrated water resource management and wetland development

Once a country with affluence, India is now considered a water stressed country and the situation has become worse in recent years. The annual per capita availability of water in India was 6008 cu.m when the country achieved independence in 1947 and it came down drastically in the next 50 years to about 2260 cu.m in 1997 and now it is only 1800 cu.m. If no committed efforts are made for harvesting rain water, developing the wetlands, preventing water pollution and managing the water resource scientifically, it is estimated that the per capita water availability will fall to as low as 750 cu.m by the next 50 years. Unless appropriate measures are taken to conserve and increase fresh water resources, the country will head towards a disastrous situation unable to quench the thirst of the nation.

In order to have our effective water management, the wetlands have to be conserved and new ones be created and rain water harvested. Businesses like mining and industries should be encouraged to harvest rain water and utilise this to meet their own requirements during off-season. Drinking water either from rivers or aquifers has to be analysed time to time before streaming to people for drinking and other domestic use. The ground and surface water contaminated with toxic heavy metals, fluoride etc. should be properly treated.

2. Waste Management

The organic and other wastes generated in rural and urban India should not be allowed to pollute our rivers and other water bodies as well as the land mass and the air surrounding us. These wastes should be processed to recover values while keeping our environment clean. The organic wastes including the human excreta should be processed locally at different sites or centrally at a suitable site to produce biogas and organic manure through anaerobic digestion. The technology for this process is well developed and can be implemented in small, medium and large scales.

The biogas produced in the process can be used for cooking food and the manure can be applied in the agricultural fields instead of chemical fertilizers which are costly and harmful to the environment. The wastes, other than the organic ones like paper, metal scraps, plastics, glasses etc. (about 20 – 30% of urban wastes), can also be collected locally or centrally and segregated for effective recycling in their respective industries. The urban sewage water must be treated and streamed for irrigation, gardening, de-dusting the road, washing vehicles etc.

In rural India, domestic and agricultural wastes are mostly organic. These wastes similarly can be subjected to simple composting by burying in shallow pits or using anaerobic bio-digestion method to produce biogas in addition to organic manure.

In rural India, the latrines with above facility can become eco-friendly and economical while preventing the human excreta from polluting the water, land and air and producing valuable organic manure and biogas.

3. Smokeless Ecological Cooking Facility

Rural women and their children very often suffer from various pulmonary diseases due to long exposures to smoke produced from fuel wood chulla (traditional Indian cooking stove) in a less ventilated kitchen. They can be better protected if the cooking is done by using solar cooker, biogas or smokeless chulla with a chimney. For this, however, rural women have to be educated and required amenities have to be provided by the government at a subsidised rate.

4. Processing of Industrial Solid Wastes and effluents

Fast growing mineral based and other industries have become a concern because of the pollutants they produce to contaminate the water, land and air. These industries should be motivated to use environment friendly technologies for treating their wastes and effluents and also assisting people in the neighbouring areas to keep the environment clean. While utilising their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) funds for ensuring clean environment and educate people to lead a clean life, the industrial houses have to set plants to recover values from the wastes and recycle the water after treatment.

5. Awareness Programmes for clean living

People living in rural or urban areas should be educated through various programmes to contribute and cooperate in achieving the goal of “Swachh Bharat.” School and college students should also be involved in programmes under this mission. Community health survey, development of water bodies and keeping these clean for portable purposes, construction of eco-friendly latrines with facilities for composting the excreta, anaerobic digestion of organic wastes etc., use of biogas, solar and wind energy should be promoted by the government, industries and other commercial enterprises in rural and urban areas to mobilise people to adopt these measures for clean living.

Unless the government, corporate businesses and the community come together to implement all these programmes simultaneously with an integrated approach, the objective of achieving a “Swachh Bharat” may continue to remain a mission un-achieved.

[Author is a Padmashree awardee and former Director General, Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR), India. At present, he is the Chairman of Institute of Advance Technology & Environmental Studies (IATES) and President, Natural Resources & Development Foundation (NRDF).]

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