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
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.
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
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).]