Friday, June 2, 2023

Change makers

The world is moving fast towards urbanization. Villages are becoming towns and towns are turning into cities. India has one of the highest rates of urbanization in the world. In 2018, 34% of the Indian population lived in urban regions. It is estimated that by 2028 more than 41% of the population will be living in urban areas. Large scale, unplanned urbanization is causing social and economic problems. It is resulting in environmental degradation as well. Due to unplanned urbanization, we see huge traffic jams, accumulation of municipal solid waste, choking of drainage systems, and many such problems. We are facing many issues related to sustainability and the environment, such as air pollution and water pollution. India’s capital city, New Delhi, has become a hotbed for air pollution since the last 10 to 15 years. Studies done in the recent past show that air pollution is responsible for 12.5% of all deaths in India. In addition to this, water pollution is also destroying our health and ecosystems. Around 86% of the water bodies in India are considered ‘critically polluted,’ and their water is unsafe for drinking or any other domestic purposes. After air and water pollution, unscientific waste management is also a big challenge. This is also one of the direct sources of contamination of water in India. It is destroying our soil health as well. The accumulation of solid waste, especially of plastic and other non-biodegradable waste is a more challenging task for mountainous areas. With massive urbanization, India is facing a huge waste management challenge. Around 400 million people live in 8,000 towns and cities. These urban areas generate large amount of municipal solid waste every day. Not all of this waste is collected and very less (less than 10%) waste is treated and rest is dumped in landfill sites. Solid Waste Management (SWM) is one among the basic services provided by municipal bodies across the country. However, hardly any municipal body is working as per the guidelines of MSW Rules 2016. Today India is getting buried under mounds of garbage. At a time when we are facing so many serious challenges across the country vis-à-vis waste management, air, and water pollution, it is the duty of governments, NGOs and educational institutions to create awareness about sustainable living through sustainability education. Experts say that by 2050, the world’s population may reach 10 billion. When there is such a huge population, we will need more housing, more land and more food. This will lead to more waste generation and that will cause more environmental disasters. In a world which will be struggling for resources in the future, and global biodiversity will be facing huge challenges, isn’t there a need for creating greater awareness on sustainable living, especially among school students who will be adults in the coming decades? Coming back closer home, we are aware that Nagaland has a rich biodiversity. We have beautiful mountains and rivers. All of them are under severe threat as unsustainable living standards are destroying our beautiful state. Not even 10% of municipal waste is being treated. We generate huge waste every day by going for reckless shopping regularly. Have we ever thought, where will this waste go? Do our children know that we are going to face many disasters in the future if we don’t wake up now? That is why our students have to be sensitized by schools. School authorities need to focus on sustainability education. Our students need to move around the city, towns, and villages and see the condition of our water bodies. We need to ensure that all our student start composting kitchen waste in their houses. This can be made a part of the school curriculum and assessed in an appropriate manner. School authorities need to incentivize these kinds of activities by felicitating students who adopt sustainable living practices. We not only need to create awareness but have to also create role models in every school. They can then act as change makers in our society to protect our ecology and biodiversity.