Earth is the only planet of the solar system inhabited with life. The varied forms of life (biodiversity) add to the beauty of the biosphere. Environment consisting of biotic (living) as well as abiotic (non-living) components form the vital and core component of the earth. The sound environmental scenario is necessary for our personal and social well being. However, the anthropogenic intervention of man has changed the discourse of ecology in toto and altered the ecological processes of the nature and simultaneously caused serious ramifications for all the life forms, particularly man (Homo sapiens).During the last few decades, the disharmony between man and environment has caused heavy strain on the surrounding environment.
Gone are the days when the nature was in a state of equilibrium. Man has over the period of time exploited nature to such an extent that now; there is only a half-state of sorrow. The world of today is bereft of environmental order and there is a looming environmental crisis. The increasing population of the world puts an unprecedented pressure on the environmental resources and ultimately causes the scarcity of the resources generating a lot of waste which pollutes our environment day-in and day-out. The anthropogenic threats to the environment on a massive scale have radically altered our planet, Earth including the lives of many species of plants and animals. Man is part and parcel of biosphere and cannot turn a blind eye towards the contemporary ecological crisis and responsibilities with respect to the protection of nature. Environmental degradation is the most hazardous event of the current century attributed to misuse of natural environment.
The crisis has taken a major sway over both developed and developing countries. The developed countries dump effluents into the environment polluting the earth. Kashmir which is glorified for its beauty is getting victimised due to the environmental problems of the current times. The valley of Kashmir has been enormously blessed by God with the scenic beauty and really stunning green environs. But, unfortunately, the indifferent attitude of the people towards the environment has ultimately caused ramifications which bode ill to the man itself.
Over the world, climate change is the buzzword of the recent century which has assumed unimagined proportions and all the nation states of the globe are confronting this problem. The untimely downpours in summer, warm climate in winters, wind storms, hail storms in spring, etc. are the problems of the current times and attributed to changes in the environment over the period of time.
The government introduced environmental education in schools and colleges with the sole motive of making people in general and students in particular environmentally conscious. This aims at promoting values and beliefs, inculcating knowledge and understanding towards making positive contributions towards the environment.
Environmental education strives to make pupils aware regarding the environmental problems and creates a motivational current in them to tackle those problems with a responsible sense and know-how in the technical sense for the solution of the same. The concerns over the world regarding the steadily deteriorating environmental state lay emphasis for the environmental education in order to bring about a paradigm shift for prevention. Not only this, the government is spending huge financial resources to carry research on the environment in various prestigious laboratories of renowed universities and research institutions of the country. In addition to this, the National Policy on Education(NPE),1986 lays great emphasis on environmental education and holds that awareness regarding the environment should be created right from a child to an old person, spread over all sections of the society. However, the practical aspect lies with the masses. We are to environment as environment is to us
The dreadful flash floods of 2014 which caused a heavy damage to life, property and overall environment in Kashmir are grim reminders of ecological change and imbalance.The recent episodes of forest fires during this year’s winter at some places of Kashmir which destroyed various species of plants and vegetative cover was a cause of concern. The timely intervention of the forest department and youth of the respective areas stopped the further damage. In some pockets of Anantnag, the recent rains and one-night light snowfall has severely damaged the flower buds of the apple orchards and caused mayhem to the fruit growers, rendering trees devoid of any apple fruits.
Our environment is at the brink of a disaster, waiting for the feasible time to happen. The pollution of air, water and land are in a state of continuity and ensue change with the currents of time. This has paved ways for a bundle of problems. Pollution is the horrific ecological crisis of the current times. Air, water and land in the past times are said to have been in a state of purity, virgin and devoid of human disturbance. But, over the period of time the situation is caught in a reverse way. Ecological imbalance caused due to the development of transport, machines, infrastructure, paraphrenalia, etc. in general and science and technological prowess in particular may prove disastrous for humanity in the long run.
Environmental degradation in terms of deterioration in the quality of air, water and soil surfaces cause a number of biological manifestations, which partic ularly affect human health and its well being. The degradation in the quality of water gives rise to a number of diseases like bacteria, cholera, jaundice, and etc.The increasing ratio of light, small, medium and heavy vehicles is day by day polluting the quality of the environment in J&K.
Soil erosions caused as a result of frequent rains have resulted in the siltation of the water bodies, like river Jhelum(Veth) which complicate the issues in times of rainfalls and leads to the flooding of the adjoining areas (say floods of 2014).Unfortunately, the environment of JK has been affected and destroyed in the last century due to uncontrolled cutting down of the forest trees which has not only altered the patterns of weather and climate, but also increased the massive destruction of the environment.
People in Kashmir have unfortunately turned a blind eye towards the environment and ignore all ethical standards vis-a-vis environment. The water bodies have become the ultimate target for the disposal of the wastes, whether house-generated or otherwise. Every household empties the sewerage in the adjoining streams. The space of the water bodies has been gravely shrunken and the waste lies littered. Even, at some places the household waste clogs the flow of water which causes its way-out on the roads and hampers the movement of the commuters. Also, some people have erected illegal structures over the water bodies and downsized them.
The major implications of excessive deforestation are soil degradation, excessive floods, dam siltations, alterations in climatic patterns and ultimately drives towards environmental bankruptcy. The pollution of water bodies in J&K has reached a point of crisis, rendering them as cesspools due to solid wastes, wrong drainage patterns, sewerage, etc.This has not only degraded the quality of these water bodies, rendering them ineffectual for drinking and usage of water, but also caused the unwanted growth of weeds and plants in them, ultimately shrinking their space with the passage of time.Dal lake, anchar lake, etc are the glaring and live examples of our environmental problems.
The people of the state have got a prominent role in the conservation of the environment. Government of the state has also the responsibility of conserving the environment which can fully blow into a crisis if not tackled on time.Otherwise, time will not be far when there will be only pangs of guilt and sorrow and the future generations will curse us for the full fledged eco-crisis which they would face in future.
Administration can play a prominent role in generating awareness and promoting environmental consciousness among the masses with the aid of print, electronic and overall mass media. The educational institutions can be used as the instruments of environmental consciousness. Besides, the water bodies and other polluted places can be cleaned using manpower and infrastructure in close proximition.It is vital on part of the administration to create awareness among the masses for the preservation, protection and conservation of environment and mitigation afterwards.
Today, when we are living in the post-truth era, our morale is slowly ebbing to the point zero. This place is to others as it is to the human beings. Man cannot destroy the other forms of life and claim hegemony over the environment sans ethical and moral conduct without any regard for the other living organisms. After analysing the true picture of the land and people in the recent times, what comes to fore is a non-compatible attitude of man with respect to the surrounding environment. Man has destroyed environment and is paying back a heavy price. If a similar situation exists in near future, human civilization will face disasters everywhere. There is an urgent requirement for appropriate measures in order to tackle the crisis. Searching into the past through the medium of oral or written histories of Kashmir, the vivid picture is that of purity and semblance of nature.
It is our foremost duty to conserve and preserve the environment. The need of the hour is to make people sensibly aware through the environmental education programmes.
Environmentalists have time and again reiterated their view that a solution to environmental crisis will require a proper understanding of environmental awareness deeply engrossed in the system of education spanning all levels of school education. A fair amount of know-how about the burning environmental issues is vital for the protection of the healthy environment. Being part and parcel of the ecosystem, man has a crucial responsibility to protect the environment.
However,responsibility is subservient to ethical motivation which can be generated at various levels of the society. Here,again, the role of multiple players viz, government, NGO’s and everybody else is necessary. NGO’s can actively engage general public and students through programmes and activities. This will entail a plethora of research and dissemination of knowledge on various issues confronting the environment. The survival of human beings is largely dependent upon the environmental balance. No nation-state can remain in isolation, because the problem is pan-global without any consideration for limits. Thus, it requires a global solution. The development of man should be in harmony with nature. This way we can envision an environmentally sound place to dwell upon as previously eulogized by the Mughal emperor of india, Jehangir as heaven on the earth.
*Abid Ahmad Shah works in the Govt. Education Dept. J&K, views are personal.