Special Content

2-8 June, 2018

Lest We Should Die Together Some Day

Shreeprakash Sharma

The green revolution brought about a much-needed miraculous transformation in the production of food grains in the Indian economy during 1960s and consequently our granaries filled up sufficiently to the extent of fulfilling the food grains requirement of approximately 1.35 billion population of the country. This revolution also helped the central government maintain fairly record level of buffer stock for the running of Public Distribution System (PDS) and various other welfare schemes under the food for work programmes as well as meet the food shortage of the country.
As per the data of the Ministry of Agriculture, green revolution resulted in the record production of food grains to the extent of as much as that of 131 million tonnes in 1978 -79 to  about 276 million tonnes during 2016-2017 and which has currently touched a record high of 278 million tonnes. The per acre yield unbelievably increased by between 75 to 180 per cent during that period. They say that during the same period the crop area under High Yielding Varieties (HYV) and disease-resistant-varieties of wheat and rice substantially increased never witnessed earlier. This was the beginning of the unprecedented achievement of food security and strengthening of sustainable livelihood for the countrymen, especially for the low-strata segments of the society.
Green revolution also helped us efface the ignominious stigma of PL 480 of the USA (The Public Law 480), also called as Food for Peace Programme, an article in the US Constitution signed on July 10, 1954 by the then President Dwight D. Eisenhower. As per the provision of PL 480, India imported wheat at the subsidised rate from the USA during the pre-green revolution period.
But all the benefits and blessings of green revolution cease only here. It has its own flip side which presents before us the ugliest environmental and climatic scenario that does not augur well for the developing nation like ours. The most alarming is the bitter fact that the very magic of exponential increment in the production of food grains which rendered charisma during the green revolution has been on a gradual wane.
The latest surveys and various statistics, conducted and collected by the social scientists and key NGOs, have now established that farmers of the states which witnessed the green revolution’s bumper successes are now compelled to spend many times more capital and other agricultural inputs in farming to get the same level of produce than what they used to invest in the nascent years of the green revolution of 1960s.
The scientists across the nations in the world say that excessive use of chemical fertilizers, insecticides, pesticides and a host of other chemicals, made compulsory due to the green revolution - know how, has started telling on the fertility power of the soil. Over time, the salinity and infertility of land due to those chemicals has gradually been on the rise. So the miracles of the so-called genetically-improved magic seeds and the chemical fertilizers are over and that is why the scientists are professing for the urgent need of the start of another edition of the green revolution.
But amidst a host of epoch-making achievements over the globe what we simply forget is raising this basic question - Will the earth sustain the fast growing burden of the population, rising over 1.11 per cent annually, and its ever-increasing needs?
Another question we urgently need to answer is - to what extent we are ready to brave the various environmental challenges such as decline in fertility power of soil, soil erosion, fast falling forest areas on the earth, rapidly deepening underground water, air pollution, depletion of Ozone layer, global warming and various others?
There is no gainsaying the fact that our environmental degradation has brought about many abrupt, adverse and unwanted changes, the repercussions of which are critically affecting the lives of both the flora and fauna on the planet earth. Due to erratic monsoon rainfall and deforestation, drought now has turned out to be most common natural global phenomenon. Floods have been inundating most uncommon cities and towns across the world, especially at the most unpredictable time. Abrupt climatic changes have aggravated the situation even more and consequently the global population is stuck in a lot of socio-economic crises never seen before.
Water crisis, which the entire world has presently fallen vulnerable to, has been proving to be the Achilles’ heel of the environmental sustainability in world. Who can deny that water is the most important ingredient which is inevitably essential for the sustenance of the flora and fauna on the earth? But unfortunately with the fast increase in the global population, which has increased more than double over the period of past seven decades, the availability of water, the most fundamental need of the mankind next only to air, has turned out to be one of the biggest crises of the modern world. The level of water in wells, ponds and tube wells is fast plummeting low and low with each passing year and this has been posing unbearable hardships to the population across the nations.
The earth planet’s 71 percent of surface is covered with water which sums up more than two-thirds of the area of the earth but only 3 percent of the entire global water is fresh drinking water that may be used by the people across the world for various daily uses. It is because of the fact that 96.5 percent of the Earth’s water is contained by the oceans. The worrying fact reveals that as much as two-thirds of the total of 3 per cent of fresh water which we are left with get trapped in glaciers. This leads us to the availability of as less as 1 per cent of fresh water for all the routine human activities across the countries and keeping this constraint in view we can easily visualize the seriousness of the water crisis over the globe.
Besides, environmental pollution has wrought havoc upon the ecological balance and natural habitat of the human beings. Air pollution looms horrible as one of the imminent dangers on the humanity. The World Health Organization’s latest report says that out of nine deaths, at least one death is caused due to presence of carcinogens and other poisons in atmosphere. Reports also reveal that more than 3.5 million people die across the world every year due to air pollution. Out of this half of the people die only in China due to heavy smog.
Air pollution is engulfing many other cities and towns on a large scale and very rapidly, especially in the post-reformed era of industrialization and modernization. According to the latest survey on air pollution by the World Health Organization (WHO), a very alarming revelation has come out. The report says that there are 20 worst polluted cities in the world which are just like death traps because the air of these cities contains dangerous level of PM 2.5. It is also to be noted here that out of these 20 global most polluted cities across the world 14 worst are only in India. The report has one more alarm for us - India has more polluted cities vis-a-vis China has.
Wetland areas, metaphorically called as the nurseries of development of human civilization and seed-bed of diversity of flora and fauna on the earth, are very fast shrinking. Destruction of these potentially rich areas of the world is a matter of worry because they boost the production of rice over the globe. The importance of wetland can easily be gauged by the fact that it works as a shield for the people against storms, droughts, floods and other natural calamities.
Can you believe that global deforestation has been taking place alarmingly at the faster rate of nearly 13 million hectares per year, and this is equal to the loss of 200 sq km of forest per day? With 40 million square kilometre of the forest which comes to around 30 percent of the earth’s area, we have only 0.62 hectare of forest available per capita that does not bode well for the sustenance of the countries.
The endangered species of flora and fauna are worryingly dwindling to their lower record. The American black beer is conspicuously threatened with extinction along with 22000 species of other varieties. On an average 70 species go to extinction globally every day. Air pollution, sound pollution, water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation, food poisoning and plethora of other ecological problems are proving out to be as the most dangerous monsters which are ready to swallow humanity and devour other creatures on the earth. The agriculture production worldwide has been plummeting to a new low each year due to severe soil erosion. As per a UN estimate, approximately 12 million hectares of cultivable land has been getting degraded every year which is threatening the survival of mankind on earth.
Global warming is another environmental issue which has been haunting the earth planet as another one of the biggest threats. As per an estimate the global temperature has increased by more than 0.80 C since the latter half of the nineteenth century and consequently adverse trends in the rainfall, droughts and snow patterns are being witnessed across the world. If we fail to check this fast rate of  environmental degradation very immediately, it is expected that by 2100 AD average global temperature is likely to rise by 30 to 60. The main reason of global warming is the fast depletion of Ozone layer. This is an ominous trend which we must stay beware of.
The air - pollution-related deaths have also been on the rise in the country. The Global Burden of Diseases says that air pollution is the fifth leading cause of death in India, with nearly 6, 50, 000 premature deaths every year. Respiratory and cardiovascular diseases make the topmost reasons for the air-pollution-induced premature deaths in majority of the countries in the world.
The scarcity of fossil fuels is another danger zone which calls for urgent attention. 
The environmental crisis, in fact, is the consciousness crisis. It is, also an awareness crisis and, most importantly, it is the crisis of our inability of visualizing problems and threats which are knocking so ostensibly at our doors. By 2050 the world population is likely to rise to 9 billion and by that time mankind will be facing the biggest cause of premature death and as per a survey about 3.6 million people will be killed every year due to shortage of various essential facilities and the environmental crises. By that time the demand for water is expected to rise more than 50 percent and due to this hike another 40 percent of the global population would have to live a life without the accessibility of water- the very essence of life.
Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of Nation, had once said, “There is enough on Earth for everybody’s need, but not enough for everybody’s greed.” The insight in what Gandhiji said calls for serious self-introspection and the upkeep of which has turned out to be a very big challenge for the sustainability of the environment as well as for the survival of the mankind. 
First, we need to awake the people from the deep slumber of indifference to the wastage of non-renewable and non-replenishable sources of natural resources. Air which we breathe in and which makes the most vital element of survival of all the creatures on the earth must be given the most serious thought. Air pollution is a matter of great concern which demands our urgent attention. Smog is the latest threat and we urgently need to take initiatives to rectify the situation. A time-bound check on the rapid industrialization and emission of carbon billowing from the chimneys of the factories is essential to turn the air purer to breathe in. It will also lead to bringing down the level of global warming, a danger which so badly affects the climatic condition of the world.
Energy is considered as the engine of development of a nation. Fossil fuels are not only the most important form of energy but also the assets of heritage and legacy. We need to minimise their use and, most importantly, their wastage.
Arable land is shrinking and, no doubt, there is significant downfall in its quality. The adoption of organic farming and its spread as a potential alternative to the farming making excessive use of various chemicals initiated during 1960s, is set to bring about considerable improvement in the fast declining fertility power of the soil. This is most urgent keeping in view ever-soaring global population and the ever-increasing demand for the food grains.
No doubt, the problems are galore but the solution lies only in our mentality, in our insight and, most importantly, in our soul-searching. We need to awake to our needs and the resources available to satisfy them. We are morally-bound to save our planet and protect the environment if we cherish to see the world alive and intact.
Ban Ki-moon, the famous South Korean diplomat and former Secretary General of the United Nations Organization, reflected the world scenario and significance of the environmental health in his following words, “Saving our planet, lifting people out of poverty, advancing economic growth...these are one and the same fight. We must connect the dots between climate change, water scarcity, energy shortages, global health, food security and women’s empowerment. Solutions to one problem must be solutions for all.”
The rapid depletion of natural resources is precariously jeopardizing the lives of flora and fauna on the earth. Keeping in mind the rate at which the various natural resources are being fast harnessed, the world is abuzz with rumours and terrified with the looming fear that the day is not far off when the coming generations would have to reach out to the nearest zoos to see what natural resources their predecessors had been blessed with and which they themselves got deprived of.
Lester R. Brown, the famous US environmental analyst had once said, “We have not inherited this earth from our forefathers; we have borrowed it from our children.” Hidden in this quotation are the vital reflections which must make us to think seriously over how to protect environment to boost the longevity of the mankind and the sustenance of bio-diversity on the earth.
It is the time to take action, chalk out the plans seriously, that too, immediately and impeccably- otherwise we would not live for tomorrow to ponder and repent over what we lost and why. Therefore it is high time that we accord priority to check environmental degradation and control the damage done to our eco-system so that we ensure a better life for our future generations otherwise, we would be left with no option in the years to come but to die together some day.
The author is Principal, Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya, Dinthar Veng, Mamit, P.O - Mamit, District-Mamit (Mizoram)-796441 E-mail ID- spsharma.rishu@gmail.com