Over the years, India has taken several measures to control pollution, maintain ecological balance, increase forest area and keep its rivers clean. In this article, we take a look at some of these initiatives.
Compensatory Afforestation Bill, 2016
The enactment of the Compensatory Afforestation Act, 2016 is aimed at ending adhocism and helping the central and state governments to utilise funds in a planned manner. It will make available more than Rs. 6,000 crore per annum to the states and union territories (UTs) for conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources.
According to the government, availability of these funds will not only help the states and UTs and local communities to ensure better management of their forest resources but will also result in creation of more than 15 crore man days of direct employment. A major part of these amounts will be used to restock and improve quality of degraded forests, which constitutes more than 40% of the total forest cover of the country.
The Act provides for establishment of a permanent institutional framework to ensure utilisation of these funds in an effective and transparent manner. It provides for transfer of 90% of the accumulated amounts, which presently is of the order of `49,000 crore to the states for creation and maintenance of compensatory afforestation and execution of other activities for conservation, protection, improvement and expansion of forest and wildlife resources. The remaining 10% retained at the national level, will be used for monitoring and evaluation of activities undertaken by the states and UTs.
River and Water Conservation
The Water Resources Information System (WRIS) database developed by the Central Water Commission along with the Indian Space Research Organisation includes 15,615 identified rivers/streams in the country. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) in association with the respective state pollution control boards is monitoring the water quality of rivers in the country on a regular basis. According to a report published by CPCB in February, 2015, 302 polluted river stretches have been identified on 275 rivers based on Bio-chemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) level in rivers which is a key indicator of organic pollution.
Various rivers have been identified under the programmes of National River Conservation Plan (NRCP) and the National Ganga River Basin Authority (NGRBA) for implementation of projects on cost sharing basis between central and state governments. Currently, the NRCP (excluding Ganga and its tributaries) has covered polluted stretches of 31 rivers in 75 towns spread over 14 states involving a sanctioned cost of Rs. 4,517.82 crore. As of November 2016, an amount of Rs. 2,056.58 crore has been released to various state governments for implementation of various pollution abatement schemes and a treatment capacity of 2373 million litres per day has been created under the NRCP (excluding Ganga and its tributaries).
The government is also looking to process every litre of water that comes out of mines. For thermal power plants, the government has made it mandatory for any waste water processing unit in the 50 km radius of the plant to compulsorily use the waste water discharged from the plant and the recycled water would have to be compulsorily used by the thermal power plant so that the clean water is available to serve the people living around the plant.
The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) is the flagship scheme under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change. According to the India State of Forest Report-2013, the total forest cover in the country was 697,898 square kilometres, which is 21.23% of the total geographical area of the country. India is one of the few countries in the world, where the forest cover is on the rise. The total forest and tree cover of the country as per 2015 assessment in the state of Forest Report is 794,245 sq. km (79.42 million ha) which is 24.16% of the geographical area of the country. There is an increase of 3,775 sq. km in the forest cover of the country as compared to the previous 2013 assessment. Increase in forest and tree cover is significant in view of the fact that forests continue to meet around 30% of the total requirement of fuel wood which is the primary source of energy and 40% of fodder consuming livestock's are dependent on fodder completely or partially which comes from forests.
In order to increase the forest and tree cover and improve the quality of existing forest lands, afforestation is being taken up under various centrally sponsored schemes such as NAP, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP), National Bamboo Mission (NBM) and under Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) among others.
The National Afforestation Programme (NAP) of the Ministry of Environment and Forests is a 100% centrally sponsored scheme for afforestation and tree plantation and eco-restoration of degraded forests and adjoining areas in the country.
National Green Tribunal
The National Green Tribunal (NGT) was established on October 18, 2010 under the National Green Tribunal Act 2010. It has been set up for effective and expeditious disposal of cases relating to environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources including enforcement of any legal right relating to environment and giving relief and compensation for damages to persons and property connected with the environment. It is a specialised body equipped with the necessary expertise to handle environmental disputes involving multi-disciplinary issues.
Solar and Renewable Energy
The government has launched the LED project, where the government is replacing the lighting load of the country with LEDs. It will reduce the carbon dioxide emissions by 80 million tonnes per annum and the economically prudent project will help the consumer save around Rs. 40,000 crore in electricity bills annually. India is trying to move from its present status of being a highly thermal power generation dependent economy towards renewable energy. The solar power programme has been scaled up from a 20 GW target to 100 GW by 2022 and putting together all the renewable energy sources, including the large hydro projects, India may have 225 GW of renewable and clean energy sources by 2022.
Conversion of India's vehicles to electrical vehicles has a potential to save fossil fuels worth about $100 billion annually, which in turn would save the country precious foreign exchange, prevent the dependence on imported petroleum products and reduce the pollution in cities by 80%-90%.
National clean air programme
Air pollution has increasingly become a serious concern. The impact of air pollution is not limited to health, but it gets extended to agriculture and general well-being of human, floral and faunal population. The government has formulated National Clean Air Program (NCAP) as a long-term, time bound national level strategy to tackle the increasing air pollution problem across the country in a comprehensive manner at a total tentative cost of around `637 crore. The overall objective of the NCAP is comprehensive management plan for prevention, control and abatement of air pollution besides augmenting the air quality-monitoring network across the country.
Green Skill Development Programme (GSDP)
The Green Skill Development Programme (GSDP) developed by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF & CC) under the ENVIS Scheme is a new initiative to skill youth in environment, forest and wildlife sectors and enabling them to be employed or be self-employed. The scope of the programme is being extended to an all India level covering other green skills, which include areas such as Pollution Monitoring (Air/ Water/ Noise/ Soil), ETP Operation, Waste Management, Forest Management, Water Budgeting & Auditing and Conservation of River Dolphins among many more.