Management of environment is possible only through concerted efforts of all the components of society such as government and non-governmental organization, industrialists, agriculturists, voluntary social welfare organizations as well as the general public.
The final controlling authority in most of the issues related to environmental management is the government itself. For example, most of the forest areas are owned by the government, only the government can build dams, roads, railways, etc. industrial or any other related activity cannot start without the approval of the government.
Similarly, government is directly or indirectly responsible for meeting the costs of floods, droughts, epidemics, and other environmental disasters.
Therefore, the government has to apply various checks and controls so that the environment is managed properly.
However, the management of environment cannot be successful until and unless everybody takes interest in it. It is difficult for the government to directly involve the masses in general. Here the role of non-governmental agencies becomes vital. They do not have to follow the formalities, which a government department has to do.
Further, they have the additional advantage of being in direct contact with the masses. Let us took at these aspects in a little more detail.
1) Role of Government and the Problems Faced
In India the Central and state Governments own, control and develop almost all the country’s forests, dams, major irrigation system, power stations, railways ports, roads, mines and even industries. In recognition of their responsibility in preserving the environment, the Govt. of India crated the Departmental of Environment and later the Ministry of Environment and Forests in 1985.
The Ministry of Environment and forests is entrusted with planning, protection and coordination of environment and forestry programmes. The Ministry is involved in conservation and survey of flora, faun, forests and wildlife, prevention and control of pollution, afforestation, regeneration of degraded areas and protection of overall environment. To accomplish these tasks, the Ministry undertakes various measures. One of these takes is the assessment of environmental impact prior to implementing any project, which cane damaged environment.
A study is made to evaluate its possible impact on environment and steps are suggested so that least damage is caused to environment when the project is implemented. For example, if a dam has to be built on a river, assessment is made as to the type of environmental problems that the dam will cause when built.
There may be many kinds of environmental problems like saltation of the reservoir, water logging in the area, submerging of forests, displacement of the population, etc. Corrective measure have to the am can be avoided. The Ministry implements various pollution control was directly and through the Central and State Pollution Control Boards. These agencies are responsible for controlling the discharge of wastes and pollutants into the environment.
Standards have been set for such discharges and the Ministry has notified standards for discharges into air, water and soil by different industries. Now noise also considered to be a pollutant and standards have been fixed for permissible limits of noise. In addition, the Ministry undertakes eco-regeneration programmes, provides assistance to organizations implementing environmental and forestry programmes, promotes research related to environment and forestry and implements programmes concerning extension, education and training.
State Governments have also set up their own departments to look after environment. In their own jurisdiction, they implements programmes related to environmental protection, environmental awareness, pollution control, eco-regeneration, etc.
As forests play a very important role in maintaining the balance of the environment, forest protection and afforestation are given extra weightage at the Central and State levels.
Creation of reserve forests, regulation of forest harvest and raising of new forests are some of the steps that need to be adopted. In case, some forest has to be cut for developmental projects, a clause is introduced in the approval of the project. This is called compensatory forestry, which means that new forest has to be planted in an area equal to the forest area cut for the project.
Wildlife management is also a part of the environmental protection. For protecting wild species, wildlife sanctuaries, parks and zoos are created.
The government undertakes these projects at various levels but it faces many problems. The foremost problem is related to lack of cooperation.
For every activity, which has the potential of threatening the environment, government, has suggested corrective steps. For example, for control of pollution there are effluent treatment plants, air pollutions control equipment, noise reducing appliance, etc.
People engaged in activities, which can cause pollution, are supposed to adopt them. However, they do not do so readily. They consider these devices a non-productive. Therefore, they try to avoid them. Even if they are forced to erect or install these plants, they do not maintain and run them regularly just to save some money.
Government is empowered to take legal action against such offenders. However, this does not solve the problem. Court cases continue for years and no judgment is made; meanwhile the environment becomes the victim.
Similarly, illegal cutting of trees from forests, large-scale deforestation and killing of wild animals is done for small profits. People do such acts for their personal gains and it is not always possible for the government to punish them.
Similarly, several species of animals and plants have already become extinct or they are on the verge of extinction. This problem cannot be solved only through legal and administrative measures. People have to realize that they have some responsibility towards their environment.
2) Role of Non-Governmental Agencies and the Problems Faced.
Non-governmental agencies or voluntary organizations can play a very important role in environmental protection and management. These agencies are free from government control and they can take decisions on their own and can undertake activities, which they like.
They have the advantage of being in direct contact with the masses. The non-governmental or voluntary agencies are spread all over the country, even in small villages, and as such, they have no problem in reaching people. Being based among the masses, they have no language problem; they can communicate with people in their own language and dialect. Also, since they know the local customs, traditions, folk arts, etc., they can use these media to reach people.
Voluntary organizations have played a very important role in our country in creating mass awareness towards environment. They have made people aware of the environmental problems, which are caused due to neglect, and uncontrolled exploitation of natural resources. They have also helped a lot in controlling these problems.
You must have heard about ‘Chipko’ movement (movement of hugging trees). This can was given because women used to cling to trees so as to save them from being cut.
Another movement, which attracted attention all over the country and even outside, was related to silent valley in Kerala. A dam was to be but there. The dam could generate electricity which could benefit people of that region. But more than that, the dam was going to submerge large areas of rich primeval forests. It could lead large-scale damaged to the unique ecosystem of Silent Valley. People raised their voice against the Silent Valley Project. Finally, the project had to be abandoned. Similar movements at large or small scale are still going on in other parts of the country. The ‘March to Western Ghats’ is one such example. Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha organised in 1987 was an effort by voluntary organization to educate people about science including environment.
At present, a very large number of non-governmental organizations are active in our country in different areas of general concern. Environment protection has also attracted a very large number of such organizations. The ministry of environment and forests, Govt. of India has also complied a Directory of non-governmental organizations active in the filed of environmental. This Directory gives state-wise details about these organizations.
The voluntary organizations are making extensive contribution but they also face difficulties. First of all, they often do not have a adequate trained personnel to carry out various programmes. Another difficulty is that they have no easy access to authentic information and data.
Above all, these organizations have to always work under great financial constraints. They have no source of income and so for most of their activities they have to raise funds on their own. Some voluntary organisations do undertake scientific studies, information collection and programme implementation on behalf of other agencies including government departments. Through these activities, they generate some income. But this is not assured income and hence they have to face financial problems.
Also, administrative support at local level is not available to voluntary organizations; the reason is that generally their activities are against the interest of powerful people such as forest contractors, industrialists, colonisers, etc. Some of the important non-governmental organizations working in the filed of environment are:
i) Kerala Sastra Sahitya Parishad, Trichur (Kerala). This agency has contributed substantially to environmental protection in Kerala and the adjoining areas.
ii) Dasholi Gram Swarajya Mandal, Gopeswar (U.P.). This organisation started the Chipko Movement. Now, it is engaged in forest conservation, protection of soil against erosion, etc.
iii) Delhi Science Forum, New Delhi. This organisations consisting of scientists and technocrats making extensive contribution. It organised the Bharat Jan Vigyan Jatha in 1987, where environmental was given a special status.
iv) Sanjeev Seva Samiti, Udaipur (Rajasthan). It is engaged in tree plantation, wasteland developmental, soil conservation, nursery raising, spreading environmental awareness, etc.
v) The Kubda Milk Producers Cooperative Ltd., Kubda, Mehsana (Gujurat). This organisation is working in various fields including environment. It is engaged in creating awareness towards environment, taking up programmes for afforestation, soil and water conservation.