Published: HT Jaipur Live, April 23, 2005
By George Cheriyan
Environmentalists use it as an occasion to sum up current environmental problems of the planet: the pollution of air, water, and soils; the destruction of habitats; the decimation of hundreds of thousands of plant and animal species; and the depletion of non-renewable resources. The emphasis is on solutions that will slow and possibly reverse the negative effects of human activities. Such solutions include recycling of manufactured materials, fuel and energy conservation, banning the use of harmful chemicals, halting the destruction of major habitats such as rain forests, and protecting endangered species.
Status of our children
Children in developing countries are the worst victims of environmental hazards. India’s high population density puts massive pressure on the country’s environment. Millions of Indian children are deprived of their right to survival, healthy environment and safe drinking water. The most serious environmental health problems in the country are related to water. Rivers and water reservoirs are polluted, and groundwater levels are falling several meters every year.
About 77 million children do not use save drinking water. Around 25 to 30 million children in India spend their lives on the streets in a poisonous environment. Being child labourers, they work in a polluted environment and are exposed to environmental hazards. About 20 million children are in such hazardous condition. They suffer from ill health and become victims of infectious diseases.
Girl child is the worst victim as she is often neglected and is discriminated against because of the preference for a boy child. The Supreme Court had earlier held that children’s right to dignified existence must be protected. The court also said that the government should work out a welfare scheme for the children working in pathetic conditions in hazardous industries.
Some of the figures related to the status of the children in the state of Rajasthan is alarming. Children work in hazardous conditions.
Though 88% of the total habitants in the State are having access to drinking water, more than 25% are exposed to high levels of fluoride, nitrates and salinity in drinking water. The major victims being children.
Sanitation coverage in the State is 30.6%, but in rural areas it is only 10.6%. Only 5% of primary schools in Rajasthan are having drinking water and sanitation facilities.
Drought is a frequent phenomenon in the State with adverse implications for children’s survival and growth.
Time to Act
The efforts to protect the environment or to conserve natural resources looks simple, but changing attitudes of one billion of people is not going to happen overnight. The best way to bring about a change in the environmental attitude of the society is through children. They have no vested interest. They are our future. Besides, they hold the single most important influence in any family. This will eventually bring about changes on a larger scale, creating a more socially just and ecologically sustainable society.
Earth Day has become an annual event in many communities around the world. It is a great opportunity to bring people together for the common good and future. Often it launches projects that bring ongoing benefits to the community, and it helps expand and strengthen networks of environmental groups.
Earth Day is a time to celebrate, to unite and to anticipate. To anticipate a future where we can protect the environment and affirm our nation’s economic competitiveness. It is a time to act. And by working together, we can find the solutions and effect the changes needed to protect our planet.