It is the transmission of information and communication practices related to the environment. It is essential for us to understand not only the functioning of the environment but also our relationship with the natural world. The purpose of environmental communication is to educate people about various environmental issues and subsequently find their solutions.
Public awareness refers to the general understanding and acknowledgment of various societal and environmental issues (among others) at the public level.
Need for Public Awareness
- Developing Population– Each year there is an addition of at least 17 million individuals. It puts considerable pressure on the earth’s natural resources and reduces the gains of development. Hence, one of the most crucial issues before us is to limit population growth. The result of a controlled population will be developed and similarly, the development would lead to a decrease in population growth rates.
- Poverty– India has frequently been depicted as a rich land with poor people. It is said that poverty and ecological degradation are inseparable. A vast majority of people are directly dependent on our country’s natural resources for their basic needs of food, fuel, shelter, and fodder.
- Environment degradation– As mentioned above, poverty and environmental degradation are two sides of the same coin. The poor who depend upon the resources of their immediate surroundings has been adversely affected by degradation. Out of the vast land that we have only a small portion can prove to be productive. The remaining area is classified as forest land, of which over half is damaged to various degrees. Water and wind erosion causes further degradation and, the land reserved as pastures is primarily overgrazed.
- Agricultural Growth- In recent years, we have witnessed new and modern agricultural methods, with most of the work being done by machines in developed areas. It is essential to introduce the methods to sustain and increase agricultural growth without damaging the environment. High-yielding varieties have caused soil salinity and damage to the physical structure of the soil.
- Falling Groundwater levels- Increase in population size, development, and dwindling resources have all led to a decrease in the level of groundwater. Factors like community wastes, industrial effluents, chemical fertilizers, and pesticides have polluted our surface water and subsequently affected the quality of the groundwater. It is fundamental to restore the water quality of our rivers and other water bodies and to resort to eco-friendly practices. Reasonable techniques for the protection of water, arrangement of safe drinking water, and keeping water bodies clean ought to be created.
- Development and Forests- Forests serve catchments for the streams. Various dams have been built to provide for the growing water demand. These have led to submerged forests; displaced local committees harmed flora and flora. The dams on the rivers- Narmada, Bhagirathi, and somewhere else have become topics of political and logical discussion and numerous anti-dam protests have occurred. Forests in India have been shrinking for several centuries owing to the pressures of agriculture and other uses. Vast areas that were once green, stand today as wastelands. The modern knowledge and skills of the forest department should be integrated with the traditional knowledge and experience of the local communities.
- Urbanization- Urbanization, and industrialization have brought forth an incredible number of ecological issues. More than 30% of metropolitan Indians live in slums. Just 21 Indian towns have partial or full sewage and treatment offices. Henceforth, coping with rapid urbanization is a significant challenge.
- Air and Water Pollution- Industries are still using outdated systems of waste disposal. They dump untreated wastes into water bodies. An extraordinary number of urban cities and modern areas have been recognized as terrible as far as air and water contamination are concerned. Acts are authorized in the nation; however, their execution isn’t easy because their implementation needs great resources, technical expertise, political and social will. Individuals are to be made aware of these standards. Their help is indispensable to enforce these guidelines.
CASE STUDY- CNG VEHICLES IN DELHI
The government of Delhi in the early 2000s proposed the mandate that all commercial vehicles were to be converted from petrol/diesel driven to CNG driven. This led to a considerable decline in the pollution levels but it had its limitations, all of which will be discussed in this section. This case study aims to familiarize you with the air quality of Delhi through the years, the major pollutants, measures taken by the government to curb pollution (specifically shift to CNG vehicles), and the perks and limitations of the same.
Each one of us is familiar with the words- urbanization, development, and growth. When we think of these words a few common things come to our mind, buildings, industries, technology, and so on. Countries all over the world are going through rapid urbanization. The population size is expanding each year. One of the numerous repercussions of the increased economic activity that accompanies urbanization, particularly increased vehicle use, electricity generation, and industrial production is the deterioration of air quality. The concentration of air pollutants like sulfur dioxide (SO2), particulates (PM10 and PM2.5), ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and other air toxins, are rising in many cities. Keeping this in mind, the Delhi government enforced the CNG plan. The period of 1990s and early 2000s witnessed various other breakthroughs. For instance, in 1995, all new passenger vehicles were required to be equipped with converters to reduce emissions. Similarly, in 2002 the metro was introduced in Delhi. Many believe that these various initiatives, especially the conversion to CNG, have improved Delhi’s air quality significantly.
According to the study on the pollution prepared by the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MOEF), Government of India, the air quality data of Delhi shows very high values of suspended particles which have been beyond the sanctioned limits from the last several years persistently. At all monitoring stations recorded by the Central Pollution control board (CPCB),
- The concentrations of SO2 are high but within the accepted limits
- NOX and CO are continually much higher than acceptable limits. They remain quite high near traffic intersections during peak traffic hours.
- SPM (suspended particulate matter) usually exceeds the permissible limits due to mainly natural dust and partly due to emissions from power plants and other industries.
Thus, it can be noticed that air pollution in the city is largely due to vehicles.
The implementation of the CNG policy was not easy. The data from various other countries, which had already made the transition to CNG, was reviewed, and then the decision was made.
The reason why CNG was preferred because-
- It emits much fewer greenhouse gases.
- Poses the least public health risk.
- Lesser running and maintenance cost
- Reduces the demand for conventional fuels
- Reduction in engine noise levels significantly
- Reduction in air toxic emission impact by 90%.
As opposed to this, a section of people criticized the policy on the basis that
- Conversion of the vehicle to the CNG model is costly.
- The additional weight of CNG cylinders is cumbersome.
However, it is quite clear that the perks outweigh the limitations, so the policy came into existence.
After the implementation, Delhi saw declines in CO and SO2 concentrations. However, an increase in NO2 levels during this period is attributed to this policy only. It can be observed that there is no statistical link between the shift parameter and suspended particulate matter (SPM), PM10, and NO2 levels and a negative and significant link between the shift parameter and levels of CO, and it is concluded that the CNG program has helped only to reduce CO concentrations and has had no impact on the levels of other pollutants in this case. As far as PM2.5 levels are concerned, then we can say the policy has been beneficial because of a negative and significant coefficient between bus frequency and PM2.5 levels. While the conversion of buses from diesel to CNG has helped decrease PM10, CO, and SO2, not many gains are being realized from the conversion of three-wheelers from petrol to CNG, possibly due to poor technology.
In conclusion, the shift from petrol and diesel to CNG has been effective in reducing the levels of pollutants in the air.