India is one of the fastest growing population (1.3 billion) in the world today and it’s far behind most others when it comes to preserving the environment and the ecology. Today, our country is riddled with a number of environmental concerns which have only aggravated in the last few decades. These include air pollution, poor management of waste, growing water scarcity, falling groundwater tables, water pollution, use of plastics, preservation and quality of forests, biodiversity loss, and land/soil degradation. It is high time we tackle these issues head on, as turning a blind eye is no solution. Even as India races ahead to join the league of top economies internationally, it must stick to a growth path that is environmentally sustainable.
Neglecting the environment can create havoc and the damage done may become irreparable. India’s top environmental watchdog organization, National Green Tribunal, which has been a hub of environmental litigations since 2010, is flooded with cases relating to cleaning and rejuvenation of Ganga and Yamuna rivers, air pollution from various sources, burning of agricultural residue in fields, management of solid and plastic waste, cutting of trees and deforestation, groundwater extraction and others (Business Standard, 2018). In fact, according to the global Environment Performance Index (EPI) 2018, India is ranked at 177 with an EPI of 30.57, and it is disheartening to hear that Delhi, the national capital of the country, is being tagged as one of the most heavily polluted capital cities in the world.
Compared to the Millennium Development Goals, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) address environmental sustainability more squarely. Economic growth can no longer be attained at the cost of the environment. Understanding the importance of the SDGs’ environmental dimensions, the SDG interlinkages, and alignment with locally-adapted priority targets and indicators is critical in delivering sustainable development and ensuring a prosperous future for all. Beyond their inclusivity and universality, one of the more notable features of the SDGs and their 169 targets is that they place an equal emphasis on the economic, social, and environmental dimensions of sustainable development. They represent the logical extension of past international processes promoting integration of the environment in development plans.
In total, the SDGs reflect the commitment to integration, but with greater attention to goal setting, reporting, and financial and other means of implementation, building off lessons learned from the multilateral environmental agreements and the Millennium Development Goals. Recent SDG status reports indicate that implementation of SDGs with a stronger environmental focus shows limited progress (Asian Development Bank, 2019). Asia in general and India in particular is arguably the region with the greatest need for strengthening national responses to SDGs 12, 14, and 15. This need reflects that the India’s exceptional growth comes at steep environmental costs undermining the prospects for sustained economic growth and social development within, and even beyond, the region.
The existing environmental laws, although cover a wide spectrum of environmental concerns, they seem to be ineffective due to lack of enforcement, the lack of resources, and technical challenges faced by a large number of Indian companies, especially the Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs). Under these conditions, India has to adopt some sustainable actions that need to address the myriad issues the country faces, including environmental degradation in order to sustain its prospects for continued economic growth (Ranganath, 2015). Based on extensive literature search, study done by Chandra (2015) recommend that India undertake a new approach in the fight against environmental pollution. The key element of this new initiative is the shared and cooperative participation of the people, the government, the industrial sector, and NGO’s.
In the last two decades, the state of environment in India has stirred the conscience of the nation which is evident in various policy initiatives and programs undertaken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, as well the public concern and awareness on the issue. Various regulatory measures have come into force and their implementation has gradually become more and more stringent as was evident by the meticulous stand taken by the Ministry of Environment and Forests on several issues. For example, in the recent past the Green Tribunal suspended the environmental clearance granted to the POSCO India Private Limited for setting up a steel plant in the state of Odisha and the issue has been in the press as the controversy evolved and unfolded itself. Various other measures like revoking environmental clearances under Environment (Protection) Act 1986, granted earlier to Cement Plant, Coke Oven Plant and Captive Power Plant, in District Bhavnagar, Gujarat, in December 2011.
Indian media is considered as the fourth pillar of democracy. It acts as a bridge between the people and the government and also a very powerful tool with the ability to make and break the opinion of the people. It has the capacity to swing perceptions or evoke emotions. This is why it has gained faith of the public. Media, through its various means of newspapers, television and cinema is what rules the heart and the mind of people. Like every major technological change, the new media convergence is having profound effects on virtually all aspects of our society. In the era of cyberspace, the members of the online current generation are experiencing political, economic and cultural life through a set of communication technologies barely older than they are (Narsimha Murthy, 2014). Media is playing a vital role in shaping human minds and empowering the citizens through information. This is giving the communities the strength to fight forces causing environmental destruction.