This article was written for the CBSE Essay writing Competition, February 2007.
Special thanks to Chandrarao Ma'am for asking me to come up with this.
Pollution is defined as an adverse change in the characteristics of the environment. Simple enough to understand, but the real implication of pollution is far more complex. Pollution, as we know, is of five varieties: air, land, water, noise and thermal. Of these, air pollution has the most detrimental effect on mankind.
Air pollution has several causes: industrial gases, forest fires, volcanic eruptions, automobile emissions, aerosols etc. Of these, automobile emissions take up a large share. Every year, millions of vehicles are manufactured. Each of these in turn, produces large quantities of smoke. Furthermore, automobile maintenance centres and workshops have not grown substantially over the past decade of industrialisation. Petroleum refining however, has gone up substantially. Thus, we have a perfect recipe for doom! More and more cars use inefficient, under-maintained engines that give more smoke than energy. It’s not just the domestic consumer; governments also seem indifferent to this escalating problem. A common sight on the average Indian road is that of a large, ramshackle, government-run bus expelling huge volumes of smoke and poisonous gases, which often contain lead. Nobody seems interested in sending the bus to a maintenance centre. Even the traffic police turn a blind eye to this menace, behind their newly-bought gas masks! To add to this, the rapid economic growth has seen spending-power grow tremendously, fuelling the automobile industry. So as
Thus, we see that vehicular pollution is rising at a breath-taking pace. A natural corollary to this is human diseases and ailments. More and more children are being born with asthma. Lung cancer, bronchitis and emphysema are also showing their ugly heads a little too often. On a larger scale, global warming is taking on monstrous proportions, and the ‘ozone hole’ is growing wider. Carbon monoxide poisoning is indicating a disturbing trend. Lead poising is also following suit.
However, all these are shown a blind eye. People still depend on the government to take care of this. Although it is a prime responsibility of the government to control pollution (including noise pollution!), people – you and me – must take up the role of environmentalists. Thus, pollution control takes on a new dimension in the modern world; wherein every individual, every community takes up the great responsibility of taking care of our planet. This completely shifts the focus of conserving the environment from government policies to social need. The need of the hour is for communities to come forward and try their very best to live in harmony with the environment.
Going back to vehicular pollution, there are many things that we can do to control automobile exhausts. First and foremost, stop using your car. Or at least reduce its usage. There are ample bus and local train services. Avoid unnecessary driving. When you could simply walk down to the local market, why drive? Maintain your vehicle and take it for regular quarterly checks. Read the vehicle’s manual carefully (most of us don’t) to know the best way to keep your car fit. Ask for “premium” and unleaded gasoline, as these emit less smoke and cause less pollution. Even if you have to spend a little more, it’s still worth it. Drive wisely. Plan the shortest possible route and drive during low-rush hours. Turn off your engine at traffic signals. Minimise the use of car air-conditioning. Don’t break or accelerate suddenly. Refuel regularly. Use appropriate coolants as suggested by your manufacturer. Awareness needs to be created. Societies should maintain limits on carbon emissions at the micro-level, while the government does it at the macro-level. The “don’t-blame-me” attitude must go. This is our planet, we are responsible for it.
A major overhaul is required in the common mindset to tackle the pollution peril. Awareness is the easiest way to do this. Governments, municipalities, village-administrations and even registered societies must organise camps and meetings to create understanding.
Planet Earth has not been gifted to us. We have bequeathed it. And with it comes responsibility; the responsibility of taking care of our children, our families, our friends, our neighbours, our community, our nation, and our world. There comes but rarely an opportunity to serve the six billion people of the world. It’s time we came together to take advantage of it. Remember, every hand counts.