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Small Steps, Big Impact: On World Environment Day

  • 05 Jun 2024

As we celebrate World Environment Day on June 5th, it is an opportune moment to reflect on the impact our individual actions can have on the planet we call home. The theme for this year's observance, "Solutions to Plastic Pollution," serves as a poignant reminder of the pressing need to address the mounting plastic waste crisis that threatens the delicate balance of our ecosystems.

The Indian Context

Plastic Waste Generation:

  • According to a recent study by the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India generated around 3.5 million metric tons of plastic waste in 2019-20, with a per capita generation rate of 3.5 kg per year.
  • The study also revealed that only about 60% of the plastic waste generated in India is processed or recycled, while the remaining ends up in landfills or the environment.

Plastic Waste Management Rules and Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):

  • The Plastic Waste Management Amendment Rules, 2022, further strengthened the implementation of EPR for plastic packaging waste.
  • Under the new rules, producers, importers, and brand owners are mandated to collect and manage a specific percentage of plastic waste generated from their products.
  • The targets for EPR implementation have been set at 70% for rigid plastic packaging and 50% for flexible plastic packaging by 2024.

Initiatives by the Indian Government:

  • In addition to the Plastic Waste Management Rules, the Indian government has launched the "Swachh Bharat Abhiyan" (Clean India Mission) in 2014, which aims to achieve a clean and litter-free India by promoting waste management practices and public participation.
  • The government has also announced the phase-out of single-use plastics by 2022, starting with the banning of specific items like plastic straws, cutlery, and bags.
  • The "Ganga Rejuvenation" program, launched in 2015, aims to restore the health of the Ganga River by addressing pollution and promoting sustainable practices along its banks.

Citizen Participation and Awareness:

  • Several Non-governmental Organisations (NGOs) and citizen-led initiatives, such as the "Plastic Upvaas" campaign in Delhi and the "Shuddhi Movement" in Mumbai, have been instrumental in raising awareness about plastic pollution and promoting sustainable alternatives.
  • Educational institutions and corporate organisations have also taken steps to reduce their plastic footprint by implementing waste segregation, recycling, and adopting eco-friendly alternatives.

Small Steps, Big Impact

Small steps taken by individuals may seem insignificant, but when multiplied by millions of people, they have the power to create a monumental impact on the environment. It is the collective action of individuals that can drive systemic change and pave the way for a more sustainable future.

Every conscious decision we make, from reducing single-use plastics to embracing renewable energy sources, contributes to the larger goal of environmental preservation. By carrying reusable bags, conserving water, and minimising food waste, we not only reduce our carbon footprint but also inspire others around us to adopt similar practices.

The ripple effect of these small actions is far-reaching. When individuals make sustainable choices, businesses and industries are compelled to adapt their practices to meet the growing demand for eco-friendly products and services. Governments, in turn, are prompted to implement policies and regulations that promote environmental responsibility and incentivise sustainable practices.

Every small step we take today, whether it's reducing energy consumption, supporting local and organic agriculture, or participating in community clean-up efforts, contributes to a larger movement towards a healthier and more resilient planet. Here is a detailed insight on how India is taking initiative:

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle:

  • India has implemented a nationwide ban on single-use plastics, including plastic bags, cups, plates, and straws, to reduce plastic waste.
  • Initiatives like "Plastic Lao, Muft Jaao" in Delhi encourage people to exchange plastic waste for free metro rides, promoting recycling.
  • Startups like Green Delight and Bamboo India are promoting the use of sustainable alternatives to single-use plastics, such as bamboo products.

Mindful Consumption:

  • Indian brands like Fabindia, Anokhi, and Okhai promote sustainable fashion by using eco-friendly materials and supporting traditional artisans.
  • Companies like Saaze and Bamboo India offer eco-friendly packaging solutions made from bamboo and other sustainable materials.
  • The Indian government has introduced initiatives like the Eco-Mark and GreenPro certification to encourage sustainable manufacturing practices.

Embrace Renewable Energy:

  • India has set an ambitious target of achieving 175 GW of renewable energy capacity by 2022, including solar, wind, and biofuel. In 2023, Government of India has launched Production Linked Incentive (PLI) scheme for renewable energy. An amount of Rs 1500 crore has been funneled towards 65 GW capacity renewable energy generation.
  • The International Solar Alliance, an initiative launched by India and France, aims to promote the use of solar energy globally.
  • Initiatives like the Jawaharlal Nehru National Solar Mission and the National Wind Mission are driving the growth of renewable energy sources in India.

Sustainable Transportation:

  • Major cities like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore have extensive metro and public bus systems to promote eco-friendly transportation.
  • The Indian government has introduced policies to encourage the adoption of electric vehicles, including subsidies and tax incentives.
  • Initiatives like the "Cycle4Change" challenge in Bengaluru promote cycling as a sustainable mode of transportation.

Protect and Restore Ecosystems:

  • The "Namami Gange" program aims to conserve and rejuvenate the Ganga river and its ecosystems through various initiatives like afforestation and waste management.
  • Organisations like the Wildlife Trust of India and Sanctuary Nature Foundation are actively involved in wildlife conservation efforts, including anti-poaching campaigns and habitat restoration.

Global Initiatives

  • United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): The SDGs, adopted by all United Nations Member States in 2015, provide a comprehensive blueprint for addressing global challenges, including climate change, biodiversity loss, and sustainable consumption and production patterns. Goals such as SDG 7 (Affordable and Clean Energy), SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production), SDG 13 (Climate Action), SDG 14 (Life Below Water), and SDG 15 (Life on Land) are directly related to environmental sustainability.
  • Paris Agreement: The Paris Agreement, signed by 196 parties, is a legally binding international treaty on climate change. It aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C, preferably 1.5°C, compared to pre-industrial levels. Countries are required to submit Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) outlining their planned efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the impacts of climate change. The agreement also includes provisions for financial support, technology transfer, and capacity-building to assist developing countries in their transition to a low-carbon economy.
  • Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD): The CBD, ratified by 196 countries, is an international legal instrument for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of its components, and the fair and equitable sharing of benefits arising from the utilization of genetic resources. The convention has established targets, such as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, which aim to address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and promote sustainable use and conservation efforts.
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP): UNEP is the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimension of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and serves as an authoritative advocate for the global environment. UNEP initiatives, such as the Global Environment Outlook, provide valuable scientific assessments and policy recommendations for decision-makers worldwide.
  • Global Climate Finance Initiatives: International organisations, such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility, provide financial resources to assist developing countries in their efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. These funds support projects and programs that promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, sustainable land use, and climate-resilient development.

Conclusion

As we commemorate World Environment Day, let us embrace the power of small steps and recognize the profound impact they can have on the well-being of our planet. By consciously adopting sustainable practices in our daily lives, we not only contribute to preserving the environment for future generations but also set an example for others to follow.

By collectively taking small steps, we can create a ripple effect that resonates across borders and generations, ensuring a sustainable future for all. Let us embrace the power of individual action and work together to create a world where human progress and environmental protection go hand in hand.

Sources:

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