“Once there were islands all a-sprouts with palms: and coral reefs and sands as white as milk. What is there now but a vast shambles of the heart? Filth, squalor, and a world of little men”.
Mervyn Peake in Titus Alone, describing how we have destroyed the beauty of this Earth to fit in our extravagance.
Pollution refers to the contamination of the Earth’s environment with materials which interfere with human health, quality of life and the functioning of various ecosystems. With the population on the rise and the resulting rise in demands, it is becoming increasingly difficult to control/reduce pollution. Therefore, the implementation of programs aiming at reducing the pollutants is of prime importance.
Conventional approaches focus on dealing with pollution control, cleaning up the environment after the deposition of pollutants. In contrast, pollution prevention (often called P2) works towards reducing the amount of pollutants that are discharged into the environment right at the level of the source and through the process. Pollution control measures require huge investments and liabilities and that makes the system rather inefficient. More often than not, efforts of cleaning one particular area results in dumping the filth elsewhere, thereby resulting in the pollution of that area. Instead, if we could direct some efforts at cutting down the source of pollutants, it would be a wiser approach.
Proper disposal of electronic wastes, reducing environmental footprint, controlling litter, encouraging green buildings and other household alternatives to toxic products are a few ways of reducing pollution. One of the major reasons for pollution is the use of plastics. Since these are non-biodegradable, they reduce the fertility of the soil, reduce water table levels and also potentially harm aquatic life. The use of conventional petroleum based plastics should be limited and the use of the recently discovered biodegradable plastics should be encouraged. P2 does not call for cutting down needs, but it urges finding alternatives and cutting down on greed.
At an industrial level too, P2 saves on-site storage space of harmful wastes, disposal costs and most of all, improves the quality of life of the employees thereby increasing their productivity. Source reduction is definitely a better way to save on expenditure than an end-of-pipe control of the harmful pollutants. A comprehensive pollution prevention program encourages the concept of ‘reduce, recycle, reprocess and reuse’ – a concept that has to reach the masses and needs to be implemented at all levels of production and usage.
Pollution prevention is something that begins at the grass-root level and the initiative has to come from within. Campaigns and programs can merely attract attention but implementation is successful only when the people involved practice these prevention measures in their day to day lives. As someone correctly put it, “Saying that sulfates won’t cause acid rain is like saying smoking won’t cause cancer!” Pollution is a chronic disease of the planet and we have been the cause. Therefore it is now our moral responsibility to initiate its prevention and control.