Pollution – Taming the Demon!

Back in the day, I always heard my grandfather say that a man should never pass on a debt to the next generation. I hold those precious words close to my heart, so when I look around and see the high pollution rate and its impact on the planet, I wonder what legacy we will leave for the next generation? What kind of planet will my child grow up in?

Sadly, we only hear politicians and change-makers make tall claims about cleaning up the rivers and beaches but don’t see them materializing. Why? Because nobody’s pinpointing regions that have been neglected and need attention. On the other hand, the Government also needs factual data to track and monitor progress because most of the work is handed over to public contractors.

Image Of Citarum River, Indonesia – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Citarum_River_pollution,_2009.jpg

Only that guy who crosses the river Ganges daily to commute to work knows the dreadful spots that need attention. So, if he mapped those and made that data publicly available, the Authorities would be compelled to act.

Likewise, the Authorities could also use drone data to track or monitor pollution rates, contractors’ work-in-progress, and much more.


The Debt and Damage

Image of a Stubble Burning in Winter at the outskirts of a City

The bountiful Mother Nature’s gifts are being exploited to the hilt, and if this continues, the world could gradually become unfit for human habitation. Why do I say this? 99% of the global population lives in regions with air quality way below the prescribed WHO standards. This increases the risk of heart and lung diseases in humans and animals.

Now that’s not it! Humans went further down the drain and endangered the marine culture also. They do this by dumping plastics like shopping bags, diapers, sanitary wastes, and so on into the water bodies, which increases the risk of the white syndrome and black band diseases in corals by 85%.

According to the World Bank, around 2.01 billion tonnes of municipal waste is generated yearly, which could have been 33% less if eco-friendly means were used. Sadly, it is the developed nations that are setting the wrong precedent. Data reveals that high-income countries account for about 34% of the total waste.

The current situation demands a change, which can only be brought about with an actionable plan powered by insightful data. Failure of action needs to be replaced with adequately organized data based on which we engage in action.

Economic Development — The Demon Unleashed

In 2018, we hit $80 Trillion US Dollars in GDP and might surpass $127 Trillion by the end of 2026, but does that give us the right to pollute something we did not create? Do we have the right to destroy something we cannot replace? Then why do we tolerate those who cut down lush green forests or throw waste into the rivers?

Researchers have found industrial waste a significant pollutant in 323 rivers, mostly from large manufacturers who cut corners to report high revenues. They dirty the environment but don’t pay the price for it. Who does?

You, me, and every taxpayer in this country because it will take crores to clean up these rivers.

This is where drone data can bring more clarity. For example, was the river clean before some cement or chemical product manufacturer set up a unit nearby? People deserve to know because large corporations dump industrial effluents irresponsibly to cut waste treatment costs. Therefore, it is necessary to have a mechanism to identify those trouble mongers and punish them.

Why penalize innocent taxpayers for their wrongs when a legal framework is in place? It’s time to start a dialogue about enforcing hazardous waste management rules under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986. Yet, for the wrong done by a handful of individuals, we all incur the wrath while the large corporations enjoy tax benefits, cut waste treatment costs, and report high revenues. So, how do we fix this? Let’s find that out.

Taming the Demon!

Drone technology is a powerful surveillance solution that citizens can use to compel authorities to protect public property. Likewise, the Authorities can use it to monitor the progress of public works and make a difference.

For example, look at the Versova beach — it took people 80 to 90 weeks to clean it up, and there’s no guarantee that it won’t be dirtied again.

People living closer to the Ganges have a different perspective than the media’s version. If citizens take stock of these issues, map the dirty regions and make that data publicly available, Authorities know what’s to be fixed.

On the other hand, the Government authorities can also implement proactive measures such as monitoring and penalizing those who dirty the environment by deploying drones to keep a watch. Using drone data can help reduce costs considerably, ensure higher transparency, and do so without burdening the taxpayers. In Maharashtra alone, the Police have been allocated 1,17,687.99 crores in the 2022-23 budget, which is taxpayer’s money.

Drones do not require salaries, perks, or employee benefits, eliminating recurring costs to a greater extent. Plus, they can incessantly collect data, which can then be segregated into actual threats and false positives. This mechanism ensures better compliance with environmental laws but without increasing spending on the police force.

Also, the Judiciary’s intervention is minimized, and the entire process is expedited because there is ready evidence from drone data. Such a mechanism eliminates cascading of liability onto the taxpayer and limits government spending.

Don’t you want a world built around transparency? One where your money is well utilized for the said purpose? Sounds interesting? Time to push for a discussion around it and get started.

Pooja Hegde

Independent Writer –  https://www.linkedin.com/in/hegde-pooja/

This Knowledge Paper is commissioned by Kesowa.

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