NOV 2018  

Kerala floods warn us about the potential harm we are doing to our delicate ecosystem.

It is evident that global warming is shifting rainfall patterns, making heavy rain more frequent in many parts of the world. With human alteration of the land and rivers, many parts of the world are at greater risk of experiencing devastating floods. With rising global temperatures due to increased heat-trapping emissions, more water vapour evaporates from the land and oceans. Also, modern land use practices have left our landscape less able to accommodate heavy rainfall, increasing the risk of floods, and intensifying their impacts.

This month, our cover story titled, 'The Catastrophic Kerala Floods: Linked to Climate Change and Global Warming' discusses the possible factors responsible for the Kerala floods and also cautions that unrestrained human-induced climate change would further lead to shifting forms of weather conditions globally resulting in heavy rains, and extreme heat waves and cold conditions. One of the prominent causes for this natural calamity could be the illegal quarrying, squandering sand mining, unrestricted deforestation, and illegal constructions which changed the normal rainwater draining topography of the state. The exploited soil could not absorb the torrential rain and allowed the water to quickly run-off, flooding the drains, streams, and rivers, inducing flash-floods and landslides.

Apparently, most of the locations affected by the rains and flood in Kerala were demarcated as ecologically-sensitive zones (ESZs) by the Gadgil Commission in 2011. The Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel (WGEEP), formed by the Government of India and chaired by Madhav Gadgil recommended classifying the 140,000 sq. km of the Western Ghats into three ESZs for protection. The outcome of the report was not implemented and it certainly exposed the vulnerability of the state. We need to implement such recommendations and results of the studies in the future. Kerala floods warn us about the potential harm we are doing to our delicate ecosystem. It showcases how our greed for short-term infrastructure developments will lead to a lasting long-term impact on our vulnerable Earth. We need stronger conviction, broader interest, and a decisive political will to safeguard the interests of the state and its people.

The feature article this month throws light on the fact that rapid industrialization and adoption of advanced technologies over the last few decades have indiscriminately increased hazardous waste generation in India. Lack of treatment and disposal facilities causes hazardous wastes to ravage municipal landfills and open spaces, raising serious environmental threats. A recent joint study by The Associated Chambers of Commerce of India and PricewaterhouseCoopers shows that hazardous wastes in India are mounting at a rate of 2-5 per cent per year, a sharp and concerning surge and approximately 10-15 per cent of industrial waste in India is hazardous. India will be extremely vulnerable in the coming years if rapid steps are not taken to address the emerging challenges of hazardous waste. The article also lists a few possible solutions that could be used as remedies against hazardous waste.