State's green cover develops cracks
June 4: Despite the increasing pollution levels in urban areas in the state, particularly in cities like Hyderabad and Visakhapatnam, there has hardly been any steps taken to prevent our green cover from depleting and in most cases the authorities are ignoring eco-friendly options of waste disposal. Green economy and energy saving initiatives to cut emissions have also failed to reach the masses resulting in heavy burning of fuel and usage of power generated by abusing our natural resources.
Apart from Assam and Chhattisgarh, AP has had the biggest losses in forest cover in absolute terms. Only 22 per cent of the state is now under forest cover. According to the Andhra Pradesh State of Forest Report 2010, the maximum loss of forest cover has been in Khammam circle where around 58.5 square kilometre of forest has been lost followed by the Rajahmundry circle where the loss was 22.75 square kilometre.
Greater Hyderabad has only 9.48 per cent of forest cover as against the recommended cover of 33 per cent. Around 4,648 hectares of forest land has been encroached by the city. The diversion of forest land for non forest purposes is resulting in a huge loss of greenery and nothing is being done to compensate it. There are around 750 listed sacred groves, including six in Hyderabad and 10 in Ranga Reddy and many of these have already been destroyed and even the forest cover in sanctuaries, reserve forests and national parks are under tremendous pressure.
Mr Qamar Mohammed Khan of the Association of Retired Foresters of the State said, “The socio-economic pressures on forests in the state and other parts of the country are tremendous, and unless we protect our forests, it will not be possible for us to live safely. Forest lands should be diverted judiciously and only when it is essential.” With the depleting green cover, air, noise and water pollution levels are increasing at alarming levels. According to the AP Pollution Control Board, in Hyderabad areas like Abids, Panjagutta, Paradise, Charminar, Balanagar, Jeedimelta, Langarhouse, Uppal and Nacharam are highly polluted where the RSPM (restorable suspended particular matter) exceeds the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
In Visakhapatnam, areas like Gnanapuram and MCV Kalyanamandapam are highly polluted and the quality of air is very bad. Adding to the vehicular and industrial pollution, Municipal staff is also adding to the problem by burning garbage on the streets instead of lifting and disposing it safely.
Environmentalist Mr Jayaprakash Nambaru of Green Planet Visions said, “Huge garbage bins continuously burn every day in the city. They say that they have a shortage of manpower and also say that the burning takes place after they leave the office. When plastic is burnt, dioxin chemicals are released which are carcinogenic.” To make matters worse, the pollution control measures by the AP Pollution Control Board and civic bodies are allegedly manipulative. The AP Pollution Control Board’s claims that critically polluted sites like Patancheru have decreased have been termed as false by experts.
The former chief technical advisor for United Nations, Dr S. Jeevanand Reddy said, “The report submitted by the Institute of Genetics and Hospital for Genetic Disease of Osmania University to the APPCB and the report of Vimta Lab to APPCB on air pollution provide a realistic situation on pollution levels and health hazards in the Patancheru-Bollaram Zones.”
He added, “In the case of water index and land index, APPCB tried to show that pollution factors had reduced and that common facilities for pollution control were adequate. However, the APPCB seems to have manipulated the computations to achieve the two goals. Dumping partially treated or diluted effluents along with domestic sewage in the Musi River instead of Nakkavagu does not mean that pollution conditions have improved.
Similarly, they have eased the ban notification to clear the decks so that more industries can come up in the area and have allowed the existing industries to increase production or legalise their hitherto illegal producing quantities.” Green options are also not taken up on a large scale by the people in the state. In rural areas farmers depend on irrigation pumps running on diesel or even kerosene for hours due to power cuts. They can instead use solar or wind-driven pumps which are good alternatives, say experts. Even in urban areas, solar powered water pumps can be used. In ICRISAT in the city outskirts, solar-powered pumps are used to draw water through a submersible pump.
Changes like cars that run on compressed air — expected in a year or two — will really make a difference to air pollution.