The population of India has reached 134 crores which is becoming a burden for the subcontinent where the population density is 450 per sq km, says the Worldometer Population Survey. Moreover, the global population reached around 7 billion and the resource consumption is getting even higher. The materialistic and westernized culture is promoting unsustainable consumeristic behaviour among people.
Due to the fetish of consumerism, various industries are growing day by day. That’s why the number of greenhouse gases is increasing and causing an increase in temperature of the atmosphere. According to NASA, this heat could intensify the storms by decreasing the temperature differences between poles and equator.
“Important elements of human nature are open to delight in the acquisition of new goods. Add growing prosperity and money earnings, which allowed these elements to shine through. Add attractive new goods and marketing methods that provided new opportunities to manipulate ordinary folks and build on their natural impulses and their new earnings. And the result is assured: consumerism will emerge and grow.” (Stearns, 2001)
Take the case of Kedarnath disaster occurred in 2013, the sudden cloudburst due to atmospheric temperature difference, which flooded the Charbari lake (upstream) and then Kedarnath. Many people died due to drowning and panic-driven stampede. Apart from that the reasons are “high expansion of hydro-power projects and construction of roads to accommodate ever-increasing tourism, especially religious tourism, are also major causes for the unprecedented scale of devastation”, say experts. “Our mountains were never so fragile. But these heavy machines plying every day on the kutcha roads have weakened it, and now we suffer landslides more often,” says Harish Rawat, a BSc student in Uttarakhand’s Bhatwari region that suffered major landslide in 2010. These types of construction works harm ecology and cause various disasters. Similar situations are calculated to be occurring due to the Pancheshwar Dam being sanctioned in Uttarakhand, flooding more than a hundred villages.
Agriculture has become a cash cow for some companies who produce high yielding genetically modified seeds, insecticides, and pesticides. But the consumer knowingly or unknowingly gets attracted towards those toxic fruits and vegetables that look fresh and delicious. This facilitates industries to grow more chemical pesticides which cause severe diseases and become a public health disaster.
Image: Union Carbide Pesticide Plant in Bhopal
An example of toxicity can be taken for a stipulated area, the worst industrial catastrophe occurred in 1984 due to carelessness and inadequate investment in safety and standard engineering-as the investigation reports suggest. Union Carbide pesticide plant which was in Bhopal had a malfunctioned safety system, where 40 tonnes of chemical gas (Methyl isocyanate) was leaked into the city. As a result mass death occurred overnight. The number was increased to 15000 over the coming weeks. But today also people are suffering from various cancers, reproductive, pulmonary and genetic disorders.
Mining activity creates a hazardous environment for labourers. Every year thousands of miners are dying due to malfunctioning of mining equipment, the release of toxic gases like methane, silicon dust, and collapsing of mining lands. But the mining companies seem to look only for the profit at the cost of human lives. The coal sludge spill depicts the story.
Image: Buffalo Creek Disaster
In February 1972, a high profile slurry impoundment disaster occurred, named as the Buffalo Creek flood. Due to collapsing of the dam, 130 million gallons of toxic water was released. This negligence of Pittston Coal Company left 125 people dead, 1,121 injured, and over 4,000 homeless.
So who is responsible for such disasters?
Growth and development are good for the economy, but development without sustainability, growth without limits and over-consumption of natural resources will lead to disasters. If we are talking about the problem and not taking any action, the real doomsday won’t be any far.
Basu, S. Singh, J. Shrivastava, K. S. Paliwal A. Chakravartty A. (July 15, 2013). Heaven’s Rage. Remembering 2013 Uttarakhand Floods. Down To Earth. Retrieved from http://www.downtoearth.org.in/coverage/heavens-rage-41497
Basu, S. Singh, J. (June 18 2013). Man-made reasons for Uttarakhand Disaster. Down To Earth. Retrieved from http://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/man-made-reasons-for-uttarakhand-disaster-41407
Buffalo Creek Flood. (2012, January 21). SourceWatch. Retrieved 13:31, November 26, 2017 from https://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Buffalo_Creek_Flood&oldid=553100.
Hindustan Times. 18 June 2013. Kedarnath temple stays intact, its surroundings have gone with the flow. Retrieved from www.hindustantimes.com. Retrieved on 19 June 2013
Stearns, P. N. (2006). The First Cause Of Consumerism. Consumerism In World History: The Global transformation of desire (27-33), London, Routelege. Retrieved from https://books.google.co.in/books?isbn=1134156774
Ananya Basha is a Development Professional