ENVIRONMENTAL POLLUTION AND POVERTY
Poverty leads to rise in population that stops all types of planning. A leakage in the nuclear Plant at Chernobyl in Russia affected the environment of whole of Europe and some parts of Asia too. Similarly population explosion in the regions having two third of the population of the world affects those areas too where population has been controlled.
Poor people think that to meet the domestic and economic needs they should have more children. Every child in the family, as soon as he is five or six years of age, starts earning. Although the earning of the child labour is quite meager the family partly rests its hope on him. In rural areas more population means more pressure on land, over exploitation of soil, over grazing and cutting of trees. This leads to environmental problems. More water is consumed by the increasing population. Cutting of trees means lesser rains. It leads to the compulsion of fetching of drinking water from distant places. It requires more children.
Rise in population means fragmentation of land. Scarcity of water means soil erosion. Increasing population requires more firewood. It again leads to cutting of trees and consumption of weeds. It all means either scarcity of water or sometimes floods leading to wastage of fertilizers. Thus poverty leads to rise in population. Rise in population leads to conditions that spoil the environment. Environmental pollution affects human health that again leads to poverty. The vicious circle goes on.
With the rise in the number of family members migration to cities is the only way to secure employment. The migrated people live in slums where again there are problems of water supply, sanitation, concentration of industrial waste and city garbage. All these including indoor air pollution are environmental hazards. The small tenaments inhabited by slum dwellers become centers of immoral sex activities leading again to unproportionate rise in population. A city like Mumbai has hundreds of slums that pollute the environment of the whole city.
The UNICEF report for the last decade of the last century gave a warning that if poverty, rapid population growth and environmental decline are not controlled there will be increases in ‘social division, economic disruption and political unrest’. The fear is that ‘the problems faced by the poorest people with poorest countries will continue to occupy a lowly place on the international agenda’.
To check the trends it is necessary to spend more on health education and less on defence. It is rather strange that even after a period of independence India spends 2 per cent of total government expenditure on education, the same on health while the expenditure on defence is 17%. The UNICEF report also indicates that 29 per cent of the population in urban India and 33 per cent in rural areas continue to live below the “absolute poverty level”. Pakistan’s share on health in only 1 per cent. On education it is 2 per cent while on defence it is a whopping 28 per cent. Syria is a bit better with 7 per cent on education 2 per cent on health but 32 per cent on defence.
The trend in developed nations is just the reverse. Netherlands spends 12 per cent on health, 11 on education and only 5 per cent on defence, Finland spends 11 per cent on health, 15 per cent on education and only 5 per cent on defence. Norway spends 8 per cent on defence while Nicaragua spends 50 per cent. UNICEF has pointed out that the most important aspect and solution is primary education. It warns that “without progress towards that goal, it will become increasingly difficult to cope with the challenge of poverty, population growth and environmental degradation (PPE).” According to the UNICEF report the environmental degradation can be checked only by removing poverty. The report stresses that “education like health helps to loosen the hold of poverty.” In agriculture too educated farmers are more productive. “Overall, increases in literacy levels and in primary school enrolment have been found to be strongly associated with more rapid increases in per capita income” and in improving the environmental conditions.