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21 December – INDIA’S MOUTAIN ECOSYSYTEMS DEMAND URGENT ATTENTION

The true essence of sustainable development lies in fulfilling present needs without compromising the needs of future generations. Mahatma Gandhi’s way of living is one of the best examples of sustainable development. His learnings remind us that our world needs action, it needs protection, and most importantly, it needs our attention. It is our collective responsibility to undo the damage done to our planet and safeguard it from further depredation.

India is home to some of the world’s largest and most beautiful mountain ranges. They are among the most environmentally sensitive ecosystems, and are being impacted by the adversities of climate change and other environmental hazards at a rapid rate. Therefore, there is a need to intensify efforts towards addressing challenges that exist in hill towns to make our mountain ecosystems more sustainable.

The crisis of plastic waste in mountains: The threat of environmental sustainability sees no borders, and this holds relevance for mountains as well.

One such environmental tragedy that has befallen our mountains is plastic waste. A large contributor of plastic waste in the mountains is packaging, which, if not managed properly, can end up in landfills, streams and rivers, causing detrimental effects. This challenge, coupled with the high tourist footfalls that these regions witness, overloads waste-management systems in ways that result in waste ending up in forests, valleys and streams.

An issue as large and complex as plastic waste requires commitment and action from multiple stakeholders for its effective management.

The participation of all these stakeholders is crucial for the development of inclusive, resilient and sustainable models for waste management in the hill towns of India.

Collaboration is key to building a sustainable ecosystem: The success of business relies on a healthy planet. It is important for companies that pledge sustainability to make it a part of their corporate DNA. There is a need to work collaboratively to protect the health of these habitats and adopt sustainable best practices for cleaner and greener mountains.

Businesses must act as responsible environment stewards and strive to continuously reduce the waste and emissions that degrade the environment, while simultaneously optimizing production measures through a comprehensive action plan.KEY INTERVENTIONS CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

. To achieve the goal of diverting waste from landfills and ensuring sustainability, a key first step is to streamline the waste supply chain from the source to end.
. In the hill towns, given the terrain and weather conditions, streamlining the segregated collection, transportation, storage and end-of-life disposal of waste is a challenge.
. In certain regions, the infrastructure used for collection and storage is also insufficient. Hence, efforts have to be intensified to ensure that the requisite infrastructure and staff are put in place to deal with the specific needs of different cities.
. Employment of digital monitoring systems to track the entire journey of waste can make it easier to identify problems early on and tackle them in real time.
. To bring about a sustainable change, it is important to change perspectives, habits and common behaviours vis-a-vis waste.
. Across Indian hill towns, given their high tourism appeal, widespread littering is a major concern.
. Litter that ends up in crevices and valleys is especially difficult to clean up, and usually requires deep descents with special equipment.
. To overcome this challenge, it is important to foster partnerships among local non-profit organizations, trader associations, market associations and schools for conducting clean-up drives and providing bins at key locations, among other interventions.
. Awareness drives that include door-to-door campaigns, sector-specific training modules for hotels, markets and households, and the dissemination of information can have a positive impact on streamlining waste.

BUSINESSES CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE:

. Moving ahead, the focus should be on the ‘implementation’ of sustainable and environment-friendly practices. While efforts need to be accelerated towards restoring our mountain ecosystems, businesses also have a responsibility towards ensuring sustainability across the value chain.
. Organizations need to take a holistic approach to sustainability.
. Environmental considerations need to be integral to their business planning, whether it is research and development, the integration of supply chains or new manufacturing methods. Organizations should leverage their scale, expertise and resources to combat the challenges that we face.

Sustainability is a way of life. We all have an obligation towards one another, our future generations and other species to sustain the planet and make it a better place. The path to a sustainable future depends on us. By modifying human behaviour, embedding sustainable practices and adopting innovative technologies, we can take important steps to craft a better future and leave behind a world that’s worthy for generations to come.

(Gs Paper-3/ Ecology/ Environment)

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