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World Environment Day: India Struggles as Pollution Levels Reach Danger zone

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has set the ball rolling for the World Environment Day with the plantation of saplings at his residence in 7, race Course on Friday sending a message to the nation to keep cities greener.

On the occasion, environment minister Prakash Javadekar said Cricket team captain Virat Kohli and wrestler Sushil Kumar will join him at a function in the ministry’s Paryavaran Bhawan while in Mumbai Sachin Tendulkar, Ajinkya Rane and Rohit Sharma, joined Maharashtra education minister Vinod Tawde to plant saplings and increase awareness of the World Environment Day.

The Union Environment Ministry has announced a new pilot project on urban forestry in Pune to plant about 4000 saplings in the form of a memorial garden and they will be named after those who pay Rs.2,000 per tree to etch the name of their beloved ones or ancestors or parents.

Focusing on the urban forestry project called Nagar Van-udyan Yojana (Urban Forest Plan) to be funded by the compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) to develop forests within urban areas, the minister said a bill in Parliament is already mooted to release Rs 35,000 crore under CAMPA to all the states.

Otherwise, the Green India Mission is coming under radar for India’s falling pollution standards, especially in New Delhi that is lagging behind China on several indicators such as climate change, pollution, deforestation and environmental degradation.

As per the 2012 UN report, 13 of the world’s top 20 polluted cities are in India compared to 3 in China. Air pollution is already stifling life expectancy rates in Indian cities by 3.2 years for about 660 million population residing in metros and cities, said the report.

Even the river Ganga and its tributory Yamuna are among the world’s top 10 most polluted rivers and Vapi in Gujarat and Sukinda in Odisha are in the environmentally-degraded zones around the world.

Delhi’s air pollution has been making waves with its pollution levels climbing by 20% in recent years, while Coimbatore in the south is found fit enough to live and breathe, according to latest reports.

According to the Centre for Science and Environment the toxic urban air is almost three times more than what it was 3 decades ago with air pollution, garbage pile-up and toxins in air posing danger to city-dwellers.

Sunita Narain, the CSE director general says: “We need to act and act fast" to mitigate the cascading effect on healthcare in the country.

Even the water quality test in 290 rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board showed about 66% of the stretches were contaminated and dangerous for aquatic life.

Meanwhile, the environment ministry clarified that no approval was granted for the EIA Study for Construction of New Mullaperiyar Dam in Kerala, denying media reports to the effect that the ministry has approved Terms of Reference for the study.

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