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Before we put environmental protection measures into place, we must first understand that preserving the environment is necessary for our own survival. Environmental Protection Measures (EPMs) refer to all actions undertaken to minimize environmental degradation and destruction. It includes assessing and predicting impacts, actions taken to avoid impacts, setting environmental baselines or limits, etc. They also include standards established for the construction, operation, management, and closure of projects.
Environmental protection programs address pollution prevention measures and regulatory compliance. They develop and provide procedures for the safe working of projects. They mandate the inspection of locations and vessels storing hazardous wastes. Environmental emergency plans are an integral part of an environmental protection program. They provide information about actions that need to be in place in case of an accident, like a spill or release of hazardous wastes or microorganisms.
The Ministry of Power of the Government of India compensates for the emissions from power generation by undertaking afforestation programs. They have already planted over 1.45 crore trees around power stations across the country. The National Remote Sensing Agency revealed that the ambient temperature has decreased by several degrees across these stations. Coal-powered stations produce fly-ash as a by-product of energy generation. If dumped indiscriminately, fly-ash can contaminate the environment. However, the Indian Government has recommended that fly-ash be used to manufacture cement, bricks, and tiles. The Government has mandated that these materials be used to construct bridges, roads, and government buildings. This is an excellent example of the sort of measures we can practice to reduce our impact on the environment.
Mitigation measures provide a way for organizations, businesses, communities, and governments to reduce, minimize, or offset the adverse environmental impacts of development projects. The objective of mitigation measures is to maximize the benefits of a project while reducing its harmful ecological consequences.
Avoidance refers to the mitigation of environmental impacts by identifying and implementing the least-damaging project type. It also refers to selecting a location where the project will have the most negligible impact. Calculating carbon footprints and analyzing appropriate and viable alternatives are ways to achieve avoidance.
Minimization means mitigating environmental impacts by reducing the intensity of a project’s impact at the site. Organizations achieve minimization through appropriate and sustainable project designs and risk assessments of projects.
This type of measure comes into place if still, impacts remain even after applying avoidance and minimization measures. Compensatory mitigation involves replacing natural resources with substitute resources. We can implement compensatory mitigation practices through the techniques of restoration, enhancement, and preservation of natural resource functions.
Environmental Protection Measures (EPMs) consider the complex interdependence and inter-relationships between the environment and biodiversity. They also consider climatic and seasonal changes in ecological conditions. Since the environment is a complex state and predicting changes in it is hard, governments must focus more on preventive and precautionary principles. Protection measures require various bodies such as governments, NGOs, industries, and entrepreneurs to work together to ensure their effectiveness.
Implementing EPMs is possible only when the legal framework that provides for them can be properly implemented. If EMPs cannot be enforced in states or regions, environmental policies fail, and governments cannot meet their objectives. The environment will remain unprotected. The level of environmental protection across different states and areas will not be uniform.
Currently, there are many weaknesses in implementing environmental protection laws across communities. Also, ensuring coordination between national and local authorities responsible for enforcing preventive measures poses a challenge.
National governments must exercise political pressure on state and regional authorities to ensure the implementation of protection measures. They must review whether the steps have been carried out satisfactorily. However, national governments alone can’t monitor every decision taken by state and regional authorities. Therefore, the authorities must have a sense of responsibility towards the environment. Only then can we be assured that the environment is protected for generations to come.
Alternatively, national governments could set up inspection authorities to effectively implement these EPMs. These inspection authorities will produce annual reports on the effectiveness of the measures and the problems encountered during their implementation. Using this information, governments can identify and improve existing methods of implementation. This information could also form a fundamental basis for future actions.
Clearly, from what we’ve learned so far, public awareness can undoubtedly ensure the effective implementation of EPMs. Once we know the amount of damage we’ve done to the environment and the need for its conservation, our consciousness will drive us to adopt practices that protect it. All we have is this one Earth. Humankind will cease to exist without a healthy, thriving environment.