20 Years’ Progress-Some Startling Facts


Nancy Tirthani
As years go by, our environment is getting more and more polluted. In this century, this may assume menacing proportions. If the pollution grows up at its present rate, it is quite possible, the environment would be too polluted to sustain life here on the earth.

The biodiversity of the earth would have been damaged irreparably. During the interim period of 20 years between the two world Summits on Environment, some dramatically startling changes have taken place. The world population which was 3.84 billion in 1972 including 72% in developing countries has now increased to 5.47 billion. Of this 77% is in developing countries. In 1972, 38% of the world’s population lived in mega-cities and there were three mega-cities with over 10 million inhabitants, including one in the developing world. By contrast, there are 13 mega-cities now in 1992 with over 10 million people including 9 in developing countries. Of the world population 46% was urban in 1992 in comparison to 38% in 1972.

To meet the demands of electricity, more nuclear reactors have mushroomed. The number of nuclear reactors was 100+ in 1972 and there were no major accidents. In comparison to it, in 1992, say after 20 years, the number of nuclear reactors has risen to 428 in 31 countries. Two major nuclear disasters one in Three Mile Island (USA) in 1979 and the other in Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986 have added new dimensions to the danger to the already deteriorating environment of the Earth.

Poisonous smoke emitted by motor vehicles is a real threat to the environment. The constant increase in the number of motor vehicles pouring out smoke and fumes has acceler ated this threat. Whereas in 1972 the number of motor vehicles was 250 million confining pollution to almost entirely to the developed countries, twenty years later in 1992, this has increased to over 600 million vehicles. Pollution from them is now common both in the devel oping and the developed countries.

Environmental pollution has directly affected the world’s rain forests, fisheries and other species of plant life and animals. In 1972, an area of 17,000 sq km of precious rain forests was destroyed per year due to it. By contrast, this has grown to 100,000 sq km each year. Fisheries have also suffered a lot. For example, 56 million tonnes of them were caught in 1972. In com parison, it has risen to about 90 million tonnes in 1992, and stocks are increasingly at a risk of collapse. Animal species have also borne the brunt. In 1972, there were just 2 million African elephants left. In comparison, in 1992, only 600,000 African elephants were left mainly be cause of ivory poaching. There are already thousands of other species in danger of extinction.

Thus, we are heading for a serious ecological imbalance in nature. The threat to the survival of human life is definitely positive. Global warming and green house effect are not far. This all calls forth for an immediate action if the human race is to survive.


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