India in Peril- page 2 | People & Places | Smithsonian
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India in Peril

Rakesh Jaiswal, founder of ecofriends.org, talks about the country's growing list of environmental problems

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(Continued from page 1)

There are polluting social practices which have done the damage most to river Ganga. People consign dead bodies to river Ganga with a belief that the departed soul will be salvaged, go to heaven.

Government sponsors the river pollution on a massive scale. There are bathing festivals on certain occasions when millions of people flock to the river to have a holy dip. Much more resources have been spent in organizing these festivals than in cleaning the river.

What were Gandhi's thoughts about conservation?

Gandhi's thoughts about conservation are based on some of his basic principles like non-violence, simple living in harmony with nature. He was critical of western consumerism and materialism. He was of the opinion that the modern western civilization which equated consumerist lifestyle and abundance with development was self-destructive in nature.

Gandhi said Earth has enough to satisfy the needs of all the people, but not for satisfying the greed of some people. Gandhi also emphasized to keep in view the future generations before using up natural resources by the present generation.

Do you think population growth is a major factor in increasing environmental destruction?

Population growth is the most important factor in increasing environmental destruction. India's population grows by 1,815 [people] per hour.

Though India launched a family planning program long back, but this has failed to have any impact. The literate, educated and financially well-off people have voluntarily adopted small family norm. But the majority who are poor, illiterate and uneducated don't even think about family planning. Government started forced sterilizations in 1975 which led to the fall of the then government.

It's being predicted that soon we'll overtake China [in population size].

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