India On The Road To Environmental Awareness

India, home to one of the world's most polluted cities, has pledged to step up efforts to save its environment and usher in a "cleaner and greener" country. Environment and Forests Minister T.R. Baalu, addressing a function to mark World Environment Day last week, says his ministry's central focus was to "rebuild a cleaner and greener India." "This is an urgent appeal to each one of us to recognize the gravity of the situation and time to rectify the damage caused to the environment," he says. A private think tank recently said India, the world's second most populous country with 1 billion people, was the worst country in Asia in terms of environmental, water, and air pollution. The Trieste-based Centre for Theoretical Physics said the Indian capital New Delhi was the world's most polluted city and claimed that one person died every hour there due to air pollution. It said more than 3,000 tons of air pollutants are emitted every day in New Delhi, whose car population is more than that of three other major Indian cities -- Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras -- put together. "Adequate steps have been taken to preserve the pristine ecosystems through the establishment of 447 wildlife sanctuaries, 85 national parks, and 12 biosphere reserves," notes Baalu. In addition, the federal government is setting up an Environmental Protection Fund. Baalu also notes that priority areas include "management, conservation and growth" of mangrove forests and "treating and scientifically managing hazardous substances and waste water."

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