Environmental Engineering – Challenges and Opportunities

Category: Environment & Green Technology Published: Thursday, 20 October 2016
Environmental Challenges
India is facing new challenges of environmental pollution from local to national scale and  increased social resistance to industrial and urban development projects due to fear of further degradation of environmental quality. People have lost the confidence in environmental engineering capabilities in ensuring sustainable development. On the other hand,  recent advances in  environmental technology and management systems have evolved effective solutions to prevent    environmental pollution.  The task before present environmental engineers is to regain the confidence of people by providing efficient, economical and dependable environmental management systems.
Critical appraisal of environmental status in India
If we examine the present status of environmental quality in India, we find that there are  no satisfactory sewage collection and treatment plants and hygienic solid waste disposal facilities for cities, improper treatment of industrial wastes and no control of air pollution due to industrial stack emissions and vehicular traffic. As a result, soil, water and air are getting polluted. Most of our rivers are grossly polluted and have adverse impact on agriculture and  water supply systems.  
The situation is worsening due to increase in urbanization with rampant growth of slums and multistoried buildings in and around cities. This is creating unsustainable load on existing civil service facilities like water supply, wastewater and sold waste collection systems, traffic problems and vehicular pollution.
Industries consider investment for pollution control and non productive expenditure and generally try to economize on treatment plant  and ignore proper operation.
 Agro-based industries like sugar, distillery, textile and paper mills  discharge  their partially treated wastewaters on land for irrigation. However, in absence of enough dilution with irrigation water, such wastes spoil soil quality and agricultural return water adds pollution to rivers.
Engineering and chemical industries produce hazardous  solid and liquid wastes and need specific treatment before disposal which is found to be highly inadequate.
 All industries are trying to expand their production capacities but fall short in  upgrading treatment facilities accordingly.
 Unfortunately the government agencies for Prevention and Control  of pollution have shortage of skilled manpower, resources for proper monitoring and insufficient legal tools for effective control.  Many a times, it is not possible to stop pollution by closing industries or force local bodies due to financial and technical constraints. As a result, they cannot exercise their assigned role effectively.
As such the situation has already reached an alarming level and proposed industrial corridors and smart cities may add up environmental degradation, if proper and effective measures are not taken.
Design of adequate and efficient waste treatment facilities and their proper operation and maintenance are essential to rectify this situation. There are two main constraints in implementation of these schemes. First is the unavailability of necessary finance and second is lack of comprehensive environmental restoration plan which needs collaborative efforts by administrators, environmental engineers and financial institutions.  
Role of environmental engineers 
The role of environmental engineers is to evolve most appropriate and innovative technology options and  design a system which is techno-economically feasible and provide detailed guidelines  for strict control and monitoring of the projects during construction as well as operation.
 This requires initiative and efforts by environmental engineers and technocrats to  assist sustainable development and lays great responsibility of providing need based, fail safe and economical solutions for environmental protection. 
These challenges also could be looked upon as great opportunities for career development and a big boost to research in environmental technology.