World Environment Day 2018: '40% diseases are environment-related', says expert

Over years and decades, we abused our environment until it became a cultural norm.

A year has gone by and we are upon another World Environment Day, a day universally dedicated to spreading awareness about the increasingly urgent need to protect the world around us. The day is significant, but environment protection has to be an unending, 24/7 commitment, not just a one-day event.

One needs to understand that our health is totally dependent on the air we breathe, the food we consume, the water we drink and in short the environment we live in. About 40 per cent of all communicable diseases and a good number of non-communicable diseases like asthma and other allergies are directly related to the quality of environment. Also, a toxic environment adversely affects every disease is known to us, making them more difficult to

treat. Read: 20 practical tips to be more eco-friendly !

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Unfortunately, just as health is dependent on environment, the latter is dependent on cultures developed over

generations essentially in our heads. In other words, our social behaviour, which directly affects hygiene and several

other environment-related factors, is determined by how our brain is conditioned. And this conditioning is again modified by our environment. For example, an individual who will never dream of spitting in a spotlessly clean metro station, may have no qualms about pissing in the open on a heap of garbage.

In other words, cleanliness begets cleanliness and dirt likewise attracts more dirt in a vicious cycle that can cause our doom. In other words, for us to move up irreversibly from here to the plane of a clean, healthy environment, wedded to ideals like Swach Bharat, it is important for us to individually and collectively as a nation, recondition our brain and reform our culture. But such reconditioning can clearly not happen by making pious promises on a single

day alone. Here the state has a critical role to play as an educator, enabler and enforcer. That is, it must relentlessly educate people about the importance of the clean environment for good health and long life. Alongside, as an enabler, it must create an infrastructure that supports good-hygiene behaviour our streets need to be lined with enclosed dust-bins and clean public toilets. Read: Be a part of #RefuseTheStraw campaign and do your environment a favour!

Finally, as an enforcer, it must unsparingly punish violators with harsh fines and other punitive measures to deter bad behaviour. Once we start enjoying the benefits of a clean environment, the mental reconditioning and cultural change are bound to follow as they have in the developed world. A clean the environment in itself is a source of positive energy: everything that it yields, be it food, water or air, is a source of a good, happy life.

The time has indeed come to say NO to this and begin a new way of life with a fresh mind oriented to a culture of cleanliness. If India lags the world as a nation, it's not for want of resource, money or intelligence we have an abundance of all this. We can be

on par with the best in the world if only we could change the way we think and modify our behaviour with respect to the world around us.

By Dr NK Venkataramana, Chief Neurosurgeon and Founder of Brains Hospitals, Bangalore.

Image Source: Shutterstock

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