In this article, You will read Environmental Management – for UPSC IAS (Environmental Geography).
Environmental management involves the management of all components of the bio-physical environment, both living (biotic) and nonliving (abiotic). This is due to the interconnected and network of relationships amongst all living species and their habitats. The environment also involves the relationships of the human environment, such as the social, cultural, and economic environment with the biophysical environment.
Environmental management is the process of allocating natural and man-made resources so as to make optimum use of the environment in satisfying not only the present basic human needs but of the coming generations also. This management implies an element of conscious choice from a variety of alternative proposals and furthermore that such a choice involves a purposeful commitment to recognized and desired objectives.
Environmental management is not merely the management of the environment but it is essentially the management of various activities with intolerable constraints imposed by the environment itself and with full consideration of ecological factors. Thus, it involves environmental planning, conservation of resources, environmental status evaluation, and environmental legislation and administration. The focus of environmental management is on implementation, monitoring, and auditing; on practice and coping with real-world issues, rather than theoretical planning. Close integration with environmental planning is desirable.
Thus, as stated earlier, environmental management is a field of study dedicated to understanding human-environment interactions and the application of science and common-sense to solving problems.
The characteristic features of the environmental management are:
- It deals with a world affected by humans;
- It supports sustainable development;
- It demands a multidisciplinary approach;
- It has to integrate different development viewpoints;
- It concerns with short-term and long-term planning as well as from local to global scale; and
- It seeks to integrate natural and social science, policy-making, and planning.
During the last three decades, too much awareness has been developed regarding environmental protection and quality of life. The dictionary of the environment is renewed regularly with new terminologies like clean technology, environmental auditing, environment-friendly products, environmental impact assessment, environmental resource conservation, etc., added.
But all these aspects have been converged when the wider concept of environmental management has been emerged and also accepted as a tool for sustainable development. Environmental management, as defined in Goudie (1994), – provides resources from the bioenvironmental systems of the planet but simultaneously tries to retain sanative, life-supporting ecosystems. It is, therefore, an attempt to harmonize and balance the various enterprises for his own benefit.”
Time has now come when our policymakers, as well as society, should aim to protect, conserve and regulate the development in such a way that it will not create any adverse effect on the ecosystem, and the needs of the people can also be fulfilled. Throughout the world, particularly in developing countries, there is an urgent need for the management of the total environment.
Its main objectives include:
- To prevent and solve environmental problems;
- To establish limits;
- To develop research institutions and monitoring systems;
- To warn threats and identify opportunities;
- To suggest measures for resource conservation;
- To develop a strategy for the improvement of quality of life;
- To suggest long-term and short-term policies for sustainable development; and
- To identify new technology for sustainable development.
In brief, environmental management is necessary for environmental planning which implies the optimal utilization of the earth‘s resources and preservation of the quality of the environment for the healthy growth of society.
Approaches to Environmental Management
The best approach to environmental management is an integrated approach in which all the components of the environment are taken into consideration and its proper management, as a whole, is done.
While doing so, the following aspects should be taken into account:
1. Perception and awareness of environment:
(a) Source of perception and awareness,
(b) Level of perception, and
(c) Role of perception in environmental planning.
2. Environmental education and training:
(a) At school, college, and university levels,
(b) Through media, and
(c) At research and training institutes.
3. Resource management:
(a) Classification of natural resources,
(b) Survey and evaluation of eco-resources,
(c) Conservation of energy, mineral, forest, soil and water resources, and
(d) Proper utilisation of human resources.
4. Environmental impact assessment:
(a) Assessment of present conditions,
(b)Assessment of the impact of industrial and technological developments,
(c) Assessment of the efforts done for eco-balance, and
(d) Development of eco-friendly techniques.
5. Control over environmental degradation and pollution:
(a) Purification of degraded environment,
(b) Pollution control,
(c) Monitoring, and
(d) Forecasting of natural hazards and to minimise the losses.
There are two approaches of managing the environment, viz.:
(i) Preservative approach, and
(ii) Conservative approach.
According to the first approach, man should not disturb the natural system and should adapt to it. But this is not possible because for all types of developmental activities he will have to use nature and its components, resulting in eco-imbalance of varied intensity.
The conservative approach is that there should not be overexploitation of nature and conservation of natural resources is essential for sustainable development.
In fact, proper utilisation and conservation of resources is the prime objective of environmental management. In the World Conservation Strategy (1980), the three main objectives stated were: the maintenance of essential ecological processes, the preservation of genetic diversity, and the
sustainable utilisation of natural resources.
In recent years, several approaches have been developed for the management of environment. Regional planners often adopt a human ecology approach, while other planners suggest a system analysis or an ecosystem approach. Doxiadis (1977) has developed a science of planning settlement in balance with nature and termed it as ekistics.
The various approaches developed for the environmental management are:
- Ad hoc approach-, developed in reaction to a specific situation.
- Problem-solving approach: for identification of problems and needs and implement solutions.
- Systems approach: such as ecosystem, agro-ecosystem, etc. Regional approach: based on ecological zones such as watershed, river basin, coastal zone, command area development, island, etc.
- Specialist discipline approach: often adopted by professionals for air, water, and land management, urban management, tourism management, and environmental health.
- Voluntary sector approach: encouraged and supported by NGOs.
- Commercial approach: for environmental management for business.
- Human ecology approach: for the study of relations between humans or society and nature.
- Political ecology approach: to develop policies and laws.
The ecosystem concept has become a widely used conceptual tool for research after 1945. Nowadays, ecologists often adopt an ecosystem approach when seeking to understand and monitor a given situation. The ecosystem concept allows the environmental managers to look at portions of complex nature as an integrated system. It may be applied to cities or agriculture (urban ecosystems and agro-ecosystems respectively).
The ecosystem approach allows a holistic view of how components work together, in other words, it can incorporate human dimensions into biosphere functioning. It also helps define the temporal and spatial scale of management, and thus, is a multidisciplinary approach in order to deal with complexities of ecosystem function and usage.
Human Ecology Approach:
Human ecology is the study of relations between humans or society and nature, through a multidisciplinary approach. Similar to that of ecosystem approach, the main emphasis in this approach is on social relationship with environment which is a primary aspect of any management for planning and development. The scale of approach may be local to global, and it supports holistic study.
The concept of ‗Social Impact Assessment‘ (SIA) seeks to assess whether a proposed development alters quality of life and sense of well-being and how individuals, groups and communities will adopt to change caused by development.
The socio-economic and biophysical aspects of the environment are interconnected, therefore, for environmental management; human ecology approach should be adopted along with political ecology approach.
Political Ecology Approach:
Political ecology also studies relationships between society and nature. It holds that radical changes in human habits are required in order to counter environmental degradation and achieve sustainable development.
These are likely to be different perceptions of environmental needs and problems between planners, policy makers, ministers, various departments of government, etc. All this can be effectively done by adopting political ecological approach of environment management.
Nowadays, there has been an increasing emphasis on environmental management for business as well as role of business houses in environmental protection.
The emphasis is on:
- green corporate environmental management;
- green business ethics;
- impact assessment, hazard and risk assessment;
- green marketing, labeling;
- recycling and waste disposal;
- environmentally sound investment and funding; and
- Total quality management.
The commercial approach involves corporate priority, employee education, customer advice, transfer of technology, prior assessment, facilities and operations, research and compliance and reporting.