Coverage of Environmental Issues in Himachal Pradesh: Comparative Study of National and Regional Newspapers.

Dr Archna Katoch
Assistant Professor (Journalism and Creative writing),
School of Journalism, Mass Communication and New Media,
Central University of Himachal Pradesh, TAB,
Shahpur, Kangra

Monika
Research Scholar,
Department of Journalism and Creative writing,
Central University of Himachal Pradesh, TAB,
Shahpur, Distt: Kangra

Abstract

It is the human right of every citizen to have unpolluted, healthy, and prolific environment to live with pride, but today the entire world is fronting the menace of environmental degradation which leads to poor economic development, and inflate the risk for food and human welfare. News coverage of environmental issues straightway influences the public’s environmental concerns, and persuades them to take actions. Keeping in view the importance of awareness created by newspapers in the society to protect the environment degradation, a content analysis of  most popular and highest circulated Hindi newspapers of Himachal Pradesh was done to examine the news coverage of environmental issues. The study found that newspaper coverage of major environmental issues in Himachal Pradesh is fairly good in both regional and national newspapers but as compared to national newspapers,regional newspapers cover more environmental issues. Moreover, these newspapers have played a very crucial role in creating environment protection awareness and promoting the government agenda like ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ for sanitation.The study also revealed that policy agenda impact media agenda and public awareness about the preservation of environment and curbing pollution.

Introduction

According to the online Business Dictionary ”the environment is the sum total of all surroundings of a living organism, including natural forces and other living things, which provides conditions for development and growth as well as of danger and damage” (n.d.). Today, the entire world is fronting the hazard of environmental degradation which means the deterioration of the earth or corrosion of the environment through depletion of assets (air, water, and soil), and the eradication of wildlife. It ensues when earth’s natural resources are exhausted and environment is compromised in the form of loss of biodiversity, spread of pollution, ozone layer depletion, climate change, global warming, and eventually decayed human health and economic loss.

It is the human right of every citizen to have an uncontaminated, healthy, and prolific environment to live with poise. Therefore, the environment protection is also at the heart of the agenda of the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 2030. In line with the Rio Declaration on Environment and Development (1992), this agenda is a most important change from today’s growth-based economic model to a new way that targets sustainable and equitable economies and societies worldwide, and larger public participation in decision-making. It aims to interchange unsustainable consumption and production patterns with sustainable lifestyles and livelihoods that advantage all. Hence, the central point of this agenda is the understanding that a healthy, well-functioning environment is vital for human race to flourish (UNEP, 2016).

The problem of environmental degradation is becoming the central issue of development everywhere and here comes the vital role of mass media, which not only raises mass awareness, informs, persuades, or changes behaviour but also listens, explores, understands, empowers, and builds consensus for change.Truly, the news media execute a crucial role in shaping people’s environmental concerns and attitudes (Ader, 1993).

Public awareness to tackle environmental issues tend to be affected by the extent of media attention they receive (Mazur & Lee, 1993). Moreover, mass media perform the role of agenda setting which means that salient issues are transferred from the media agenda to the public agenda that create public awareness of an issue (McCombs &Shaw, 1972). In fact, news coverage of environmental issues straightway impacts the public’s environmental awareness and can persuade citizens to take actions to cure them. The fundamental proclamation of agenda setting theory is that more the media reports about particular issues, the more importance these issues will attain among the public (McCombs et al., 1997).

Environment and development

India is committed to meet the challenges of environmental degradation and has set out the priorities for a sustainable, inclusive, and lower carbon development path. The National Environment Policy (2006) has endeavoured to mainstream environmental concerns in all developmental processes so that economic development can be achieved without deteriorating the environment. It claims that environmental degradation always creates poverty and miserable health affects the people. Sustainable development requires meeting the basic needs of all and extending to all the opportunity to satisfy their aspirations for a better life (Kumar, 2012).

India, the world’s fourth-largest carbon emitter, with its population of 1.3 billion people has ratified the Paris agreement on climate change on the birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi on October 2, 2016. Under this deal, India has committed to ensure that at least 40 per cent of its electricity will be generated from non-fossil sources by 2030. India is responsible for 6 per cent of the global carbon dioxide emissions following China, which accounts for 28 per cent, the United States for 16 per cent and the European Union 10 per cent(Shrivastava, 2016).

Environmental degradation is very much a serious challenge which includes climate change, global warming, water scarcity, air pollution, loss of biodiversity, poor waste management, land degradation, exploitation of natural resources, floods, droughts etc. Further, continued high greenhouse emissions would lead to mostly negative impacts for biodiversity, economic development and amplify the risk for food and human security (IPCC, 2014). ).

Himachal Pradesh environment

Himachal Pradesh, a state located at high elevation within the Himalayan region is ecologically and environmentally one of the most fragile regions of the world. Agriculture, hydropower, and tourism are a major source of income in Himachal Pradesh. Amid the different development activities, this state is growing by leaps and bounds; however, unscientific development activities like population explosion, unsystematic infrastructure development, over urbanization, over industrialization, establishment of different mega hydropower projects, mining, growth of tourism sector, encroachment of forest land, deforestation, excessive agricultural and horticultural activities etc. can lead to environmental degradation.

Print media in Himachal Pradesh

Hindi is the most common language spoken and read by the people of Himachal Pradesh. The Divya Himachal Group is the largest media group in Himachal Pradesh. Divya Himachal is number one regional and most popular Hindi language daily newspaper read in the entire state with a combined reach of more than 15 lakh readers across the entire state of Himachal Pradesh. It is published from Shimla, Dharamshala and Chandigarh in Northern India. Apart from Divya Himachal, Amar Ujala is a widely read national Hindi language newspaper in Himachal Pradesh (IRS, 2012 Q4 & ABC, Jan-June 2015). India-wise, the average circulation of Amar Ujala was 29.35 lakh copies per day during the second half of 2015 (ABC, July-December  2015), covering Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Punjab, Jammu & Kashmir, Delhi and Chandigarh. Moreover, Amar Ujala is one of the fastest growing daily newspapers in India, with 19 editions in seven states and one union territory.

Keeping in view the importance of awareness created by newspapers in society to protect the environment degradation, a study was needed and accordingly the research problem entitled “Coverage of Environmental Issues in Himachal Pradesh: A Comparative Study of National and Regional Newspapers” is proposed with the following specific hypotheses.

  1. News coverage of environmental issues is fairly good in Himachal Pradesh.
  2. Regional newspapers cover more environmental issues than national newspapers.

Objectives of investigation

  1. To study the news coverage of environmental issues in the newspapers of Himachal Pradesh.
  2. To study the variation in environmental coverage of regional and national newspapers of Himachal Pradesh.

Methodology

A content analysis was done to study the coverage of environmental issues in the daily newspapers in the month of June 2016. This month is selected as the ‘World Environment Day’ is observed every year on 5 June to raise global awareness about environment degradation, and to take  constructive environmental actions to safeguard nature and the planet Earth. Two most popular and highest circulated Hindi newspapers Divya Himachal (Regional) and Amar Ujala (National) were selected to study the newspaper coverage of environmental issues in Himachal Pradesh.

In order to maintain consistency in environmental news coverage, international, national, as well as local Himachal Pradesh environmental news were selected to represent the news agenda. The data sample was coded according to the following principles:

  1. News: Front page news, articles/editorials, news with graphics, inside pages news.
  2. News category: Water scarcity, waste management, plastic problems, environmental impacts of hydropower projects, air pollution, noise pollution, global warming, traffic pollution, natural resource management, environment protection rallies,Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, solar energy, landslide, forest fire, flooding,mining.

Findings and discussion

  1. News coverage of environmental issues

1.1.News coverage of environmental issues in Divya Himachal

It can be observed from table 1 that total environmental issues covered by Divya Himachal in the whole month of June were 258. Out of which maximum news covered were in inside pages 178 (69 per cent) followed by news with graphics 73 (28.29 percent) that was related to environment protection rallies and Swach Bharat Abhiyan news, article/editorials 4 (1.5 percent), and front page news 3 (1.1 percent) respectively.

Table 1. Front page news, articles/editorials, news with graphics, and inside pages news in Divya Himachal

S.No. News Frequency of Coverage Percentage(%)
1. Front Page News 3 1.16
2. Articles/Editorials 4 1.55
3. News With Graphics 73 28.29
4. Inside Pages News 178 69.00
Total News 258 100

The data given in table indicates that news coverage of environmental issues in Divya Himachal was quite good.

1.2. News coverage of environmental issues in Amar Ujala

Table 2 shows that total number of environmental news covered by Amar Ujala in the month of June was 117. Out of which maximum news covered were in inside pages followed by news with graphics 23 (19.6 percent) that was related to environment protection rallies and Swach Bharat Abhiyan news, article/editorials 6 (5.1 percent), and front page news 4 (3.4 percent) respectively.

Table 2.Front page news, articles/editorials, news with graphics, and inside pages news in Amar Ujala

S.No. News Frequency of Coverage Percentage (%)
1. Front Page News 4 3.41
2. Articles/Editorials 6 5.13
3. News With Graphics 23 19.66
4. Inside Pages News 84 71.80
Total News 117 100

Table1 and Table 2 revealed that maximum number of environmental news were covered in the inside pages of the newspapers. There were also many news items with graphics in both the newspapers regarding environmental protection rallies and the Swach Bharat Abhiyan in the month of June, 2016. As this was the month in which world environment day falls so the news with graphics were larger  with other environmental news on the front page and articles/editorials.

1.3. Different environmental issues covered in inside pages of Divya Himachal

Table 3 reveals that Divya Himachal covered 14 environmental issues out of a total 16 issues during the onemonth duration.During this span, maximum coverage was given to environment protection rallies (39.89 per cent) followed by Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (25.28 per cent), water scarcity (8.43 percent), natural resource management (5.06 percent), waste management (4.50 percent), environmental impacts of hydropower projects (3.37 percent), traffic pollution (2.80 per cent), solar energy (2.25 per cent), plastic problems (1.68 percent),  air pollution (1.68 percent), land slide (0.56 percent), noise pollution (0.56 percent), global warming (0.56 percent) respectively.

It is evident from the Table 3 that global warming, noise pollution and landslide news were covered least by Divya Himachal. Environmental issues like forestfire and flooding were not covered by the newspapers at all during the month.

Table 3. Different environmental issues covered in inside pages of Divya Himachal

Picture1

Environment protection rallies, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan,water scarcity, natural resource management, waste management and environmental impacts of hydropower projects were the main issues covered by the regional newspaper Divya Himachal to the maximum in inside pages.

1.4. Different environmental issues covered in inside pages of Amar Ujala

The data given in Table 4 shows that in the newspaper Amar Ujala, maximum space was given to environment protection rallies (33.33 per cent) followed by Swachh Bharat  Abhiyan (26.20 percent), water scarcity (14.29 per cent), air pollution (5.95 per cent), environmental impacts of hydropower projects (4.76 per cent), waste management (3.57 per cent), solar energy (3.57 per cent), mining (3.57 per cent), traffic pollution (2.38 per cent ), forest fire (1.19 per cent) and flooding (1.19 per cent) respectively.

Table 4. Different environmental issues covered in inside pages of Amar Ujala

Picture2

Further, it can be revealed that forest fire and flooding were the least covered environmental issues in Amar Ujala. Also,different environmental issues like plastic problems, global warming, noise pollution, natural resource management, and land slide found no coverage in the newspaper Amar Ujala during the study time.

If we look at the data of different environmental issues in both the newspapers then we see that out of 16 different environmental issues Divya Himachal raised14 issues and Amar Ujala raised only 11 issues.

2. Variation in environmental coverage of regional and national newspapers of Himachal Pradesh.

It can be shown from Table 5 that overall environmental coverage was more in Divya Himachal as compared to Amar Ujala. But, Amar Ujala gave more coverage to environment issues on its front pages and in its articles/editorials as compared to Divya Himachal. Further, a huge variation can be seen in its coverage of news with graphics and inside page news in these two newspapers. Frequency of coverage of news with graphics and inside page news were more in Divya Himachalas compared with Amar Ujala.

Table 5.Variation in front page news, articles/editorials, news with graphics, and inside pages news

Picture3

Table 6. Most covered issues in Divya Himachal

Picture4

It is clear from Table 6 environment that protection rallies (39.89 per cent), Swachh Bharat Abhiyan (25.28 per cent), water scarcity (8.43 per cent), natural resource management (5.06 per cent), waste management (4.50 per cent), environmental impacts of hydropower projects (3.37 per cent) and mining (3.37 per cent) were the main environmental issues covered by Divya Himachal.

Table 7. Most covered issues in Amar Ujala

Picture5

Table 7 shows that environment protection rallies (33.33 per cent), Swachh Bharat  Abhiyan (26.20 per cent), water scarcity (14.29 per cent), air pollution (5.95 per cent), environmental impacts of hydropower projects (4.76 per cent), waste management (3.57 per cent), mining (3.57 per cent), and solar energy (3.57 per cent) were the main environmental issues covered by Amar Ujala.

Overall, it was found that environment protection rallies, Swachh Bharat  Abhiyan, water scarcity, environmental impacts of hydropower projects, waste management and mining were the main environmental issues covered by both the regional and national newspapers in Himachal Pradesh.

Conclusion

The study found that newspaper coverage of environmental issues in Himachal Pradesh was fairly good. Overall, environmental coverage was more in the regional newspaper Divya Himachal as compared to the national newspaper Amar Ujala. Out of 16 different environmental issues in Himachal Pradesh, Divya Himachal raised 14 issues and Amar Ujala raised only 11 issues in their environmental coverage.

The main environmental issues covered by both the regional and national newspapers in Himachal Pradesh were environment protection rallies, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, water scarcity, environmental impacts of hydropower projects, waste management and mining.

But, Amar Ujala gave more coverage to environment issues on its front pages and in its articles/editorials as compared to Divya Himachal. Further, a huge variation can be seen in the coverage of news with graphics and inside pages in these two newspapers. The frequency of coverage of news with graphics and inside pages news was more in Divya Himachal as compared with Amar Ujala.

It is also found that that issues like global warming, landslide, forest fire, natural resource management, flooding, plastic problems and noise pollution were not covered properly in the newspapers of Himachal Pradesh.

Both newspapers extensively covered environmental protection rallies and the Swach Bharat Abhiyan news in the month of June, 2016 as this was the month in which world environment day falls. This shows the positive role of Hindi newspapers in Himachal Pradesh in creating environment protection awareness and promoting the government agenda like ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) for sanitation. These findings also confirm that environmental coverage in newspapers increases with government policy agenda to celebrate important days. Hence, it can be said that policy agenda impact media agenda and public awareness about the preservation of environment and curbing pollution.

References

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  • Business Dictionary (n.d.). Retrieved March 15, 2016, from
    http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/environment.html
  • IPCC (2014). Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change [Core Writing Team, R.K. Pachauri and L.A. Meyer (Eds.)] (pp.151) . Geneva, Switzerland: IPCC.
  • Kumar, S. (2012). Environment, development and disaster: The panchtatva equilibrium. Yojana, 56, 13-17.
  • Mazur, A., & Lee, J. (1993).Sounding the global alarm: environmental issues in the US national news.Social Studies of Science 23, 681-720.
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  • Shrivastava, S. (2016, October 3).  India ratifies Paris climate treaty: Here’s all you need to know. Hindustan Times. Retrieved from http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/what-signing-the-paris-climate-change-treaty-means-for-india/story-RsDH1IAohQNEqRxb426YbM.html
  • United Nations Environment Programme (n.d.).SDGs and the environment. Retrieved July 22, 2016 from http://web.unep.org/post2015/

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