People protest against pollution by wearing cutouts of gas masks on World Environment Day in Mumbai on June 5. (REUTERS Photo)
State of India’s Environment (SoE) in Figures 2018 covering diverse subjects ranging from air pollution to environmental crimes & sanitation to energy security
Dimapur, June 6 (MExN): India is ranked 177 out of 180 nations globally in Global Environment Performance Index (EPI), according to a latest ‘State of India’s Environment (SoE) in Figures 2018’ released on June 5.
As per the all available data, India is ranked bottom of the EPO due to her inability to “air quality, protect its biodiversity, and cut its greenhouse gas emissions, stated a press release from Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which help publish the SoE 2018, an annual compendium of environmental statistics put together by Down To Earth magazine.
In 2016, the country had ranked 141 out of 180 countries.
Sunita Narain, director general, CSE stated in the release that SoE is “a quantified statement on issues and concerns of environment and development – issues and concerns which affect us deeply.”
SoE in Figures on key environmental parameters:
Air: India scored 5.75 out of 100 in air quality.
Delhi is always in the news for its poor air quality. However, an analysis of the winter (November and December 2017) and summer (April-May 27, 2018) air quality levels of 10 state capital cities shows that they too are in the dangerous grip of a multi-pollutant crisis, and are currently facing a severe health challenge, the release said.
While in the summer months, Delhi had 65% days when poor and very poor air quality was recorded, in winters this percentage increased to 85. On only about 1 per cent of the monitored days in summer months was the air quality observed to be satisfactory in the city, it added.
Lucknow fared much worse in the winter months, where very poor air quality was recorded on over 70% of the monitored days and severe levels of air pollution witnessed on around 24 % of the days. Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Chennai, on the other hand, experienced comparatively better air quality.
Said Anumita Roychowdhury, who has headed CSE’s air pollution control team for many years, said that the SoE finds a lack of data on air quality in several Indian cities.
“Even in places where pollution levels are being monitored, gaps in data pose a serious challenge to successful implementation of the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP),” he added.
Water: The Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation launched the Har Ghar Jal Yojana to provide piped water supply to every household by 2030 to meet the Sustainable Development Goals. However, in 18 Indian states and UTs, over 82 per cent rural households, which is the national average, remain without a tapped connection.
Sanitation: Under the Swachh Bharat scheme, 72.1 million individual household toilets in rural India have been constructed, the report highlighted that little has been done to popularise their use.
In 2017-18, states have used just 1.3 per cent of the funds for carrying out IEC (Information, Education and Communication) activities to raise awareness in rural areas, the report said.
The situation in urban areas is worse, according to CSE’s water and sanitation experts, with close to a million households waiting for over six months for toilets to be constructed, it added.
The state of our energy: After missing its targets for two consecutive years, the Centre, it appears, is fast losing interest in meeting its ambitious target of installing 175 gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy by 2022, the SoE noted.
The poor performance will also hit the job-creation potential of the scheme which was estimated to be over 300,000. Only 9 per cent of the roof-top solar target has been met so far.
On the other hand, even as the Centre’s UjjwalaYojana has covered all states, LPG distribution has taken place significantly in only 15 states and substantial portion of rural population relies on unhealthy firewood for cooking in those states.
Forests: While India’s total forest cover has registered a 0.2 per cent increase between 2015 and 2017, there are some serious concerns over the growth pattern. Richard Mahapatra, managing editor, Down To Earth, said, “The SoE in Figures clearly shows that the bulk of the increase has taken place in the open forest category, which includes commercial plantations – which is worrying. And this has happened at the cost of moderately dense forest category, which is normally the area close to human habitations.”
Environmental crimes: Since the National Green Tribunal (NGT) was set up in 2010, the number of environment-related police cases seem to be gradually decreasing. However, the number of court cases has drastically gone up.
In 2016, the number of registered environment-related crimes stood at 4,732, while 1,413 cases were pending police investigation. Cases pending in the courts were at a staggering 21,145. This made up for 86 per cent of the total environment-related offences in the country.
With the NGT forced to close its regional benches in 2018 due to staff crunch, the situation is likely to worsen. The number of cases being disposed per day stands at 9.3 on an average, according to 2016 data. At this pace, it will take six years for the court to finish the existing backlog, the report said.