India slips to bottom four in green performance rankings

| | New Delhi

India, which was ranked 141 out of total 180 countries on the Global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) rankings in 2016, has slipped further to the 177th position this year. Failure to improve its air quality, protect biodiversity and cut greenhouse gas emissions has been cited as reason for placing the country at the bottom, according to the State of India's Environment (SoE) 2018 in Figures.

Though the national Capital was always in the news for its poor air quality, 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.

Notably in summer, Delhi had 65 per cent days when poor and very poor air quality was recorded, in winters this percentage increased to 85. Interestingly, only about 1 per cent of the monitored days in summer months, the air quality was observed to be satisfactory in the city.

“The State of India's Environment 2018 in Figures is a quantified statement on issues and concerns of environment and development - issues and concerns which affect us deeply, While our other annual State of India's Environment in print is a descriptive report, this one is a completely data-driven version for easy access and use,” said Sunita Narain, Director General, Centre for Science & Environment (CSE) , while she shared the report on India and its States on air pollution on World Environment Day.

The State of India's Environment (SoE) figures also explained about other several important environmental factors including Water, Air, Sanitation, Energy and Forest.  

CSE, in its report, mentioned that India scored 5.75 out of 100 in air quality. “India's disappointing performance and the gravity of the situation is further highlighted when compared with countries such as Switzerland and Japan which have scored over 90,” said Narain

 “Lucknow fared much worse in the winter months, where very poor air quality was recorded on over 70 per cent of the monitored days and severe levels of air pollution witnessed on around 24 per cent of the days. Thiruvananthapuram, Bengaluru and Chennai, on the other hand, experienced comparatively better air quality,” the SoE report.

Anumita Roychowdhury, who has headed CSE's air pollution control team for many years said, “The SoE in Figures find 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).”

Explaining about state of water, Suresh Rohilla, the head of CSE's water management team, said, “The dependency on groundwater has increased between 2004 and 2013. As per SoE in Figures, 70,736 rural habitats with a combined population of 47.4 million live on contaminated groundwater. Traces of new contaminants are now being reported in the country, suggesting a steady decline in the quality of groundwater.”

In sanitation, under the Swachchh Bharat scheme, 72.1 million individual household toilets have been constructed. In energy, the SoE's report highlighted that 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 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,” the report mentioned.

In forest cover, India's total forest cover has registered a 0.2 per cent increase between 2015 and 2017. 

Richard Mahapatra, Managing Editor, Down To Earth, said that 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.”

The SoE also released data on environmental crimes.

Considering the database derived by the National Green Tribunal (NGT), the CSE said that the number of environment-related police cases seem to be gradually decreasing after NGT came. “However, the number of court cases has drastically gone up,” CSE mentioned.



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