How India performed on key environment and development issues in 2016
“The breakdown of liberal and secular democracy that we see in the rich world tells us that there is a growing dissent against what was considered a successful economic growth model. Globalisation has increased inequity. This is at the core of the problem today. This is also the crux of the climate change debate.”
- Sunita Narain, Editor, Down To Earth
India performs better than the global average on only 16 of 52 indicators of development set under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), according to a report published in July 2016 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and Bertelsmann Stiftung. Around 21 per cent of Indians earn less than US $1.90 a day; maternal mortality stands at 174 per 100,000 live births; and health, education and R&D spending is at 8.6 per cent of GDP—all values lower than the global average.
The Union government’s ambitious scheme of issuing Soil Health Cards (SHCs) to about 140 million or about 80 per cent of farmers in the country is facing delays. The scheme, started to promote integrated nutrient management through the judicious use of chemical fertilisers to improve soil health and productivity, aims to issue all cards by March 2017. However, as on October 18, 2016, only 23 per cent of all cards had been printed and distributed. As on January 17, 2017, the number of cards printed and distributed was still less than half the scheme’s target.
Despite India’s commitment to meet the UN Land Degradation Neutrality target by 2030, desertification increased by 1.87 million hectares between 2003-05 and 2011-13. Desertification is a type of land degradation in which a relatively dry land region becomes increasingly arid, typically losing its bodies of water as well as vegetation and wildlife. It is caused by a variety of factors, such as climate and human activities.
The Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana, launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on October 11, 2014, is losing steam. In its second phase, only 164 of 796 Members of Parliament (MPs) have identified villages for developing them into ideal villages. In poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, just 38 of 111 MPs have identified villages for adoption. The scheme aims at improving the standard of living in villages through holistic growth.
The states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh accounted for three quarters of the 5,156 cases of environmental crime recorded in 2014 and 2015. Environmental crimes are registered for offences under the Indian Forest Act, 1927, Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, Environment (Protection), 1986, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, and Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
“The Paris Agreement has made sure that the burden of cutting greenhouse gas emissions, as well as of paying for the impacts of climate change, has shifted to developing countries. Most importantly, despite the agreement’s aim to keep the temperature rise between 1.5°C and 2°C, it is leading the world towards a temperature trajectory of 3°C and more.”
- Chandra Bhushan, Deputy Director General, Centre for Science and Environment
The reason for increasing urban floods is clear: Urbanisation is causing Indian cities to lose their wetlands and water bodies which act as sponges during floods. Thus, Chennai, which reported seven major flood events between 2000 and December 2016, had lost 50 per cent of it water bodies to urbanisation till the end of 2016. Similarly, Srinagar and Guwahati have lost 50 and 60 per cent of their water bodies to urbanisation respectively.
Existing government-run bus services in most metros are grossly outdated and incapable of handling the switch from private to public transport. The sale of private vehicles has also gone up by 300 per cent between 2000 and 2015, accounting for a large share in vehicular pollution and traffic snarls.
These clearances were granted between January and September 2016 and cover an area of more than 10,000 hectares. Irrigation projects accounted for the maximum share of the total forest land approved for diversion, followed by mining and other projects.
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