On January 24, 2018, the Environmental Performance Index (EPI) 2018 was released by two prestigious universities in the USA – Yale and Columbia. The index was prepared in collaboration with the World Economic Forum (WEF) and was released on the sidelines of the WEF Annual Meeting in Davos Switzerland.
The Environmental Performance Index 2018 ranked 180 countries on 24 performance indicators across 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality. In the biannual index, India was adjudged as the fourth-worst performing country in terms of environmental protection.
In the EPI 2016, India was placed at the 141st position. India’s poor performance in terms of environmental protection led to widespread debate over the effectiveness of the current policies.
For the benefit of IAS aspirants, Jagran Josh is providing some of the important findings of the EPI 2018 with respect to India and the possible impact on India if the environmental degradation continues. The below given material will be helpful in answering environment related questions in General Studies, Essay papers and the personality test.
Environmental Performance Index 2018: India’s status
• In India, air quality remains the leading environmental threat to public health. Among the 180 countries surveyed, India ranked 178 in terms of air quality with 5.75 score.
• India has the world’s largest population without access to modern energy services. Over 800 million people rely on traditional biomass for cooking. As per the most recent data available, 75% of the rural population depend on solid fuels for cooking and heating in India. This is surely a cause of concern.
• Due to increased concentrations of PM2.5, more than 1.6 million deaths (35% of the global deaths) occurred in 2015. In 1990, annual deaths attributable to PM2.5 were around 1.3 million in India.
• Despite government action, pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning and emissions from motor vehicles continue to severely degrade the air quality for millions of Indians. For instance, in November 2017, the Delhi Government declared a state of emergency as the particulate matter levels reached record highs of 969 ug/m3. The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers anything over 25 ug/m3 to be unsafe.
• India is highly dependent on coal, which can contain up to three percent sulfur, for energy production. Recent satellite studies have found that India’s sulfur dioxide emissions have increased by 50% since 2007. As a result, India has emerged as the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide.
Water and Sanitation
• It is estimated that poor menstrual hygiene causes approximately 70% of reproductive diseases in India. Menstrual hygiene management (MHM) may also jeopardize a girl’s chance at an education. Girls in India miss on average 5 days of school per month, and a 23 % drop out of school once they start menstruating due to the lack of clean sanitary facilities. Thus, clean water and sanitation facilities are essential to manage menstruation hygienically.
• India has 113 million adolescent girls, but a survey in 2015 found that only 53% of government schools have separate sanitation facilities for them.
• As per a report released by the World Health Organization & United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2015, about half of India’s population of 1.3 billion people still defecate and urinate in open areas. This is resulting in contamination of water bodies.
Possible adverse impacts on India
If the current environmental degradation persists, human death toll will be unbearable for the society. Besides, high expenditure on health will push millions of Indians below the poverty line. As per an estimate, 63 millions Indians are pushed into poverty due to rising out-of-pocket health expenditure.
The degradation of the environment causes scarcity of natural resources and, as a result adversely impact the economy. As a report released by the World Bank Group (WBG) in 2017, environmental degradation costs India USD 80 billion a year.
As the majority of Indians are dependent on agriculture and related activities, it is essential to protect the environment to achieve inclusive growth.
Low scores on the EPI are indicative of the need for national sustainability efforts on a number of fronts, especially cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity, and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The EPI warned that if environmental degradation continues for a long time, it may lead to civil unrest. It is high time, the Indian policy makers and the civil society at large must take appropriate corrective steps.