(Down to Earth: Environment)
March 1: Release of DTE’s State of India’s Environment 2022- https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/environment/bhupender-yadav-releases-dte-s-state-of-india-s-environment-2022-81746
- GS-3: Environment, Conservation, Climate Change
Release of DTE’s State of India’s Environment 2022
Context: In the last two years, the world has seen disruption at a scale not seen before. Both COVID-19 and climate change are the result of our ‘dystopian’ relationship with nature — call this the revenge of nature.
- COVID-19 happened because humans had broken the barrier between wild habitats and the way humanity produced its food. Climate change was the result of emissions needed for economic growth. Both are also linked and are being exacerbated because of our mismanagement of health systems and the environment.
- Today, there are three extremely critical issues that confronts India — climate change, desertification and the sustainability-affordability linkage.
The Down To Earth 2022 Annual State of India’s Environment has stated that India is behind on at least 17 key government targets that have a deadline in 2022. The slow progress made so far means that the deadlines are unlikely to be met.
- Economy: The target for the economy is to raise the gross domestic product to nearly $4 trillion by 2022-23. But by 2020, the economy has grown only to $2.48 trillion (Rs 18 trillion). In fact, the economy has largely shrunk during the COVID-19 pandemic, making it even more difficult to meet the deadline.
- Employment: The target is to increase the female labour force participation rate to at least 30 per cent by 2022-23; it stood at 17.3 per cent in January-March 2020.
- Housing: The targets are to construct 29.5 million housing units under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana (PMAY)-Rural and 12 million units under PMAY-Urban; only about 46.8 per cent and 38 per cent respectively of the targets under ‘Housing for All’ have been achieved.
- Provision of drinking water: The target is to provide safe piped drinking water to all by 2022-23; only 45 per cent of the target has been achieved.
- Agriculture: The target is to double farmers’ income by 2022. While the average monthly income of an agricultural household has increased to Rs 10,218 from Rs 6,426, this increase is largely due to increase in wages and income from farming animals. The share of income from crop production in the average monthly income of an agricultural household has, in fact, dropped — to 37.2 per cent in 2018-19, from 48 per cent in 2012-13.
- Digitisation of land records: Another target is to digitise all land records by 2022. While states like Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal and Odisha have made good progress, states like Jammu and Kashmir, Ladakh and Sikkim languish at 5 per cent, 2 per cent and 8.8 per cent digitisation of land records, respectively. Overall, the target is unlikely to be met, particularly because 14 states have witnessed deterioration in the quality of land records since 2019-20.
- Air pollution: The target is to bring down PM2.5 levels in Indian cities to less than 50 microgramme per cubic metre (µg/m3). In 2020, when vehicular movement was restricted due to the pandemic, 23 of the 121 cities monitored for PM2.5 exceeded 50 µg/m3.
- Solid waste management: The target is to achieve 100 per cent source segregation in all households. The overall progress is 78 per cent; and while states like Kerala and Union territories like Puducherry have achieved the target, others like West Bengal and Delhi are woefully behind. Manual scavenging is targeted for eradication, but India still has 66,692 manual scavengers.
- Increasing the forest cover: The target is to increase it to 33.3 per cent of the geographical area, as envisaged in the National Forest Policy, 1988. By 2019, 21.67 per cent of India was under forest cover.
- Energy: The target is to achieve 175 GW of renewable energy generation capacity by 2022. Only 56 per cent of this target has been achieved thus far.
State of the states
- With less than a decade left to realise the SDGs (2030 is the deadline), Uttar Pradesh and Bihar are below the national average in 11 and 14 SDGs, respectively. Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Himachal Pradesh fared best.
- With respect to SDG 1 (poverty eradication), six of the poorest performers include Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. All these states — along with Meghalaya, Assam, Gujarat, Maharashtra and West Bengal — also feature in the list of worst performers as far as ending hunger and malnutrition is concerned (SDG 2).
- In water and sanitation (SDG 6), the performance of Delhi, Rajasthan, Assam, Punjab and Arunachal Pradesh is a cause for concern.
- SDG 7 — related to clean and affordable energy — has seen an above average performance, with most states achieving the target.
- In climate action (SDG 13), 13 states and two Union territories score below the national average. Odisha tops the good performance chart, followed by Kerala; Jharkhand and Bihar bring up the rear.
The gap between the targets and the achievements once more exposes the chronic problems besetting governance in our country. We set out with high hopes and may occasionally take some bold policy decisions, but when it comes to implementation and delivery, we are found wanting. This must change.
- Most of these targets are quite realistic, and while the pandemic can be blamed for some of the missed deadlines, for example, regarding the GDP growth, other deadlines, like the one on reduction in air pollution, should in fact have been achieved quicker because of the pandemic-induced lockdown. We must introspect on why we fail to achieve targets that are necessary to secure a sustainable future for this country.
- India needs to act in its own self-interest. Our climate change strategy has to be based on the principle of co-benefits — we will do something for climate change because it is good for the world, but also because it is good for us. We need a low-carbon strategy for every sector; we must also ask the developed world to pay for and give us the high-cost options so that we can leapfrog.
Can you answer the following questions?
- Climate change, desertification and the sustainability-affordability linkage three extremely critical issues facing India today. Share recommendations to address these issues.