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How important it is for India to take environmental concerns seriously on this World Environment Day…

World Environment Day is a reminder to take a moment to focus on our actions and the consequences they have on the earth. The global environmental crisis is growing with each passing year as a result of rising pollution levels and climate change. The United Nations designated June 5 to be observed as World Environment Day, and this decade has been dedicated to ecosystem restoration.

The conservation of nature or the restoration of ecosystems is an important factor that every country should consider, but the world is currently dealing with another serious crisis, the COVID-19 pandemic, which has claimed the lives of millions and driven many nations into deep recession. Even as countries around the world fight different waves of coronavirus, the key to the future lies in ecosystem restoration, which entails reviving old water bodies, developing natural forests, providing space for wildlife, and reducing water pollution.

2021 World Environment Day – a reminder for India

The World Environment Day in 2021 comes at a pretty challenging time for India, which is currently dealing with the deadly second wave of coronavirus. The second wave devastated the country’s healthcare system and economy. However, India has seen some positive signs in the last two weeks, with case numbers falling below two lakh and vaccination progressing across the State.

India may be able to defeat the COVID-19 pandemic in the near future, but it also needs to think seriously about ecosystems, as the country’s water and air remain polluted, and forest degradation continues. Amit Banka, founder and CEO of WeNaturalists, a Mumbai-based environmental organisation, said that turning to nature-based solutions and a nature-positive economy is the future.

Data from the Centre for Science and Environment’s report shows that a polluted environment combined with the COVID-19 pandemic can have a disastrous impact on rural India, where health infrastructure is very poor. According to a recent report by the Hindustan Times, India is currently facing a number of serious environmental problems, including climate change, air pollution, water and agriculture. All of this suggests that India must work on ecosystem restoration.

The following are some of India’s major environmental concerns:

  • Climate

The poorest and most populated states in India, such as Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, Assam, Odisha, and Chhattisgarh, are the most vulnerable to the climate crisis, according to the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) report. This was assessed using 14 indicators, including people’s socioeconomic status and states’ ability to adapt to climate change.

Data from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center (IDMC) reveals that India is the world’s fourth-worst affected country by climate-related disasters. Several disasters, including floods, storms, earthquakes and cyclones, struck the country in 2020 and into the first quarter of this year. According to the CSE report, there were 33 cyclones in India during the 2011-2020 decade

  • Agriculture

There has been an increase in extreme weather events such as hailstorms, excess rain and storms – showing the impact of the climate crisis on agriculture. These natural disasters have contributed to a high number of farmer suicides in India. Over 11,500 farmers committed suicide in India in 2018 and 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau.

The increasing use of pesticides and insecticides is polluting the soil and groundwater, which is of concern to the Indian agricultural sector.  The Indian Government has launched an organic farming initiative, but only 2% of India’s 140 million hectares of farm land is used for it. 

  • Water

Water pollution is another major environmental worry for India, with around 80% of India’s surface water polluted due to sewage and garbage dumps. A study on water resources and challenges in India says that groundwater levels are at risk due to various organic and inorganic sources.

The Government has spent a lot of money to build sewage treatment plants to keep sewage from flowing directly into rivers. However, according to a report by the Central Pollution Control Board, the water quality of India’s 19 major rivers, including the Ganga, Yamuna, and Godavari, is poor (CPCB).

  • Air pollution

In 2019, 6.67 million people died as a result of air pollution around the world. According to the Lancet report, 1.67 million of these deaths occurred in India – second highest in the world. Half of these deaths were reported in five Indian states: Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bihar, West Bengal, and Rajasthan.

However, there is one good news for India in terms of air pollution: it has reduced by about 40% in the last two decades.

  • Biodiversity

India is one of the most bio-diverse countries in the world. Measuring the health of forest is the best approach to evaluate a country’s biodiversity status, and it’s sad that India is sacrificing some of its biodiversity in order to pursue higher economic growth and meet people’s aspirations. In addition, 14 Indian states have seen a decrease in carbon retention services due to forest diversion for several projects.

  • Forest fires

Warming temperatures and low rainfall have resulted in an upsurge in forest fires in India. Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Uttarakhand are among the states that have seen a significant rise in forest fires. According to the Global Forest Watch report, the greater the temperature variance from normal, the more forest fires occur.

  • Polluting industries

Polluting industries has expanded by eight percentage points between 2019 and 2021 in India. According to the Ministry of Jal Shakti, industries in Jharkhand, Rajasthan, Delhi, Bihar, and Arunachal Pradesh are not meeting environmental standards. The CSE report says that total industrial waste generation in India increased by about 7% between 2017 and 2020.

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