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Pandemic will leave 375 million children with health impactsAccording to the State of India’s Environment 2021 (SoE 2021) Annual report released by Down to Earth Magazine in association with Centre for Science & Environment (CSE), India is set to begin a ‘pandemic generation’ as 375 million children (0-14 year-olds) may suffer long-lasting impacts such as underweight, stunting & increased child mortality, to losses in education & work productivity due to pandemic.

  • Over 500 Million children have been forced out of school globally with India accounting for 50% of such Children.
  • 115 Million people may get pushed into extreme poverty by pandemic (majority of them live in South Asia).
  • India was ranked 117 out of 192 nations in terms of sustainable development behind all South Asian countries except Pakistan.
  • The report also highlights Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) evaluation of 88 Major Industrial clusters in India based on which Tarapur, Maharashtra emerged the most polluted cluster in India.

Report on Environment issues

Industrial Pollution

i.The report states that there has been a significant increase in India’s air, water & land pollution between the years 2009 & 2018.

ii.Out of 88 Major Industrial clusters in India, Central Pollution Control Board’s (CPCB) own evaluation indicates that

  • 35 clusters show overall environmental degradation
  • 33 indicate worsening air quality
  • 45 have water that is more polluted
  • 17 have land pollution which has worsened in the specified time period.

iii.Tarapur, Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster in India.

Performance of Indian states with regard to SDGs

  • The 5 best states with regard to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals are – Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu & Telangana
  • Worst performing states are Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya & Uttar Pradesh.

Air Pollution

  • In 2019, 1.67 Million Indians lost their lives due to air pollution.
  • The economic cost of this was USD 36, 000 million which is equivalent to 36% of India’s GDP.
  • It highlighted the need for a Vehicle Scrappage policy, by 2025 around 20 million vehicles will reach the end of their lives adding to pollution & environmental damage.

Water Pollution

  • It stated that Jal Jeevan Mission’s target to provide drinking water to all rural households by 2024 needs to focus on making water source sustainable, recharge of groundwater & rainwater harvesting.
  • Since 2014-15, India has spent 34% of MGNREGA (Mahatma Gandhi Employment Guarantee Act) funds on water-related works which has led to creation of around 11 million assets in half a million villages.
  • During the pandemic, there was no significant improve in the water quality of Indian rivers. River Ganga ran even more dirtier during the COVID-19 period.

India’s Flora & Fauna under threat

  • In India, 438 plant species (of which 95% are flowering plants & food crops) & 889 vertebrates and Invertebrates are under threat.
  • 34, 671 Environmental cases were registered in 2019, and 49, 877 environmental crime cases are pending trial, which means Courts need to dispose of 137 cases a day.
  • Forestland diversion continues constantly, around 11, 000 hectares were diverted in 22 states in 2019.  8 coal projects granted clearance in ‘No-Go’ areas have diverted 19, 614 hectares of forestland, fell over 1 million trees & evicted around 10, 000 families.
  • Over the last 4 years, the area occupied by tigers has shrunk by around 17, 000 Sq Kms.

Recent Related News:

i.December 3, 2020, According to a survey conducted by CPCB-IITD (Central Pollution Control Board-Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi), Southern India & Eastern India recorded a higher rate of increase in pollution levels than the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP).

ii.April 8, 2020, In accordance with the report by the CAG for the year ended March 31, 2018, 40.59% of the crimes related to the environment in the country were committed in Rajasthan (RJ) during 2014-16.

About Centre for Science & Environment (CSE):
Director General – Sunita Narain
Location – New Delhi