Why in News?
India ranks 177 among 180 countries in the Environmental Performance Index 2018.
A drop in the rank from the last index demands a relook at the country’s environmental policy.
About Environmental Performance Index?
- It is a biennial report published by Yale and Columbia Universities in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.
- It ranks 180 countries based on 24 performance indicators.
- It is divided into 10 categories covering environmental health and ecosystem validity.
- Top rank in sustainability taken by Switzerland, followed by France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden in the recent EPI.
- India at the 177th place is one of the bottom 5 countries on the index.
- The 177th place is a drop of 36 points from 141 in 2016.
- Emerging economies like Brazil and China ranks at 69 and 120.
- India is at the bottom of the environmental health category.
- In terms of air quality, India is at third last.
- Poor performance in the environmental health policy and high pollution-related deaths are the major factors in the overall drop.
- Other major causes include pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning and emissions from motor vehicles.
- Increasingly degrading air quality in India is attributed to the growth in population, industrial production, and automotive transportation.
- Air quality is the leading environmental threat to public health
- Over the past decade, the deaths due to a large rise in ultra-fine PM 2.5 particles in the country.
- An estimated 1.4 million premature deaths in India is due to Air pollution.
- Health impacts cause a serious loss in welfare equivalent to about 8% of GDP in 2013.
- The cost of labor productivity became 1.8% of GDP.
- Environmental degradation particularly affects the poor and further degrades their standard of living.
Over the past few years, the government has set some ambitious targets for environmental protection as follows
- Strict environmental standards for coal-fired power plants.
- Bharat Stage VI emission norms to be implemented from April 1, 2020.
- Initiatives to manufacture and sell electric vehicles in the country by 2030.
- Revision of National Solar Mission.
- Encouraging transition to renewable energy.
- The target for solar capacity revised from 20GW to 100 GW by 2022.
- Target to clean highly polluted Ganga by 2018.
- There is a huge gap between policy goals and enforcement.
- On solar targets, India seems to be moving in the right path. However, balancing it with other goals is seriously lacking.
- For example,
- The government has relaxed its promise of implementing strict power plant emission norms by December 2017.
- The 30% annual E-waste collection target by manufacturers has been relaxed to 10%.
- The automobile industry has stated that full conversion to electric vehicles is possible only by 2047 which is in contrast to the government’s targets.
- In the clean Ganga initiative, there have been delays in creating an action plan and lack of proper fund utilization.
- In order to address the environmental problems, there is a need to recognize the environmental costs of development.
- Subsidies shall be given in order to accelerate the transition to renewable, particularly solar energy.
- More polluting fuels should be priced higher.
- The environmental standards for coal power plants should be strict.
- Petrol and Diesel should be priced higher in order to aid the transition to electric vehicles.
- More political will is required to effectively implement the existing environmental laws and regulations.
- Considering India’s poor performance in the index, the government should take forward the environmental targets seriously.