Editorial Analysis for 1st September 2020

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The environment is a national issue


Mains: General Studies-III: Technology, Economic Development, Bio diversity, Environment, Security and Disaster Management


Environment issues are currently at the centre of a heated debate. This article discusses the issues and suggests policy measures to ensure better environmental conservation.

The Article emphasis on:

  • India ranked at “177 out of 180 countries” in the Environmental Performance Index Report in 2018.
  • In the June 2020 EPI, India’s rank stands improved at 168.
  • The Environmental Performance Indexhas been developed by two U.S. universities (Yale and Columbia) in collaboration with the World Economic Forum and European Commission and available ranking shows India at 118 in 2006, 123 in 2010, 155 in 2014 and 177 in 2018.
  • The EPI Index 2020 measures the environmental performance of 180 countries by considering 32 indicators of environmental performance across 11 issue categories covering environmental health and ecosystem vitality.
  • The 2020 EPI features new metrics that gauge waste management, carbon dioxide emissions from land cover change, and emissions of fluorinated gases – all important drivers of climate change.

Issues and Concerns:

  • India faces a number of serious environmental health risks, like poor air quality and contaminated water.
  • The winter smog and pollution in North India is a glaring example of this challenge.
  • Indian cities often figure in the world’s most polluted cities.
  • The high-water pollution level is only exacerbating the water scarcity problem in India.
  • There have been concerns over the alleged preoccupation with “ease of doing business” leading to lax environmental regulationsthat have proved to be detrimental to the environment.
  • The draft EIA has invited criticism from many experts and environmentalists.
  • There are also problems of environmental laws that seem to be only focused on large sources of pollution and tend to neglect the smaller but numerically larger number of pollution sources.
  • While existing laws focus on point sources like industries, they tend to neglect the agriculture-related pollution such as stubble burning or public usage pollution relating to vehicular and household sources.
  • Forest clearances for mining and industries and the population pressure on forests in the form of conversion of forest to cultivated land are both major drivers of deforestation.
  • However, while diversion of forests for mining and industry is regulated by law and challenged in courts, the other major drivers are not even discussed.
  • The lack of coordination between the Centre and the States has had a detrimental impact. ‘Forests’ was a State subject until transferred to the Concurrent List by the 42nd Amendment Act.
  • However, de facto, the powers of the state governments continue and they have been reluctant to work together to find solutions to environmental challenges.
  • The stubble burning in North India exemplifies the anomalies of federalism, where the imperatives of the Centre and States differ.

Way forward:

  • India needs to re-double national sustainability efforts on all fronts. The country needs to focus on a wide spectrum of sustainability issues, with a high-priority to critical issues such as air and water quality, biodiversity and climate change. India’s decarbonization agenda needs to be further accelerated.
  • There is a need to balance between the environment and the development needs of the country.
  • The critical need of the hour is to harmonies the working of the central, state, and local governments.
  • There is a need for better monitoring and compliance with environmental laws.
  • The environment is a national issue that requires the unwavering participation of all governments, and all citizens.

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