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India’s Environmental Issues

India’s Environmental Issues

As the population hits 1.54 billion, India is the second most populated country. While its population and economic wealth grow, so do its pollution and environmental problems. Every country is affected by environmental issues as climate change continues, and all eyes are on how each country tries to tackle this problem. Let's look into the environmental development of India by identifying current environmental issues, the impact of climate change, waste management, pollution, the water crisis, and the environmental policies that try to help ease issues.

Current environmental issues in India

Prominent current environmental issues in India are surrounding air and water pollution, deforestation, desertification, and waste management.

Deforestation and desertification

Deforestation is happening at an alarming rate in India due to making space for agriculture and reservoirs, logging, urbanisation, and forest fires.

Deforestation is clearing a wide area of trees.

Desertification is a process of spreading desert conditions in arid conditions caused by natural and human activity.

As a result of deforestation, loss of biodiversity, flooding, soil erosion, and climate change are caused. This can lead to desertification, which 25% of India is facing, and 32% of the land is experiencing degradation, which affects agriculture, food security, and livelihood.

Pollution in India

Pollution has become a serious issue in India. Let's take a look at the different types of pollution in India.

Water pollution

Water pollution is a significant issue in India. Untreated sewage entering surface and groundwater sources and polluting the water is a daily problem. The lack of capacity to treat the amount of sewage is due to the government-owned treatment plants closed with a lack of staff and electricity. This causes unhygienic conditions and affects the livelihood of residents. Water pollution in the Ganges has made it one of the top ten most polluted rivers. Urbanisation along the river has caused over 100 towns and cities to put their sewage into the river. Less than one-third of sewage is treated before entering waterways. Apart from untreated sewage, industrial and agricultural waste makes its way into the rivers and lakes. Fertilisers and pesticides affect the ecosystems in the rivers and lakes. Flooding during the monsoon season can cause further damage as the water can reach solid waste and move it contaminating soils, rivers, and wetlands.

Air pollution

Coal and oil are primarily used for fuel, along with biomass burning; air pollution from vehicle emissions and traffic congestion is a serious issue.

Biomass is material from living organisms such as animals and plants.

Biomass is a traditional fuel for rural areas, and 90% of domestic energy is produced from fuelwood, crop waste, and dung cake. India is the world's largest biomass consumer, such as fuelwood and agricultural waste, for energy purposes. Burning these for energy purposes releases carbon dioxide and adds to the Asian brown cloud, a layer of air pollution covering parts of South Asia. Vehicle emissions are also adding to air pollution in India. The government has introduced schemes to support electric and hybrid vehicles and is testing cleaner fuels for buses.

Environmental Development of India Air pollution in Delhi StudySmarterFig. 1 - Air pollution in Delhi

Waste management in India

Waste management in India has become a growing problem as urbanisation, industrialisation, and economic growth have resulted in increased waste production. It is common to see rubbish in urban and rural areas, a major pollution source.

Environmental Development of India Canals of Chennai StudySmarterFig. 2 - Waste in the canals of Chennai

Solid waste management is poor, and 90% of residual waste is dumped rather than disposed of properly in landfill which affects public health, the environment, and the economy. To try to better the situation, the Supreme court directed Indian cities to place a comprehensive waste management program in 2000 that involved separating types of waste, recycling, and composting. However, this was ignored, and none of the cities took on the direction. It is estimated that 40% of the domestic waste is uncollected as waste collection employees are unionised government workers that are not monitored. There are only a few landfills, and when they overflow, they become breeding grounds for flies, mosquitoes, cockroaches and rats, and diseases such as pests.

India’s water crisis

India's water crisis is so severe that almost 600 million of its population are deprived of water. Many of its cities, such as Dehli, Bangalore, Hyderabad, and Chennai, have exhausted their groundwater resources. This results from a lack of government planning, increased corporate privatisation, industrial and human waste polluting water sources, and government corruption. The government has been working on the availability and quality of municipal drinking water systems; however, rural areas are often left out, and the fast growth of urban areas has made it hard to keep up with, so government solutions become compromised by privatisation.

Addressing India's water crisis

The government is addressing the depletion of groundwater resources and has created a national groundwater program, the Atal Bhujal Yojana, which will help groundwater management in seven states. The program helps villagers understand their water availability and usage patterns to adjust how much they use. There is also the Jal Jeevan Mission that the government is working on with the state. The aim is to bring safe water on a regular and long-term basis to all rural households by 2024. In Chennai, wastewater is being recycled to be used in industry and has two water treatment plants to recycle 20% of the sewage.

Climate change in India

India is the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the US and China. This is due to rapid growth in population and the economy relying heavily on burning biomass and fossil fuels such as coal and oil. This is contributing to climate change and affecting the country in many ways.

Impact of climate change in India

The rise in temperature is causing the Himalayas glaciers to retreat, leading to the country's major rivers, such as Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Yamuna, having less water. Heat waves can cause temperatures of 50 degrees, as recorded in 2019, and lead to deaths. It is also affecting farm labour productivity.

Climate change is affecting the monsoon, which is vital to farmers as they depend on rain. The monsoon season is usually from June till September and brings rain which helps grow crops. However, climate change has disrupted the monsoon, and now the season is wetter, causing floods and spreading pollution. There is also more erratic weather, with examples of cyclones Tauktae and Gulab in 2021 and uneven rainfall during the monsoon months.

Environmental Development of India Fallen banyan tree StudySmarterFig. 3 - Fallen banyan tree due to Cyclone Tauktae

Sea level rise also affects the northeastern states such as Meghalaya and low-lying islands in the Sunderbans. If the sea level continues to rise due to climate change, it is seen that residents of those areas will have to move.

Sustainable development toward environmental issues in India

The government has reacted and has put into place sustainable developments towards the many environmental issues in India. In relation to the issues with energy, there is the National Energy Plan which is working with the Paris Agreement to keep the rise of temperature below 2 degrees.

Paris Agreement is a global framework to stop global warming from rising the temperature over 2 degrees. It was adopted in 2015 by the 196 parties attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France.

India also has a national plan, the National Action Plan on Climate Change which has several goals such as covering one-third of the country with trees and forests, increasing renewable energy, and maintenance of disaster management. Other initiatives, such as the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution, promote reducing emissions by a third by 2030 and changing to renewable energies such as wind, solar, and hydropower.

Environmental policy in India

The National Green Tribunal was set up in 2010 because the well-being of residents is affected by the quality of the environment,

The National Green Tribunal is an environmental court that tackles the environmental protection and conservation of forests and other natural resources.

The Tribunal has a "polluter pays" principle which is a system where the people causing the pollution are the ones who have to pay to clean it up. They have helped clean up cities in India by recycling e-waste, promoting the use of the metro instead of diesel cars, and checking on industrial waste. However, recently the Tribunal has been struggling with a lack of human resources and support.

India’s Environmental Issues - Key takeaways

  • Current environmental issues in India are surrounding pollution, air and water pollution, pollution of the natural environment, and waste management.
  • Deforestation and desertification are also environmental issues affecting agriculture, food security, and livelihood.
  • The government is struggling with waste management which leads to pollution and can become a health hazard.
  • The impact of climate change is the rising temperatures causing heat waves and glaciers to retreat. Also, the disruption to the monsoon season causes extreme weather and irregular rainfall.
  • Environmental policies are made by The National Green Tribunal, such as the "polluter pays" principle, where the ones who pollute need to pay to clean up the pollution.

References

  1. Fig. 1 - Air pollution in Delhi, India (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Delhi_air_pollution_2019.jpg) by Prami.ap90 (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Prami.ap90) Licensed by CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/)
  2. Fig. 2 - Waste in the canals in Chennai, India (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:India_-_Chennai_-_Monsoon_-_11_-_canal_near_my_house_(3059530914).jpg) by McKay Savage (https://www.flickr.com/people/56796376@N00) Licensed by CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/)

Frequently Asked Questions about India’s Environmental Issues

The environmental challenges of India are the loss of biodiversity, scarcity of water, air pollution, waste management and conservation of natural resources.

The government has placed sustainable developments towards many environmental issues in India. The government has created a National Energy Plan to work with the Paris Agreement. They have also created a National Action Plan on Climate Change addressing issues such as deforestation and energy sources.

Heat waves and rising temperatures, unpredictable monsoon seasons, an increase in floods and droughts and tropical storms are all effects of climate change in India

Waste management is a problem in India as the country struggles to cope with the amount of waste produced by its population. 

India ranks the third largest emitter of carbon dioxide after the US and China.

Final India’s Environmental Issues Quiz

Question

Prominent current environmental issues in India are surrounding              , air and water                ,                of the natural environment and waste management. 

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Answer

Pollution

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Question

True or False: the lack of capacity to treat the amount of sewage is due to the closed government-owned treatment plants with a lack of staff and electricity.

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Answer

True

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Question

What does water pollution cause to people?

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Answer

Polluted water causes unhygienic conditions and affects the livelihood of residents. 

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Question

True or false.

Coal and oil are primarily used for fuel, along with biomass burning, vehicle emissions and traffic congestion leading to India having a serious issue with air pollution. 

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Answer

True

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Question

What is the Asian brown cloud? 

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Answer

A layer of air pollution that covers parts of South Asia.

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Question

What is the solution to vehicle emissions adding to air pollution in India? 

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Answer

The government has introduced schemes to support electric and hybrid vehicles and is testing cleaner fuels for buses.

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Question

Desertification is                             .


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Answer

a process of spreading desert conditions in arid conditions caused by natural and human activity

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Question

Why does deforestation happen in India?

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Answer

Deforestation is happenings in India due to making space for agriculture and reservoirs, logging, urbanisation and forest fires. 

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Question

What are the problems of landfills not being managed well in India?

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Answer

Both

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Question

Many of its cities such as Dehli, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai have exhausted their              resources.


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Answer

groundwater

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