An Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) that maps the ability of States to remain ecologically sustainable while pursuing development has ranked Tamil Nadu in “medium sustainable” category.
Launched on Tuesday by the Centre for Development Finance (CDF), a think-tank of the Institute for Financial Management and Research, the ESI brackets Tamil Nadu among States that have maintained environmental conditions in spite of the relatively high intensity of economic activity and demographic pressures.
While Tamil Nadu scored well on the energy management front, the looming challenge for its policymakers is in evolving sustainable waste disposal systems.
The ESI maps 40 different environmental parameters to provide an index on the sustainability potential of a State. North-eastern States such as Manipur, Nagaland, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Uttaranchal and Sikkim have been rated “most environmentally sustainable.” The “more sustainable” segment featured Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Meghalaya, Tripura and West Bengal.
Among the bigger States, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh rank low in the chart while Tamil Nadu and West Bengal have largely managed to balance economic growth and environmental quality.
Jessica Wallack, CDF director, stressed the importance of delivering aggregated data in a manner that is easily assimilated by policymakers and civil society.
Notably, some States with abundant natural resources such as Orissa, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and Goa fall in the “medium” and “less sustainable” categories. This is an indicator of the stress brought to bear on eco-systems when development activity is not balanced by environment protection measures, according to CDF researcher Rupanwita Dash.
Gautam Dey, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (APCCF), Tamil Nadu, called for a constant evaluation of growth trends to attain harmony with sustainability and balance development and conservation.
Participating in a panel discussion on the ESI and its relevance as a benchmark to guide policy, C. S. Rama Lakshmi, APCCF from Andhra Pradesh, called for efforts to popularise green buildings, micro irrigation and other sustainable measures.
Sanjay Srivastava, conservator of forests, Tamil Nadu, advocated sustainability mapping at a more decentralised level such as that of districts or bio-geographic zones.
Anil Oberoi, APCCF from Madhya Pradesh, stressed the importance of credible data. Lachungpa, conservator of forests, Sikkim, highlighted the importance of people’s participation in environment protection initiatives.
Navroz Dubash, Senior Fellow, Centre for Policy Research, was moderator.
Another web tool launched by the CDF was an online pollution map ( www.indiapollutionmap.org) that seeks to strengthen the pollution monitoring regime in India.
According to Rajesh Rangarajan, senior CDF researcher, the map aims to support more meaningful tracking of environmental change by creating a repository on pollution monitoring.