The country is all set to usher in a ‘pandemic generation’, with 375 million children (from newborns to 14-year-olds) likely to suffer long-lasting impacts, ranging from being underweight, stunting and increased child mortality, to losses in education and work productivity, according to the State of Environment Report, 2021, by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) released on Thursday.
The pandemic also has its hidden victims — over 500 million children forced out of school globally and India accounted for more than half of them.
“Covid-19 has made the world’s poor poorer,” Sunita Narain, Director General, CSE, said in a statement. “115 million additional people might get pushed into extreme poverty by the pandemic – and most of them live in South Asia.”
India ranked 117 among 192 nations in terms of sustainable development and was now behind all South Asian nations except Pakistan.
India’s air, water and land have become more polluted between 2009 and 2018. Of 88 major industrial clusters in the country, according to the Central Pollution Control Board, 35 showed overall environmental degradation, 33 pointed to worsening air quality, 45 had more polluted water and in 17, land pollution became worse. Tarapur in Maharashtra emerged as the most polluted cluster.
‘Lack of action’
CSE experts pointed out that this data clearly indicated a lack of action over the years to control and reduce pollution even in areas that were already identified as ‘critically’ or ‘severely’ polluted.
When ranked on the basis of achieving Sustainable Development Goals, the best performing States were Kerala, Himachal Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Telangana. The worst performers were Bihar, Jharkhand, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Uttar Pradesh.
Forestland diversion continued unabated in the country. Over11,000 hectares were diverted in 22 States in 2019. Eight coal projects granted clearance in ‘No-Go’ areas would divert 19,614 hectares of forestland, fell over 1 million trees, and evict over 10,000 families.
Sixty-seven million Indians died due to air pollution in 2019. The economic cost was over $36,000 million, equivalent to 1.36 per cent of the country’s GDP.