India moving towards water stress level: survey

NEW DELHI SEPT. 6. An assessment of the country's environment during the past five years has thrown up a mixed picture. While there are several areas where there has been a marked improvement, it shows that India is fast moving towards a water stress level.

The forest cover has shown a remarkable increase, there has been a decrease in air pollution and the policy-makers have shown keen interest in keeping the country green. Unfortunately, the areas of concern outweigh the achievements.

An assessment of the environment, made by The Energy and Research Institute (TERI), suggests that rivers are still dirty and water quality, measured in (biochemical oxygen demand), shows an upward trend between 1992-2001.

Of the monitoring stations along India's rivers, extending over a total riverine length of about 45,000 km, 14 per cent show high pollution and 19 per cent are moderately polluted.

Solid waste management, however, seems to be the worst-affected. Between 1997-2002, the total generation of waste has gone up from 47 million to 60 million tonnes, keeping pace with the country's GDP (Gross Domestic Product).

The fear is that, if this rate continues, the waste generated will outstrip the land available to dump it.

At the time of Independence, the total solid waste generated was 6 million tonnes, which is expected to go up five times by 2047 and the land requirement to dispose this waste will be 1,385 sq. km., the study points out.

The area of biodiversity has fared no better. The number of species under the threat categories is on the increase.

From 1994-2002, the number of mammals threatened with extinction has increased from 33 to 88, birds from 26 to 72, and fish from none to nine.

An important concern here is also that of large-scale loss of mangrove and wetland habitats due to commercial shrimp farming in the coasts of Orissa and West Bengal.

The TERI proposes another study on the main trends in the environment with an aim to examine and identify areas for further concrete action and suggest ways on how to generate and sustain critical momentum for positive change.

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