Flagging alarming environmental trends in India - GulfToday

Flagging alarming environmental trends in India

Meena Janardhan

Writer/Editor/Consultant. She has over 25 years of experience in the fields of environmental journalism and publishing.


Four biodiversity hotspots of India are home to innumerable unique and fragile species of flora and fauna.

A report released by recently by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) in India has flagged several disturbing and alarming environmental trends in India.

One of the major highlights was the startling fact that India has lost 90% of the area under its four biodiversity hotspots.

India has four biodiversity hotspots that hosts numerous endemic species. Around 24.46% of the country’s geographical area covered by forests and trees. However, the report released by the New Delhi-based group said the extent of vegetation in the Indo-Burma hotspot has been reduced from 2,373,057 square kilometres to a mere 118,653 square kilometres, pegging a loss of 95%.

Noting that the four biodiversity hotspots have been diminished to lower than 10% of their authentic extent, the report, titled ‘State of India’s Environment in Figures 2021’, shows at least 25 species have also gone extinct in these hotspots. The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) Red List monitors 1212 animal species in India and have tagged 12% as endangered.

In addition to the Indo-Burma hotspot which incorporates total north-eastern India (besides Assam), Andaman group of islands, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and southern China; the other three hotspots within the nation are Himalaya (Indian Himalayan area and the areas falling in Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, China and Myanmar), Western Ghats and Sri Lanka, and Sunda Land (Nicobar Islands, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and Philippines).

A ‘biodiversity hotspot’ is characterised by distinctive ranges of plant endemism and by severe ranges of habitat loss. There are 36 biodiversity hotspots on the earth. Their mixed areas cowl 2.3% of the earth’s land floor.

The CSE report lays special emphasis on climate change. The report points out that India recorded 12 of its 15 warmest years in the period between 2006 and 2020: it also had its warmest decade on record. Extreme weather events continued their rampage across the country, which was the fourth worst hit in the world in terms of internal displacements due to disasters.

It points out that 16 states — including Odisha, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand — have also witnessed a significant rise in number of forest fire alerts. It says: “India has seen a drastic rise in forest fires since the start of 2021…Forest fires are influenced by temperature and rainfall in the preceding monsoon. The year 2016, the hottest on record when India’s annual temperature rose 0.71oC over the annual average of 25oC, saw 541,135 forest fires — the most in a decade.”

The report adds: “Rainfall during the 2015 monsoon was 765.8 mm, 14 per cent less than the normal 880 mm, as per the India Meteorological Department. In 2021, too, India sees unusually warm weather along with 8.7 per cent surplus rainfall last monsoon that leaves adequate humidity for fires to spread.”

Not only that but 14 states or UTs in the country have also registered a drop in carbon retention services or carbon sequestration. Carbon sequestration refers to the long term removal or capturing of carbon from the atmosphere to control or mitigate global warming, and this is done naturally using biological, physical and chemical processes. A decline in these services means a decline in the capturing of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Keeping such services in place is important to minimize the impact of human activities on the environment.

Another alarming fact is that there has been a 46% increase in COVID-19 biomedical waste between April and May 2021. At the same time, treatment of this waste has dipped. In 2019, India managed to treat 88% of its biomedical waste – down from almost 93 per cent in 2017. The report said the biomedical waste generated daily in May this year was roughly 33% of India’s non-Covid biomedical waste. Further, the biomedical waste generated in May was 46% more than that in April. This is in line with data by the Central Pollution Control Board that said India 45,308 tonnes of Covid-19 biomedical waste between June 2020 and 10 May 2021. Kerala, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Delhi and Karnataka contributed 50% of biomedical waste generated in May. These states were hit particularly hard by the second wave of the Covid-19.

This annual e-book in figures analyses complex issues pertaining to the country’s environment and development. It examines exclusive datasets by government and other credible sources for better analysis of complex issues pertaining to the country’s environment and development. The first edition of this book was released in 2016.

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