India fares poorly on global environment protection index

July 11th, 2008 - 8:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 11 (IANS)India is floundering in its efforts to protect its environment and is lagging behind some of the poorer Asian, African, European and South American nations, says the 2008 Environmental Performance Index published by the Yale University in the US this month. The biennial index tracks the environment of 149 countries based on the parameters of environmental health, air pollution, water resources, biodiversity and habitat, production natural resources and climate change. This is the fifth edition of the report.

India ranks 120 among 149 nations on the list of the environmental protection index with a paltry score of 60.3 on a scale of 100 - almost at the bottom of the heap of low-performing nations. The index rates the objective environmental health of the country at 62.6 and eco system vitality 58.0.

India is one of the largest democracies in the world with a prominent voice in the International Panel of Climate Change of the United Nations. The per capita gross domestic product (GDP) of India stands at $3,308 and the country’s current population is 1103.4 million.

Smaller and poorer nations like Vietnam with a population of 84.2 million and a GDP of $2,925 rank 76 on the index with a score of 73.9 percent. And Indonesia, with a population of 222.8 million, ranks 102 on the index. Poor African countries like Tunisia and Gabon rank 60 and 64 on the EPI index while China stands at 105.

“India has serious problems in natural resource and pollution management. Its response to the problem of environment pollution is weak and reflects the financial disparity in allocation of resources for eco-conservation. Poor governance adds to it,” Daniel Esty, director of the Centre for Environmental Law and Policy at Yale University, told IANS over telephone from the US.

“It is doing worse than other countries with the same level of development. The major problem areas are air pollution in cities, availability of water and poverty. Another significant issue relates to the issue of bio-diversity and natural habitat. India also has serious sanitation problems and its indoor air pollution is probably the worst in the world,” Esty said interpreting the index and its reflections for India.

According to the professor, intensive overuse of agricultural land does not make farming sustainable in the country and affects the environment in the process. Esty said India had to become more serious about environment conservation.

“The country is full of talented people, sophisticated scientific equipment and extraordinarily enterprising communities of business and scientists. It can utilise its capacities much better,” he said, comparing the country’s scores on the EPI index with Indonesia, China and Vietnam, which he said were much more committed and serious about protecting the environment.

Experts at Yale advocated more allocation of resources for environment protection, better power feeds designs and consistent efforts as measures to improve the tally on the global environment protection index.

Analysing the EPI index, the report pointed to trends such as correlation between wealth and strong environmental health performance. However, it said some countries performed beyond income-based expectations.

The study said the number of high performers in environmental health category reflected a growing government attention to basic human needs, such as drinking water and sanitation by some of the developing nations.

Unlike eco-system vitality, environmental health is related to wealth, indicating that many of the low-performing countries have not made the requisite investment in baseline environmental amenities.

The top five ranked countries, in order of best performance, are Switzerland, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Costa Rica.

The report said as expected, developed countries with significant financial resources for environmental management make up a large portion of top performers, but Costa Rica, a middle-income country, outperformed many developed countries as well as its neighbours.

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