“Data is about measurement and the better we measure, the better we will get at management -- this is what we know and this is why we put together this dataset each year. It helps us make sense of the changes we see in our world; it helps us understand what needs to be done,” said Down To Earth editor Sunita Narain on Thursday while releasing the State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures in New Delhi.
The e-publication, brought out every year in June by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Down To Earth magazine to mark the World Environment Day (June 5), is a one-of-its-kind collection of data on environment and development that is assessed, analysed and presented by experts from CSE and the magazine. “Most of the data that the report carries is based on official government statistics that are available in the public domain. We simply analyse it and present it with a researcher’s rigour and a journalist’s insight,” says Richard Mahapatra, managing editor of Down To Earth.
Some key data sets in the report and what they say:
On agriculture: The report says that while the cost of cultivation has increased in India by almost 35 per cent between 2012-13 and 2018-19, the share of the income from cultivation in an agricultural household has gone down from 48 per cent in 2012-13 to 37 per cent in 2018-19. At the same time, 50 per cent of agricultural households in the country are reeling under debt. On an average, every household has a debt burden of over Rs 74,000, and about 29 farmers and farm labourers commit suicide in the country daily.
On solid waste: In 2019-20, India generated 3.5 million tonne of plastic waste. Only 12 per cent of this was recycled, and 20 per cent was burnt. The remaining 68 per cent remains unaccounted for, which means it is in the environment (land and water) or in dumpsites. Our hazardous waste generation went up by 5 per cent between 2019-20 and 2020-21, while our e-waste generation increased by 32 per cent between 2018-19 and 2019-20.
On air pollution: Reducing air pollution to meet the World Health Organization’s standards would add 2.2 years to global life expectancy, finds the report. In India, the life expectancy will go up by 5.9 years if the country meets the WHO levels of PM2.5.
On climate change: In 2022, India recorded its hottest March, with an early onslaught of heatwaves. The country reported 280 heatwave days between March 11 and May 18, the highest in the past 10 years. This is almost double of what the country experienced in 2012, the second highest heatwave year in the past decade.
On food and food systems: More than 1.7 million Indians die due to diseases attributable to unhealthy diet. The diet of an Indian, on an average, lacks in fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and whole grains.
Talking about the report, Mahapatra says: “Data re-generates debates and discussions. The State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures reiterates this every year. It brings to you the state of India’s environment, quantified. This year marks a milestone both for India and the planet. India is celebrating its 75th year of Independence and we have a promise of a ‘New India’ with quantified development goals to meet. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Stockholm conference, the UN’s first meeting on human environment. This report tries to do justice to both: by making an assessment of whether the promised ‘New India’ will come to pass (in the case of the former). And by documenting and analysing (in the case of the latter) how the planet’s environment has been in the last 50 years.”