Environment in India

Environment in India

The rapidly growing population and economic development are leading to the environmental degradation in India through the uncontrolled growth of urbanization and industrialization, expansion and massive intensification of agriculture, and the destruction of forests. One of the primary causes of environmental degradation in the country could be attributed to rapid growth of population, which is adversely affecting the natural resources and environment. The uprising population and the environmental deterioration face the challenge of sustainable development. The existence or the absence of favorable natural resources can facilitate or retard the process of socio-economic development. The three basic demographic factors of "births", "deaths" and "migration" produce changes in population size, composition, distribution and these changes raise a number of important questions of cause and effect. "Population Reference Bureau" estimated that the population of the world is nearly 6.14 billion in 2001. Contribution of India alone to this population was estimated to be 1.033 billion. It is estimated that the country’s population will increase to about 1.26 billion by the year 2016. The projected population indicates that India will be the first most populous country in the world and China will be ranking second in the year 2050 ["Population Reference Bureau", 2001] . India is having 18% of the world's population on 2.4% of world's total area has great increased the pressure on its natural resources. Water shortages, soil exhaustion and erosion, deforestation, air and water pollution afflicts many areas.

Major issues

Population growth and economic development are contributing to many serious environmental calamities in India. These include heavy pressure on land, land degradation, forests, habitat destruction and loss of biodiversity. Changing consumption pattern has led to rising demand for energy. The final outcomes of this are air pollution, global warming, climate change, water scarcity and water pollution.

Pressure on land

India faces the most acute pressure on its agricultural land. Today every million hectares of land supports about 7.27 million people. 43% of the land is currently under cultivation; one of the highest in the world. A change in land use pattern implies variation in the proportion of area under different land uses at a point in two or more time periods. Over the past fifty years, while India's total population increased by about 3 times, the total area of land under cultivation increased by only 20.27% from convert|118750000|ha|m2|0|lk=on in 1951 to convert|142820000|ha|m2|0 in 2001.Department of Agriculture and Cooperation, "Ministry of Agriculture", 2002.] Most of this expansion has taken place at the expense of forest and grazing land. Despite past expansion of the area under cultivation, less agricultural land is available to feed each and every person in India. Out of total geographical area of convert|329000000|ha|m2|0, only convert|306000000|ha|m2|0 is the reporting area (the rest being unadministered). The land for non-agricultural uses like housing, industry and others is increased from convert|9360000|ha|m2|0 in 1951 to convert|22970000|ha|m2|0 in 2001. More than convert|19400000|ha|m2|0 are snow bound and remote leaving only convert|237000000|ha|m2|0 for agriculture, forestry, pasture and other biomass production. The area under cultivation had increased by about 30% until 1981 and thereafter declined marginally. The net sown area increased from convert|119000000|ha|m2|0 in 1950-51 to convert|140000000|ha|m2|0 in 1970-71 mostly through reclamation of old fallow and culturable wastelands and diversion of groves. The net area sown has increased marginally only from convert|140000000|ha|m2|0 in 1970-71 to convert|141000000|ha|m2|0 in 2000-2001, which indicates that the private efforts have peaked. The extent of agricultural intensification and extensification is characterized by increase in cropping and irrigation intensity and higher usage of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides. Agricultural extensification and intensification is leading to land degradation, overexploitation of underground water resources, increased use of chemical fertilizers leading to eutrophication and water pollution. It has also resulted into water logging, salinization and alkalinization of croplands and eutrophication of water bodies and ill health of oceans and thus reductions in biodiversity.

Land degradation

Direct consequences of agricultural development on the environment arise from farming activities, which contribute to soil erosion, land salination and loss of nutrients. The introduction of green revolution in the country has been accompanied by over exploitation of land and water resources and utilization of fertilizers and pesticides have increased many folds. Shifting cultivation has also been a major factor for land degradation. Leaching due to extensive use of pesticides and fertilizers is a major source of contamination of water bodies. Intensive agriculture and irrigation has contributed to land degradation; particularly salination, alkalization and water logging.

It is evident that most of the land in India is degrading, therefore affecting the productive resource base of the economy. Out of the total geographical area of convert|328700000|ha|m2|0 , convert|175000000|ha|m2|0 are considered to be land degraded area."Economic Survey of India", 1998-99.] Water and wind erosion is the major contributor of over convert|141300000|ha|m2|0 to soil erosion, with other factors like water logging convert|8500000|ha|m2|0, alkali soil convert|3600000| , acid soil convert|4500000|ha|m2|0, saline soil including coastal sandy areas convert|5500000|ha|m2|0 furthermore adding to the situ degradation. While soil erosion by rain and river in hill areas causes landslides and floods, deforestation, overgrazing, traditional agricultural practices, mining and incorrect siting of development projects in forest covered areas have resulted in opening up of these areas to massive soil erosion. Ravines and gullies reported convert|4000000|ha|m2|0. Area subject to shifting cultivation reported convert|4900000|ha|m2|0 and riverine and torrents erosion due to floods and eutrophication due to agricultural run off reported convert|2700000|ha|m2|0. The increasing intensification and extensification also results in salination, alkalization and water logging in irrigated areas. For achieving and maintaining food security and sustainable forestry, controlling of land/soil erosion is very much necessary.

Forests resources

With less than 2% of the world's total forest cover, India supports 18% of its population. The total area under forests was convert|675540|km2|sqft|0 in 2001, which was about 21% of the total geographical area, as against the National Forest Policy (NFP) 1988 specification of a target of 33%. Even within this recorded area, only convert|416810|km2|sqft|0, or only 12.68% of country's total land area, comprises dense forest with a crown density above 40%, thus reflecting a qualitative decline of forests in the country. The forest cover had been increased by convert|35430|km2|sqft|0 from convert|640110|km2|sqft|0 in 1993 to convert|675540|km2|sqft|0 in 2001. In 2001, as compared to 1999, the total forest cover had increased by convert|38240|km2|sqft|0. The states which shown considerable increase in forest covers are Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Punjab, West Bengal and Rajasthan. The states, which have shown considerable decline in the forest cover area, were Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh.State of Forest Report, 2001.]

See also

* Global warming in India
* Fauna of India
* Flora of India



* Brandon Carter and Kirsten Honmann, (1991-92), "Valuing Environmental Costs in India": "The Economy Wide Impact of Environment Degradation", World Bank, mimeo.
* Central Bureau of Health Intelligence, (1995 & 1996), "Health Information of India", Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, New Delhi.
* Central Statistical Organisation, (1999 & 2000), "Compendium of Environment Statistics", Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, Government of India, New Delhi.

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