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State of India's Environment

India has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources like fertile soil, voluminous rivers which have many tributaries and distributaries, forests and plenty of mineral deposits. The Deccan Plateau is rich in black soil and hence the growth of cotton industries is concentrated in that area. The Indo-Gangetic plain from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal is a very fertile region. It is a very densely populated area and is intensively cultivated. The forests are unevenly distributed but still provide a cover for the wildlife and provide a green cover for the population. India has about 20% of the iron ore deposits in the world. We also have abundance of natural gas and coal. Bauxite, tin, copper, diamond, gold etc are also available in various parts of the country.

The economic growth of the Indian economy has resulted in stress on our natural resources which has inturn affected the human health and well being of our population. The threat to our environment poses a dichotomy: Poverty induced environmental degradation and there is threat from pollution caused by the wastes of the industrial sector growing at a fast pace. Air pollution, water pollution, soil erosion, deforestation and extinction of wildlife are some of the most important environmental issues which India has to address soon. The priority issues are identified as:
  1. Land degradation
  2. Loss of biodiversity
  3. Air pollution especially caused by vehicular traffic in the urban sector
  4. Management of fresh water
  5. Solid waste management
The unstable use of land and inappropriate management practices result in the varying degree and types of degradation of land. Some of the causes of land degeneration are:
  • Loss of vegetation as a result of deforestation
  • High rate of extraction of fodder and fuel
  • Shifting cultivation
  • Encroachment into forest areas
  • Overgrazing and forest fires
  • Not adopting soil conservation methods
  • Improper crop rotation
  • Using chemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers indiscriminately
  • Improper management and planning of irrigation systems
  • Excessive extraction of ground water which is not matched by the recharging capacities of the environment
  • Open access to the resources
  • Poverty of the people of the agricultural sector
The demographical area of India is just 2.5% of the world's area but we support about 16% of the world population and 20% of the world livestock population. Hence enormous pressures are exerted on our country's natural resources due to the high population density and the competition in the use of land for pastures, forest, farms, residence and industries.

The per capita forestland in our country has to be .47 hectare in order to meet the basic requirements but at present it is a mere .08 hectare. This results in the felling of about 15 million cubic metre forests over the permissible limit.

The soil erosion is at the rate of 5.3 billion tonnes a year for our country and as a result we lose .8 million tones of nitrogen, 1.8 million tones of phosphorous and 26.3 million tones of potassium every year. The quantity of nutrients lost by India every year due to soil erosion is between 5.8 to 8.4 million tones.

Air pollution is wide spread in our country with vehicles being the main cause. Some areas also have a high concentration of industries and thermal power plants which also cause air pollution. Vehicular emissions are at ground level and hence have a maximum negative impact on the air. The number of motor vehicles was estimated to be about 67 crores in 2003 compared to 3 lakhs in 1951. Personal transport vehicles mainly two wheelers constitute 80% of the vehicular traffic.

We are amongst the top ten most industrialized nations of this world. This industrialization has also certain unwanted and unanticipated impacts such as unplanned urbanization, pollution and a high risk of accidents. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has given a list of 17industries both small scale and large scale as significantly polluting.

Thus we can see that the various environmental challenges faced by India are enormous. The measures adopted by the government has not yet yielded any significant results but as long as the government takes sustained measures we can achieve improvement in overcoming our environmental challenges. In order to overcome these challenges the future generation has to be kept in mind. Development of our lifestyles without giving a thought to the depletion of the environment will degrade and cause a degeneration of the environment.

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