The first official report in eight years on the state of India’s environment was released last week. It says that nearly half of the country’s land is degraded “due to erosion, soil acidity, alkalinity, salinity, waterlogging and wind erosion”. Air pollution too is increasing.
Last week also saw the publication of research that used satellite images to show that groundwater is being depleted at a horrific rate in north India. The scientists who did the research said this loss is due to human activity rather than climate change.
These are worrisome trends and long-term risks to growth and livelihoods.
Environment minister Jairam Ramesh has said that the government plans to set up a US-style Environmental Protection Agency as well as special green courts. These would be welcome.
But law and regulation is only half the answer. We also need economic incentives to raise the cost of pollution and groundwater usage. That will mean taking a hard look at everything from free power to cheap fertilizers and rundown public transport systems.