Bangalore: The best performing Indian states are also the most environmentally challenged, but there isn’t a cause and effect relationship between the two, says a report released on Thursday.
The report, which carries the first Environmental Sustainable Index, or ESI, for Indian states, was released by the Centre for Development Finance (CDF), part of the Institute for Financial Management and Research, in Chennai.
States with higher per capita income such as Punjab, Gujarat and Haryana score very low in ESI ranking, while those with lower per capita income such as Assam, Bihar and Orissa have shown good performance. However, Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan, with low ESI ranking and low per capita income are exceptions, the others being Kerala and Himachal Pradesh which score high on both parameters.
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The highest ranking states in 2008 are Manipur, followed by Sikkim and Tripura. The lowest ranking states are Punjab, Gujarat and Haryana. Six states—Karnataka, Kerala, Bihar, Jammu and Kashmir, Goa and Madhya Pradesh—are average performers. The rankings are relative and done on a scale of 0-100, which allows comparison between states. So, a score of 100 does not mean that a state has achieved the highest level of sustainability; it implies the state has been the best performer among the 28 contenders.
“Since economic growth gives an incomplete picture of a country or state’s development, as it does not reflect the impacts on ecological and natural systems, incorporating such impacts requires a different kind of framework—one that gauges a state’s overall performance,” says the report.
CDF however cautions that people should not infer a cause and effect relationship in this ranking. “We do not have time series to show even correlations between growth and environmental degradation; we just have today’s patterns,” says Jessica Seddon Wallack, director of CDF.
But these exceptions and correlations, says Wallack, can be explained in two ways: first, growth and environmental stewardship are not necessarily at odds. Second, some of the richer states may consider using the additional income comfort they have to start investing in greater environmental sustainability to ensure continued high living standards. Since most economic activities require extensive use of natural resources, rapid economic growth is often associated with unsustainable level of resource consumption leading to serious environmental challenges. Hence ESI becomes important as it attempts to link economic and social development with environmental sustainability; data with decision making.
In 2005, the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy in Connecticut, US, came out with an ESI for countries where Finland topped the list of 146 nations. India was ranked 101, China, 133, and the US, 45. While Yale’s ESI tracked 21 indicators, CDF’s ESI is based on 15 indicators derived from 44 variables or datasets covering a wide range of issues such as population, air and water pollution, waste management, land use pattern, forest and other natural resources, air and water quality, environment degradation, impacts on health, energy management, green house gas emission and governance.
“This is a wonderful starting point as it will create competitive pressure among the states but it should not be looked at in absolute terms. It cannot be the last word,” cautions Leena Srivastava, executive director, operations at The Energy and Resources Institute, New Delhi. While the indicators used in such indices are useful, they need to be transparent in how they are arrived at and should be used with caution, she adds.
CDF thinks by using ESI, states’ performance over the years can be measured which can serve as a background resource for decision-makers in policy planning and formulation and budgetary allocation at the state level. The centre has also launched an interactive website where the rankings of each state and year-wise change in ranking can be viewed at www.greenindiastandards.com.
“We intend to revisit the exercise annually to see how the states’ relative performance has changed,” says Wallack. Right now the index measures relative performance of states compared with others in a given year, but CDF plans to calculate an external benchmark in the future so that states can compare their own performance over time.
Graphics by Ahmed Raza Khan / Mint