World Environment Day 2023: According to an evaluation of the states based on four criteria—the environment, agriculture, public health, and infrastructure—Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat came out on top in that order in a new report, The State of India’s Environment 2023
“Data is a great explainer. It tells the story at a glance and backs it up with evidence. The State of India’s Environment 2023: In Figures is our attempt to use the best available data points to tell you the story of India’s environmental performance: where it has faltered, where it has managed to move towards a sustainable existence, and where, if any, are the gaps in data,” said Sunita Narain, Director General Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), while releasing CSE and Down To Earth’s latest e-publication, The State of India’s Environment 2023: In Figures.
A ranking of the Indian states based on four criteria—environment, agriculture, public health, and infrastructure—is one of the report's standout features this year. At the top are Telangana, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, and Gujarat.
Additionally, the report provides a plethora of statistics on the condition of the climate and extreme weather, health, food and nutrition, migration and displacement, agriculture, energy, waste, water, and biodiversity.
“In this year’s report, we have, for the first time – analysed and ranked the performance of India’s states on four key parametres. The report makes sense of the state of affairs using data that otherwise remains cold statistics. As they say, what we can measure, we can fix. The State of India’s Environment 2023: In Figures does precisely that by quantifying the problems and indicating where they are,” said Richard Mahapatra, managing editor, Down To Earth.
On the state of the states
Telangana was rated as having the best overall environmental performance in the report due to its advancements in growing its forest cover and in the management of municipal trash. However, the state has fared worse than average in parameters including "change in the number of polluted river stretches," "stage of groundwater extraction," and "share of water bodies not in use."
Telangana is followed, in that order, by Gujarat, Goa, and Maharashtra. Bihar, Nagaland, and Rajasthan are on the lowest rung.
Six northeastern states, including Assam, are among the bottom 10 states, as well.
In terms of net value added in agriculture, Madhya Pradesh tops the list thanks to an increase in foodgrain output. However, the state's cropland is still only partially covered.
In the second, third, and fourth places are Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, and Uttar Pradesh. Among the states at the bottom are Delhi, Goa, and Meghalaya.
Delhi is the leader in public health; it has given health the largest budgetary share and boasts a well-connected system of medical services. However, the vaccination rate is poor.
Goa, Sikkim, and Mizoram are next. Gujarat tops the list for human development and public infrastructure because of its success in creating jobs and connecting people to the water supply. However, the state has a low sex ratio and a significant percentage of rural households who use unhygienic cooking fuels.The bottom-ranking state is Jharkhand, which is followed by Arunachal Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Nagaland.
Says Mahapatra: “Three key things emerge out of this ranking of states. One, we have found that in each theme, even the top-ranked states are struggling in some of the crucial indicators. Two, none of the states perform well across all four themes that are critical for sustainable development. And three, small states like Goa and Sikkim seem to be performing well.”
Some key findings in other areas
When India outlawed single-use plastics in July 2022: The Central Pollution Control Board released a smartphone application called SUP-CPCB that allowed residents to report the sale and usage of illegal plastic. The term "a dismal redressal rate" referred to a decrease in the volume of complaints.
Regarding the management of municipal solid trash: In the years 2020–21, India produced more than 160,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste per day, of which 32% was still unaccounted for. Typically, this unexplained garbage is burned illegally or clogs drains. Positively, the nation's monitoring and waste treatment systems improved.
On air pollution and health: By 2020, air pollution is estimated to have reduced the average life expectancy of Indians by four years and 11 months. Given that their average life expectancy has been reduced by five years and two months, people living in rural regions are probably the hardest affected. Their metropolitan counterparts have nine months longer average lifespans.
Regarding climate catastrophes and extreme weather: In 2022, India saw 314 out of 365 days encounter extreme weather, which resulted in the loss of over 3,026 lives and damage to 1.96 million hectares of cropland. Heatwaves were frequent in the first half of 2022, but hailstorms took over as the most frequent extreme weather event in 2023.
Regarding internal migration and displacement: In 2022, the La Nina weather phenomenon and the Ukraine war resulted in almost 60 million more displaced persons around the world. Nearly all of India's 2.51 million new displaced people were caused by climatic calamities.
The methodology of analysis
Kiran Pandey, programme director, environment resources unit, CSE and one of the lead analysts behind this report explains,“We have sourced all the data from government and official documents and sources. For ranking the states, we have looked at 32 indicators under four themes for 29 states. The report’s first chapter clearly lays down the methodology used.”