Seventy per cent of Indian rivers are polluted. Underground water in 19 states is contaminated. Air pollution in 90 per cent Indian cities can cause respiratory diseases. Indian forests are depleting.
This sums up the findings of State Environment Report India 2009 released by Environment and Forest minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday, the day negotiations for global climate change started in Bonn.
“We may survive the environmental hazards, our children will not, if environment strategies are not implemented in right earnest,” said George Varughese, President of NGO Development Alternatives, which prepared the report for the Environment ministry.
Pollution of air, water, land and forests has increased since 2000, when the last India environment report was released.
What is most worrying is the phenomenal rise in respirable suspended particulate matter (RSPM), a cause of respiratory ailments, in urban areas because of the increase in vehicles — it has gone up four times from 2 crore in 1991 —and industrial activity.
“The estimated economic cost of damage to public health from increased air pollution, based on RSPM (Respirable Suspended Particulate Matter) measurement of 50 cities with a total population of 110 million, reached Rs 15,000 crore in 2004,” the report said.
This money is enough to educate Delhi’s government schoolchildren. With drinking water demand expected to double by 2025 from the present 25 billion cubic metre and 70 per cent of water sources polluted, the report said water could be a cause of major unrest in two decades.
The worst hit would be the agriculture sector, with scarce water resource impeding food security, the report said.
It is already being witnessed. Since 2000, per hectare yield of wheat, rice and cereals has declined, after showing upward trend for five decades. Overall, the report said, rising pollution could have major impact on food, water and energy security.