62% Delhi land degrading: Report

Updated on Jun 03, 2022 05:23 AM IST

The report, released ahead of the World Environment Day on Sunday, also finds the Capital is currently off-track on six out of the 15 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations for 2030.

A view of morning traffic in New Delhi. (AFP)
A view of morning traffic in New Delhi. (AFP)
By, New Delhi

Nearly 62% of Delhi’s total land is under degradation,giving it the dubious distinction of being the third in the country -- after Jharkhand (68.77%) and Rajasthan (62.06%) -- with areas seeing a decline in productivity of land in terms of both biodiversity and agricultural cultivability, according to a newly released ‘State of India’s Environment 2022: In Figures’ report released by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Thursday.

The report, released ahead of the World Environment Day on Sunday, also finds the Capital is currently off-track on six out of the 15 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) set by the United Nations for 2030. It further said that the Capital continues to record alarmingly high pollution levels, with the annual PM10 level (particulate matter below 10 micrometres size) reported at 243 micrograms per metre cube (µg/m3), which is nearly four times the national annual standard of 60µg/m3, placing Delhi behind only Ghaziabad (245µg/m3) and Dhanbad (264µg/m3).

The report notes that there has been a 25% increase in degraded land in Delhi between 2003 and 2019, it says, adding that this is a result of erosion, waterlogging, mass movement of people or long-term loss of natural vegetation.

A cause of concern
A cause of concern

While Delhi government spokesperons did not respond to requests seeking a comment, officials have earlier said that the government has been actively looking to increase the city’s green cover, which has risen to 23.06% of the total geographical area as per the latest India State of Forest Report (ISFR) 2021. It was 21.88% of of the total geographical area in 2019 and 20.6% in 2017. This year, the Delhi government has set a target of planting 3.5 million saplings, a large chunk of which are expected to be shrubs.

Kiran Pandey, programme director at the Environment Resources Unit of CSE, said the assessment shows that for Delhi, Rajasthan and Jharkhand, a large chunk of the land is facing degradation, meaning the overall quality of land is going down or worsening over time.

“This will affect agricultural productivity, forest resources, the biodiversity across the city and in turn the livelihoods dependent on it. This is also important because agricultural lands account for around 46% of India’s degraded land and forests 22%,” she said.

To achieve its SDGs for the year 2030, the Capital has currently set up nine working groups and a steering committee too, but the CSE’s report shows that Delhi’s performance has deteriorated on 13 indicators spread across eight SDGs in 2019. These include dropout rate at secondary education, crimes against women, sex ratio, and share of industries complying with waste water treatment norms, among others.

The report says climate crisis has also been evident so far this year, with India recording its hottest March and an early onslaught of heatwave days. The country has reported 28 heatwave days so far between March 11 and May 18 so far – the highest over the last decade -- with Delhi-NCR alone recording 20 heatwave days during this period.

Delhi fares well on use of clean fuel for cooking, with nearly 95% of households employing clean, and operating at around 87% of its full sewage treatment plant (STP) capacity.

In terms of waste management, Delhi was found to be treating 80.75% of its municipal solid waste (MSW), with the rest going untreated. It however, fared particularly poorly on the segregation of waste, with only 20.07% of households making this a practice.

The latest plastic waste data also shows Delhi generated 230,525 tonnes of plastic waste in the year 2019-20, though only 29,968 tonne was recycled. Around 46,105 tonnes out of this was burnt and the rest left untreated.

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