New Delhi, March 23, 2023: “The state of India’s environment is not a story that is unendingly, inexorably dark – it has a lot of silver lining as well, it provides us with a lot of reasons to celebrate as well. This is the story that the 2023 State of India’s Environment report, put together by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) and Down To Earth magazine, attempts to present,” said Sunita Narain, director general, CSE. Narain would be officially unveiling the annual publication here today at a public meeting.
The SoE(as the Report is referred to as) is published every year by Down To Earth, the fortnightly magazine that Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) helps bring out. The 2023 report covers an extensive gamut of subject assessments, ranging from climate change, agriculture and industry to water, plastics, forests and biodiversity.
Narain added: “There is news to cheer. Environment is now mainstream – we are all outraged at how pollution is affecting our health or climate change is devastating our future. But the bad news is that we are not acting at the scale of the devastation that we see around us. We need to take more deliberate steps to reverse the damage.”
Says Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director-research and advocacy, CSE: “For almost four decades now, CSE’s 'state of India’s environment’ reports have held up a mirror to the development pathways that the country has chosen. Bringing stories and voices from the ground, they have told us where we are going wrong; what has worked and what hasn’t; and have laid down some options to correct our trajectory.”
Richard Mahapatra, managing editor, Down To Earth, says the 2023 report follows the tradition. “The 2023 edition, with 20 chapters covering different aspects, shows how busy the country is with its many challenges. Butit also notes the many opportunities being explored, debated and discussed to meet these challenges. India has many mutinies on the environmental front, but also has as many warriors waging a battle to win.”
In the case of management of plastic waste, for instance,while the magnitude of the problem remains gargantuan, a plethora of policies and the urgency with which they were taken say that we are on the right path.Cities are becoming waste-wise, learning to segregate at source, minimise plastics and reuse reprocess waste into wealth.
Says Narain: “In industry, we have now identified pathways to decarbonise industrial sectors that are usually difficult to decarbonise. In agriculture, strong evidence is emerging of the efficacy of traditional and regenerative farming methods. On the issue of forests and biodiversity, losses of forests are a dark truth, but at the same time more and more communities are demanding rights over forests – what is more, these rights are being granted.”
Summarising what the report also points towards, Narain said: “The two big trends this year (2022-23) have been the reversal of gains when it comes to energy transition on one hand, and the overwhelming impact of climate change, which is a real threat staring at us. In the face of these two trends, we are seeing the worst manifestation of human behaviour – the global community and its leaders have resorted to accentuating the differences, not the common objectives to work towards a secure future.”
“We must realise that this is not a time or age for war, or for divisions. We need to have a common minimum programme that brings all countries together on the only issues that matter for humanity: how to avert the existential crisis we face today and how to build a just and inclusive world order. In fact, the pandemic treaty is a welcome development in this direction,” Narain added.
Also painting a grim picture: some of the darker highlights of the Report
Agenda for today
Solutions cannot be sustainable if they are not inclusive, says Narain. “We must push the envelope of change – and we must push it hard. We should track developments closely and report so that the truth does not remain out of sight. We must support those who are working on solutions,” she adds.