CSE’s statistical e-compendium on State of India’s Environment released to mark World Environment Day 2020

Brings together latest data and figures on a wide range of environmental issues and concerns – from climate change, COVID-19 and migration to water, air, land and forests 

A book that truly joins the dots and fills in the gaps in information. A book that breaks the conspiracy of silence in our pandemic- and
climate-stressed world of today, says Sunita Narain

New Delhi, June 4, 2020 

We all know that extreme weather events are increasing. In 2019, 19 major extreme weather events claimed 1,357 lives in India. In the past four years, extreme weather events have remained the topmost global economic risk. Says Sunita Narain, director general, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE): “The impact of this, coupled with our lopsided and bad development strategies, has been very severe on India’s poor. The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has now been added to these misfortunes, and we find that our poor are now fighting with their backs to the wall. This is what CSE’s latest publication, the State of India’s Environment in Figures 2020, brings out clearly.” 

“Beyond the claims and counter-claims of governments and their agencies, beyond the usual stories, is the data that allows us to read between the lines and fill in the information gaps. This well-analysed collection of the year’s data on environment and development offers us an opportunity to do just that – to understand and learn the real story,” adds Narain. 

An annual publication from CSE and Down To Earth, the State of India’s Environment in Figures 2020 – SoE in short -- was released today at an online webinar attended by over 300 interested listeners. The SoE’s coverage of subjects includes, besides climate change, the following topics: COVID-19 and pandemics, migration, agriculture and land, forests and wildlife, water and rivers, waste, air pollution, livestock, housing, employment, energy and the development scenario in India’s states. The book has 42 infographics spread over its 176 pages. 

Says Down To Earth managing editor Richard Mahapatra: “The rationale behind this book has been to allow statistics and data to ask some pertinent questions. Each piece of data hides a story behind it. It serves to fan your curiosity towards a certain issue or development, and helps you better understand its impacts.” 

On COVID-19, the SoE points out that while new cases remain static or are diminishing in North America, Europe and Australia, countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia are emerging as the new hotspots. India and Brazil are the only two of the nine worst-hit countries in the world that have decided to ease their lockdowns and scale down their stringent measures – even as new cases continue to mount. India ranks fourth globally in terms of active cases. 

The book brings out the massive scale of the economic impact of the pandemic: lockdowns have adversely affected almost 1.6 billion -- 76 per cent -- of the world’s informal work-force. The pandemic has put 265 million people at risk of starvation. 

For the first time in 22 years, the global poverty level will rise. Fifty per cent of the global population is under lockdown or containment with little or no new income -- 40-60 million people would be living in extreme poverty in the coming months due to loss of income. India will add 12 million more poor, the highest in the world, to its shattered population. 

While the SoE’s collection and analysis of data paints a rather grim picture overall, there also are some silver linings that the book underscores. For one, analysis indicates that India’s national commitments on climate are far more ambitious than that of most countries – including the US and nations in Europe. 

Says Narain: “The book makes it quite clear that we will need new futures, new directions for growth. But this can’t happen if our natural resources are threatened and our governance systems and practices are failing. ‘Green’ growth requires protection and sustainable use of our natural resources. ‘Green’ growth cannot happen if our health is compromised.” 

Journalists and reviewers can ask for the book to: Souparno Banerjee, The CSE Media Resource Centre,
souparno@cseindia.org, 9910864339