Background: 23% of India’s geographical areais under forest cover. Apart from providing livelihood opportunities for the country’s population, forests also act as carbon sinks and regulators of water regime. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Government of India seeks to ensure the conservation of flora, fauna, forest and wildlife; pollution control; afforestation and regeneration of degraded areas, to name a few. In India, the National Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA) Advisory Council has been established as per orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court and is meant to promote afforestation and regeneration activities, as a way of compensating for forest land diversion for non-forest uses. Some of the major initiatives ushered in by the Ministry, include National Mission for a Green India (GIM), Capacity Building f0r Industrial Pollution Management, National Green Tribunal (NGT) to name a few.
Current Scenario: The Union government is focusing on simplifying green laws to facilitate ease of doing business and promote India as an investment destination. The Modi government is keen on accelerating the pace of development in the country, with swift environment clearances. This can be actively promoted through the single-window mechanism enabled by merging of the existing laws. The government has already constituted a high-level committee, headed by TSR Subramaniam, to review the environment laws and suggest changes to bring them in line with “current requirements”.
Green house gas emission from the residential sector in India is around 6.3 per cent of total national emissions (standing at 95,896 giga grams CO2 equivalent), while the highest is from electricity production (34.5 per cent), while agriculture (23.4 per cent), industry (20.8 percent), transport (6.4 per cent), waste (3.4 per cent) and emissions from other sectors being (5.2 per cent). This makes promotion of backstop renewable energy sources an imperative. At the end of March 2015, India had 35,777 MW of renewable energy capacity and investment in India’s renewable energy sector shot up 59 per cent year-on-year during the first three months of 2015 to USD 1.6 billion.
A look at the CEPI scores reveals the level of pollution in the industrial areas and clusters in India. CEPI is a comprehensive score, which factors in the status of Air, Water and Land environment and classifies it in terms of critical/severe/normal. A sub-index score of more 2 than 60 shows a critical level of pollution in the respective environmental component, whereas a score between 50–60 shows a severe level of pollution with reference to the respective environmental component.
Future Outlook: As per industry estimates, investment trend in the renewable energy sector in India remains on track and will cross USD 10 billion in 2015 for the first time since 2011. The International Financ Corporation (IFC), the private financing arm of the World Bank, has said it would partner the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA) to provide infrastructure financing for energy projects in India. The aim is to make local currency financing available in shorter time-frames and reduce financing costs for lenders and borrowers.
- India has voluntarily announced efforts to reduce emission intensity by 20-25 per cent by 2020 from the 2005 level. Though India was a party to United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and its Kyoto Protocol, it did not have legally binding greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction commitments.
- The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests and its counterparts in Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan have come up with a framework to curb pollution. The steps include ban on burning of waste, waste-to-energy conversion system, banning polluting vehicles, conversion of coal plants into gas facilities, automatic identification of overloaded vehicles and adhering to upcoming norms on handling of construction waste.
- Amid alarming reports about the pollution level in Indian cities, Government has prepared three-month action plan to combat pollution in Delhi and an air quality index has been launched to monitor air quality in 10 major metros in the country.
- Thermal power plants in NCR that use coal will be converted into gas units to reduce emissions. The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) would build Asia’s first plasma gasification plant to convert polluting waste material to gas.