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Pollution in India - statistics & facts

In recent years, rapid urbanization in India has been detrimental in many ways to the country’s environment. An increase in the country’s population and inadequate infrastructure have rendered many Indian cities with unhealthy living conditions. With existing challenges of poverty, depleting natural resources, poor water quality, and a lack of sanitation, many citizens bear the brunt of the toxic, unhealthy living conditions. The most affected are the poor and vulnerable sections of society from disadvantaged economic and social backgrounds. Depending on the type of pollution, the health effect varies, based on exposure and age.

India's environmental protection started as early as in the 1970s; it has stringent environmental policies and regulatory instruments in place. The government implemented a nationwide ban on single-use plastics in late 2019. Despite this, the environmental conditions deteriorated as a result of increased industrial production since the 1990s.

Air pollution is one of the major concerns, specifically in urban areas. This was primarily caused by fossil fuel burning in the transportation and industrial sectors. Additionally, the burning of agricultural waste, as a cleaning field process, introduces more pollutants in the air. Since this was mainly in the vicinity of the capital region, Delhi became the most polluted capital city in 2019. However, a positive effect of the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown in 2020 was a significant reduction in pollution levels across many Indian cities.

Pollution in the country permeates into other levels, and significantly so. Most water resources are heavily polluted due to effluent discharge. As of 2017, about six percent of deaths were caused by unsafe water sources. Apart from this, India is home to massive landfills and dump yards from which leachates contaminate the surrounding land and groundwater.

The country has been successful in introducing environmental education and awareness initiatives right from school level. In the business world. Growing awareness has led to the establishment of corporate social responsibility (CSR) committed towards social and environmental issues. One of the earliest acts of environmental protection that had gained international attention was the “Chipko Movement” – a nonviolent protest against deforestation. Following its success, several projects that could bring about environmental degradation have been successfully stopped since. With the support of NGOs and support groups, environmental activism is at the forefront. Climate change action has led to an obvious shift in consumer behavior in recent times. Despite these measures, India, like most other developing economies, has not yet tangibly put sustainability over, if not equal to its economic growth and development.

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Environmental pollution in India

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Pollution in Delhi

Waste generation

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