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5 Biggest Environmental Issues in India in 2023

Environmental Issues in India; India is facing several environmental challenges. It is essential to bring the country closer

By Wahid Bhat
New Update
Environmental issues of india in 2023

India is facing several environmental challenges. It is essential to bring the country closer to these challenges so that its actions are eco-friendly.

Following the latest IPCC report released in March 2023, warning that it is "now or never" to limit global warming to 1.5°C, it is clear that the climate crisis is accelerating at a rate like never before.

From deforestation and droughts to air pollution and plastics, there are several factors that exacerbate climate change and their consequences are being felt around the world.

5 Biggest Environmental Issues in India in 2023

Air pollution

Without a doubt, one of the most pressing environmental problems in India is air pollution.

According to the World Air Quality Report 2021, India is home to 63 of the 100 most polluted cities, with New Delhi named as the capital with the worst air quality in the world.

Figure 1: Top 15 Cities with Worst Air Quality in the World

The study also found that concentrations of PM2.5 (tiny airborne particles that are 2.5 micrometres or less in length) in 48% of the country's cities are more than 10 times higher than the baseline level of WHO air quality 2021.

Air Pollution one of the Environmental Issues in India Photo Credit: Pexels

Due to air pollution in India, in 2019 more than 116,168 newborns lost their lives. These newborns were so small that they had not even spent seven days of their lives in this world and they did not even know the meaning of air pollution.

As per the data published by the US-based research institute Health Effects Institute (HEI), the data also showed that globally in 2019, more than 4.76 lakh newborns lost their lives due to air pollution.

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Water Pollution

India has experienced unprecedented urban sprawl and economic growth in recent years. This, however, comes with huge environmental costs. In addition to its air, the country's waterways have become extremely polluted, with an estimated 70% of surface water unfit for consumption.

India's waste management problem is a pressing environmental concern, with 277 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) produced annually, set to double by 2050. Only 5% is recycled, 18% becomes compost and the rest is thrown away.

The plastic crisis is also serious, as India generates 25,000 tons of plastic waste per day, which is almost 6% of all solid waste.

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The country ranks second in the world for river plastic emissions, with the Indus, Brahmaputra and Ganges rivers known as "highways of plastic flows", contributing to 90% of plastics seeping into the sea globally.

Water Pollution one of the Environmental Issues in India Photo Credit: Flickr

Restoring the water quality of our rivers and other water bodies such as lakes is a major challenge. Therefore, it is essential to find our proper strategies for water consecration, safe drinking water supply and keeping water bodies clean, which are difficult challenges.

Illegal dumping of raw sewage, silt and garbage into rivers and lakes has seriously polluted India's waters. The almost complete absence of pipeline planning and an inadequate waste management system are only exacerbating the situation. Every day, a staggering 40 million liters of sewage enters rivers.

Gujarat has launched a policy to decrease consumption from the Narmada River by installing 161 wastewater treatment plants to supply the industrial and construction sectors with treated water.

Poverty and Growing Population

India is the country expected to pay the highest price for the impacts of the climate crisis. Aside from extreme weather events like flash floods and widespread wildfires, the country often experiences long heat waves and droughts that dry up its water sources and compromise crops.

With population of over billions is growing at a rate of 2.11% each year. It puts considerable pressure on its natural resources and reduces the benefits of development. Therefore, the biggest challenge ahead of us is to limit population growth. Although population control automatically leads to development, development leads to a decline in population growth rates.

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Poverty and Growing Population are also one of the Environmental Issues in India Photo Credit: Rawpixel

Poverty and environmental degradation have a link between them. The vast majority of our people depend directly on the country's natural resources for their basic needs for food, fuel, shelter and fodder. About 40% of our people are still below the poverty line.

The heat wave has also contributed to an economic slowdown due to lost productivity as thousands of Indians are unable to work in the extreme heat.


India is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, with 7% of the world's animal and plant species and 21% of its geographic area under forest cover.

More than 12% of India's 1,212 animal species monitored by the IUCN Red List are threatened with extinction, and 25 species have gone extinct in recent years. India's freshwater biodiversity has experienced an 84% decline and 16% of freshwater species are threatened due to water pollution.

Figure 2: Biodiversity Hotspots in India

According to CSE, services for timber and non-timber forest products in India are in decline, suggesting overexploitation of forest resources. Another indicator of poor forest health is that 14 states have seen a drop in carbon sequestration services with forests being diverted for projects. The highest drop was recorded in Jharkhand, followed by Karnataka and Telangana.

India is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world (Environmental Issues in India), Photo Credit: pxhere

Forest restoration may be key to India's ambitious climate goals, but some argue the country is not doing enough to stop the destruction of this incredibly crucial resource.

The decision was justified citing concerns about the potential impact the deal would have on local commerce, the country's extensive agricultural sector and the role of cattle ranching in the rural economy. However, given the dramatic consequences, these activities have on biodiversity, committing to end and reverse deforestation should be a priority for India.

Forest fires

Warming temperatures and reduced rainfall have also caused an increase in forest fires in India. As of May 1, the number of fire alerts recorded by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) was 433,581. This is a big jump, even though the country's official wildfire season is from February to June.

The year 2016, the hottest on record when India's annual temperature rose 0.71°C above the annual average of 25°C, saw 541,135 wildfires, the most in a decade, according to the CSE report.

There were 136,604 fire points in the country from January 1 to March 31, 2022, Photo Credit Flickr

The increasing fire incidents in India have become a major cause of concern for authorities and citizens, especially as forests are not only crucial to the environmental, ecological and economic well-being of the state, but also provide environmental services to the lowland states.

Combined with this, the state recorded 27 days of heat waves, the third highest in the country after Rajasthan (39) and Madhya Pradesh (38), revealed the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) report.

There were around 340 (as of 4pm) fire incidents on the last day of March, with 1,141 large wildfires (LFFs) continuing over the last seven to eight days according to the Forest Survey of India (FSI).

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