Environmental problems in India

Children playing in heavily polluted river in the slums near Bombay, India. rel=
Children playing in heavily polluted river in the slums near Bombay, India.
© WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI

Economic magic, environmental failures

Pollution. Deforestation. Wildlife trade. The aspirations of more than one billion people. These are some of the critical issues that India grapples with every day.
But as the country’s population and economy continue to grow, the need to find solutions becomes more urgent every day.

Across India, concern is mounting over an ever growing list of environmental problems.

More people means increased pressure on natural resources (from water to forests), while an economy in high-gear is leaving a trail of pollution that’s affecting not only India, but the rest of the world too.
 / ©: WWF
What is WWF doing about the problems?
© WWF

Deforestation

India is witnessing a rising demand for forest-based products. This is causing deforestation and encroachment into forest protected areas, which leads to a severe loss of natural resources.

It is estimated that total industrial roundwood consumption in India could exceed 70 million m3 per year by the end of the decade (350,000 large shipping containers), while domestic supply would fall short of this figure by an estimated 14 million m3.1

As the nation will have to depend heavily on imports to meet this growing demand, there is fear that this could result in loss of high conservation value forests and biodiversity elsewhere.
A thirst for palm oil
India is a big edible oil consumer. In fact, it is one of the three largest importers of palm oil in the world, along with EU and China. Of these imports, 95% come from Indonesia and Malaysia, causing negative social and environmental consequences in these exporting countries.

Conversion of natural forests for cultivating oil palm is a major threat to biodiversity and livelihoods in the tropics. Most of the lowland rainforest on the Indonesian island of Sumatra has already been lost, largely because of the clearance for oil palm and pulp wood plantations.

With the global demand for palm oil expected to increase from 28 million tonnes at present to about 50 million tonnes in 20302, there are very serious concerns that this will happen at the expense of biologically and economically important forests.

Pollution

Increasing competition for water among various sectors, including agriculture, industry, domestic, drinking, energy generation and others, is causing this precious natural resource to dry up. Increasing pollution is also leading to the destruction of the habitat of wildlife that lives in waterways.

Other problems
River silted and polluted Mettur Dam India  / ©: WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI
River silted and polluted Mettur Dam India
© WWF-Canon / Mauri RAUTKARI
Sources
1 International Timber Trade Organization. 2003. Review of the Indian Timber Market. PPD 49/02 (M).
2 2003. Jan Kees Vis, President of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.

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