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India is the seventh largest country in the world and Asia 's second largest nation with an area of 3,287, 263 sq.km. For administrative purposes India is divided into 24 states and 7 union territories. It's bordered by Pakistan to the north-west, China , Nepal and Bhutan to the north, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. The country is home to about 16% of the world population. Physically the country is divided into four relatively well-defined regions: The Himalayan mountains; Gangetic river plains; Deccan plateau; Islands of Lakshadweep , Andaman and Nicorbar.




Seventy percent of the population lives in rural India with agriculture and agro-based small industry providing the major occupation. A wide variety of crops and vegetables are grown that has made it a surplus food producing country. Animal husbandry, dairy, poultry and the fishery industry are also well developed.

India is one of the ten most industrialized nations and is among the ten fastest growing economies in the world. The share of the Industrial sector to GDP is about 30 percent while agricultural sector contributes about 27.6 percent.

India possesses a great diversity of its natural ecosystems. The panorama of Indian forests ranges from evergreen tropical rain forests in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands , the Western Ghats , and the north-eastern states, to dry alpine scrub high in the Himalaya to the north. Between the two extremes, the country has semi-evergreen rain forests, deciduous monsoon forests, thorn forests, subtropical pine forests in the lower montane zone and temperate montane forests. India has many endemic plant and vertebrate species. Among plants, species endemism is estimated at 33% with c. 140 endemic genera but no endemic families. Areas rich in endemism are north-east India , the Western Ghats and the north-western and eastern Himalayas . A small pocket of local endemism also occurs in the Eastern Ghats . The Gangetic plains are generally poor in endemics, while the Andaman and Nicobar Islands contribute at least 220 species to the endemic flora of India .

India has tropical weather. The subcontinent has eight climatic zones all of which only have the monsoon rains in common. But even the monsoon comes to different parts of the country at different times. And you can fly in the space of a couple of hours through a range of weather from the cold crisp air of the mountains to the burning dry heat of the Rajasthan Desert where summer temperature regularly reach 45C and beyond.

Population and Development Trends:

Human and Development Trends

Life expectance at birth (years) 2005


Adult literacy rate ( % age 15 and above, 2005)


GDP per capita (PPP US$ 2005)


Human development index ( HDI) value 2005


GDP per capita ( PPP US $) rank minus HDI rank


Demographic Trends

Total population (millions) 2005


Annual population growth rate 2005 - 15


Urban population (% of total) 2005


Population under age 15 (% of total) 2005


Population age 65 and above (% of total) 2005


Total fertility rate (births per women) 2000 - 05


Human and Income Poverty

Population not using an improved water source (%) 2004

Population bellow income poverty line (%) $1 a day 1990-2005
Population bellow income poverty line (%) National Poverty line 1990-2004
Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) Rank
Human Poverty Index (HPI-1) Value (%)
Water Sanitation and Nutritional Status
Population using improved sanitation (%) 1990
Population using improved sanitation (%) 2004
Population under nourished ( % of total population) 1990/92
Population under nourished (% of total population) 2002/2004
Infants with low birth weight (%) 1998/2005
Energy and the Environment
Electricity consumption per capita (kilowatt-hours, 2004) 618
Electricity consumption per capita (% change) 1990 - 2004 77.6
Electrification rate (%) 2000 - 2005 56
Population without electricity (millions) 2005 487.2
Forest area (% of total land area) 2005 22.8
Total forest area (thousand sq km) 2005 677.0
Forest area - total change (thousand sq km) 1990 - 2005 37.6
Forest area - average annual change (%) 1990 - 2005 0.4
Carbon Dioxide Emissions and Stocks
Total carbon dioxide emissions (Mt CO2) 1990 681.7
Total carbon dioxide emissions (Mt CO2) 2004 1,342.1
Annual change of carbon dioxide emissions (%) 1990 - 2004 6.9
Carbon dioxide emissions - share of world total (%) 1990 3.0
Carbon dioxide emissions - share of world total (%) 2004 4.6
Carbon dioxide emissions per capita (t CO2) 1990 0.8
Carbon dioxide emissions per capita (t CO2) 2004 1.2
Carbon dioxide emissions from forest biomass (Mt CO2/year) 1990 - 2005 -40.8
Carbon stocks in forest biomass (Mt carbon) 2,343.0
Status of Major International Environmental Treaties
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety - 2000 2003
Framework Convention on Climate Change - 1992 1993
Kyoto Protocol to the Framework Convention on Climate Change - 1997 2002
Convention on Biological Diversity - 1992 1994
Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer - 1988 1991
Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer - 1989 1992
Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants - 2001 2006
Convention of the Law of the Sea - 1982 1995
Convention to Combat Desertification - 1994 1996

Source: UNDP Human Development Report, 2007/2008

Major Environmental issues

Land Degradation

Land degradation, which occurs through the natural and man-made processes of wind erosion, water erosion, and water-logging is being one of the major environmental issue in India . The result of such a degradation is the loss of invaluable nutrients and lower food production. Poor land use practices and management are recent for rapid land degradation. The steady growth of human as well as livestock population, the widespread incidence of poverty, and current phase of economic and trade liberalization, are exerting heavy pressure on limited land resources.

Loss of Biodiversity

Loss of biodiversity is a significant issue to India since many plant and animal species are severely threatened due to destruction of their habitats and an over-exploitation of resources. A large number of species are either endangered or on the verge of extinction

India has 47,000 species of flowering and non flowering plants representing about 12% of the recorded world's flora. Out of 47,000 plant species, 5,150 are endemic and 2,532 species are found in the Himalayas and adjoining regions and 1,782 in the peninsular India .

Air Pollution

Air pollution in India can be attributed to rapid industrialization, energy production, urbanization, commercialization, and basically due to an increase in the number of motorized vehicles. Vehicles are a major source of pollutants in cities and towns. Apart from the sheer numbers, other factors contributing to the increasing vehicular pollution in urban areas include the types of engines used, age of vehicles, density of traffic, road conditions, and the status of automotive technologies and traffic management systems. 

Between 1951 and 1991, the urban population has tripled, from 62.4 million to 217.6 million, and its proportion has increased from 17.3% to 25.7%. Nearly two-thirds of the urban population is concentrated in 317 class I cities (population of over 100 000), half of which lives in 23 metropolitan areas with populations exceeding 1 million. The number of urban agglomerations/cities with populations of over a million has increased from 5 in 1951 to 9 in 1971 and 23 in 1991. This rapid increase in urban population has resulted in unplanned urban development, increase in consumption patterns and higher demands for transport, energy, other infrastructure, thereby leading to pollution problems.  

The number of motor vehicles has increased from 0.3 million in 1951 to 37.2 million in 1997. Out of these, 32% are concentrated in 23 metropolitan cities. Delhi itself accounts for about 8% of the total registered vehicles and has more registered vehicles than those in the other three metros (Mumbai, Calcutta, and Chennai) taken together. At the all-India level, the percentage of two-wheeled vehicles in the total number of motor vehicles increased from 9% in 1951 to 69% in 1997, and the share of buses declined from 11% to 1.3% during the same period. This clearly points to a tremendous increase in the share of personal transport vehicles. In 1997, personal transport vehicles (two-wheeled vehicles and cars only) constituted 78.5% of the total number of registered vehicles.  

Fresh Water Management

The availability of fresh water is going to be the most pressing problem in India over the coming decades. Urban growth, increased industrial activities, intensive farming, and the overuse of fertilizers and other chemicals in agricultural production have put more stress on the water resources. Untreated water from urban settlements and industrial activities, and run-off from agricultural land carrying chemicals, are primarily responsible for the deterioration of water quality and the contamination of lakes, rivers, and groundwater aquifers.  

India receives an average annual rainfall equivalent of about 4,000 billion cubic metres (BCM). This only source of water is unevenly distributed both spatially as well as temporally.

Hazardous Waste Management

Industrial processes, mining extraction, tailings from pesticide based agricultural practices, are the main sources of hazardous waste. The largest quantities of hazardous waste are generated by the following industries: petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, paints and dyes, petroleum, fertilisers, asbestos, caustic soda, inorganic chemicals, and general engineering. The rate of generation of solid waste in urban centers has outpaced population growth in recent years with the wastes normally disposed in low-lying areas of the city's outskirts. At present, around 7.2 million tonnes of hazardous waste is generated in the country of which 1.4 million tonnes is recyclable, 0.1 million tonnes is incinerable and 5.2 million tonnes is destined for disposal on land.  

Chronology of Major Events leading to Environment Protection & Sustainable Development, during the last three decades.


Establishment of Department of Environment


Establishment of the Ministry of Environment and Forests


Development of the National Conservation Strategy and Policy Statement on Environment and Development.


Launch of Environment Action Programme with the objective of improving the environmental services in India and to facilitate integration of environmental considerations in development programmes.


Environmental Impact Assessment became mandatory for 29 selected sectors, under the Environment (Protection) Act.


Environment (Protection Act), 1986 - empowers the central government to take appropriate measures for the purpose of protecting and improving the environment.

The Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 , amended in 1983, 1986 and 1991 - provisions for the protection of wild plants and animals and regulates hunting, trade and collection of specific forest products.

National Biodiversity Bill No. 93 of 2000 (Act 2002)
P rovide for conservation of Biological Diversity, sustainable use of its components and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the use of biological resources.

The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 amended in 1988 - provisions of dealing with using forest lands for non-forestry purposes such as industry and mining.

Indian Forest Act, 1927 - provisions to enable the State to acquire ownership over forests and their products. Here the concern is not on forest biodiversity but on controlling and regulating the timber trade.

The National Environment Tribunal Act, 1995 - provisions for compensation for damages to persons, property and the environment arising from any activity involving hazardous wastes.

The Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 Amendment in 1988 - provisions for establishing institutional structure for preventing and abating water pollution, establishes standards for water quality and effluents.

The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, amended in 1987 - Provides for the control and abatement of air pollution

Indian Fisheries Act, 1897

River Boards Act, 1956