According to the 12th edition of the Environment Performance Index (EPI 2020)—released by Yale University—India has performed poorly. Out of the 180 countries analysed, India stood at 168—behind all South Asian nations, except Afghanistan—with a score of 27.6. According to the report, the laggards—such as Nigeria and India—need to redouble their sustainability efforts. The index is based on 32 performance indicators across 11 categories—biodiversity & habitat, air quality, water and sanitation, etc—based on which countries are ranked on environmental health and ecosystem vitality. This index becomes a vital tool for assessing countries’ progress with regards to Sustainable Development Goals, and would help policymakers formulate and implement environmental policies efficiently.
India performed the worst regionally on all five key parameters for environmental health—sanitation, drinking water, air quality, heavy metals, and waste management. It seriously needs to focus on fixing air & water quality and biodiversity. India, this reports findings should show, is quite far from achieving SDG targets on environment. While the rhetoric on sustainability efforts of India has gone up, the increased vigour of efforts, though significant, still falls short. However, India can progress towards meeting its climate targets and goals if it follows better governance. The most crucial distinction between the worst and the best performers in the EPI has been good governance. With public inputs in policymaking and a more targetted regulatory mechanism, India can perhaps better its showing–quite crucial at a time when the time to contain the deadly climate change effects might be running out fast. The government must take take a hard look at the problem areas the report highlights, and, with the help of all stakeholders, act on safeguarding the environment and not only protect it from further degradation, but also try and reverse the damage wherever possible.