With scarce and erratic rainfall, and frequent droughts in the region, a pastoralist community of Rajasthan, Raikas follow the practice of moving their flocks and herds in search of water and forage.

Environmental situation Natural resources under pressure

India’s rapid economic development, its huge consumption of raw materials and its high population density are placing an ever greater strain on the environment. India is the world’s third-biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after China and the US. However, its per capita emissions are almost five times smaller than emission levels in Germany.

The air quality in many of the country’s conurbations is very poor indeed. Its waterways are heavily polluted; and in many parts of the country there are no proper systems of waste disposal or wastewater management. Large swathes of India’s forests are damaged, and the groundwater table is falling dramatically.

A government target stipulates that one third of the country’s surface area is to be covered by forests. However, according to the 2021 Forest Report, actual coverage is only around 22 per cent. And, of that area, only about 12 per cent is actually covered by what can be described as “fairly dense” or “very dense” forest.

Climate change

Increasing soil degradation and the considerable impacts of climate change on natural resources could potentially cause conflict. According to government figures, more than half of India’s land surface is affected by soil degradation. In 2020, more than 3.8 million people were made homeless by natural disasters.

Furthermore, existing climate models for global climate change predict strong fluctuations in temperatures and in precipitation on the Indian subcontinent. This will mean that droughts, extreme heat and flooding will be even more frequent in the future and that will lead to an increase in conflicts over water and land as resources that are in short supply.

Although India does have modern environmental legislation, when it comes to enforcing these laws, technical competence at the local level, clearly defined responsibilities and financial resources are often lacking. “Greening” India’s growth will be crucial for the country’s sustainable development and for the global climate as well.

Setting itself ambitious climate targets

At the international climate conference in Glasgow in late 2021, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced his country’s new, ambitious climate targets:

  • reaching net zero emissions by 2070
  • taking non-fossil energy capacity to 500 gigawatts by 2030
  • meeting 50 per cent of energy requirements from renewable sources by 2030
  • reducing projected emissions by one billion tonnes by 2030
  • reducing the carbon intensity of the economy (CO₂ emissions relative to gross domestic product) by 45 per cent by 2030

By setting these targets for itself, India has substantially enhanced its Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). India’s NDCs had previously been given a rating of “highly insufficient” by the independent scientific analysis collaboration Climate Action Tracker (CAT), which tracks government climate action.

As at: 02/08/2022