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Environment Ministry rejects low score on green health

The Union Environment Ministry has dismissed as “arbitrary” and “unscientific” a 2017 World Economic Forum-ranking that placed India at the bottom in terms of environment performance.

The January report ranked India 177 out of 180 countries on the Environmental Performance Index 2018. India had plummeted 36 points from 141 in the 2016 edition of the report, prepared by Yale and Columbia Universities along with the WEF.

India’s low ranking — 177 among 180 countries — was linked to poor performance in the environment health policy and deaths due to air pollution categories.

However, in a reply to the Lok Sabha, Minister of State for Environment, Forest and Climate Change Mahesh Sharma attributed India’s decline to a change in parameters between two editions of the report.

‘Weightages changed’

“Weightages given to the parameters at the three hierarchical levels (policy objectives, issue categories and indicators) are different in 2016 and 2018 iterations. The changes made have not been explained or backed by scientific arguments, and seem to be arbitrary,” said Mr. Sharma.

“In 2016, the two policy objectives of ‘environmental health’ and ‘ecosystem vitality’ had a weightage of 0.5 (or 50%) each; whereas in EPI 2018, it is 0.4 and 0.6 respectively. Further, for the category Air quality, the weightage given in EPI 2016 was 0.3, which has been increased by over 100% to 0.65 in EPI 2018. Different weightages and difference in methodology used implies that rankings arrived at are not comparableand has its limitations,” the Minister said.

This isn’t the first time that the government has disputed international reports that highlighted India’s poor air qualityin bad light.

In 2016, the WHO said 10 of the 20 most polluted cities in the world were in India. The WHO had arrived at its figures by collecting 24-hour and annual average of PM 10 and PM 2.5 of cities from government websites.

But the Central Pollution Control Board had dismissed these reports as flawed as “…the ethologic, personnel immunity (sic) and demography of India are incomparable with international practices.” Moreover, bodies such as the WHO used “arbitrary conversion factors [to measure the prevalence of different pollutants]” to rank cities for air quality, the CPCB had alleged in an internal newsletter published in November 2016.

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