The Correlation Between Environmental Instability and Poverty in India Environmental instability in India is a nuanced and multifaceted issue in terms of multiple causes and effects that hinder the search for a solution. India has the second-highest population in the world, second only to China. This makes India particularly susceptible to poverty because there are not enough resources to sufficiently aid each citizen. In fact, roughly 68.8% of India’s population survives on under $2 per day. Notably, women and children are disproportionately affected by this poverty.

Increasing Temperatures Affecting Agriculture

Unfortunately, India also suffers from environmental instability. Poverty and the state of the environment are very closely linked. Although the two issues feel as if they are completely separate, they function in a symbiotic relationship. As the country’s environmental stability decreases, poverty increases, and vice versa. This is because environmental instability hinders local economies and those economies often utilize more affordable forms of energy which then adds to that same environmental instability.

Consequently, the effects of increased temperatures like extreme weather have severely impacted the country’s ability to produce food for itself. Agricultural communities are unable to predict weather patterns, which negatively affects crop yield and commonly puts those people in direct danger. An example being the death of 2,400 people in 2018-2019 due to floods and cyclones.

These unpredictable weather patterns disrupt agriculture and have a long-term impact on the future of farmers in India. Agriculture takes up 16% of India’s GDP and roughly 49% of those employed are within the agriculture industry. This population’s well-being is entirely contingent on environmental stability and they do not have it. Increasing temperature causes difficulty predicting average rainfall, average temperature and average dry day count. These statistics being relatively consistent is paramount to the success rate of agriculture in India. Due to their extreme fluctuation, India’s farmers could lose 15% to 25% of their income, depending on if the area is irrigated or not.

Pollution Affecting India’s Economy

With India’s dependence on the agriculture industry established, it is important to also note the effect that pollution has on this sector of the Indian economy and the poverty that results. Air pollution is something India hasn’t been able to control due to its reliance on fossil fuels and large population. As this pollution has increased, Indian crop yields have been cut in half.

As a result of the country’s reliance on fossil fuels, a buildup of ozone level 3 has occurred. Ozone level 3 is caused by the combustion of nitrogen oxides from vehicle exhaust and various air pollutants. When this ozone level increases, crops are not able to attain the necessary hours of sunlight to ensure their growth. Crops are also sensitive to the pollutants in the soil. These can arise from a variety of unsafe practices, including chemical use, poor irrigation systems and unhealthy waste management. This lack of consistent crop output puts a heavy strain on the farmers and their families, which leads to poverty in more rural areas.

Pollution generally affects impoverished areas much more than it does other areas, with 92% of pollution-related deaths occurring in poverty-ridden countries. This pollution causes illnesses that are often generational, being passed from pregnant mother to child, which in turn creates a physically weaker population that is at a disadvantage in regard to their participation in the local economy.

Additionally, children born in areas with high pollution have limited learning potential. When these children are limited due to pollutants with the capacity to make them ill, they are at an extreme detriment in terms of education and a successful transition into the workforce. As a result, they are trapped in a cycle of poverty created by a lack of education and high paying jobs. The lack of environmental stability in India has a direct impact on the quality of life of the citizens whether it be illness or subsequent poverty.

Solutions to Resolve Environmental Instability in India

While environmental instability continues to be a significant issue in India; fortunately, there are many small efforts that have taken place to relieve this issue. One such example is the compulsory education on the environment within public schooling, which stresses healthier environmental practices within the daily lives of the students. This was passed by a Supreme Court ruling in 2003 and aims to make the public more active participants in the fight for environmental stability. Another solution has been the alteration of transportation to create less harmful emissions.

In 2013, the India-California Air Pollution Mitigation Program was created by the partnership of a Californian Air Resources board and an Indian Energy and Resources Institute. This program has recommended a set of 12 possible mechanisms to reduce air pollution that focuses on the incorporation of the entire system. These mechanisms include replacing kitchen stoves with cleaner alternatives, reevaluating diesel transport to create cleaner options and restricting the burning of fossil fuels. The group predicts that if villagers were given energy-efficient stoves that air pollution would be lessened by a third.

While India’s environmental history has not been the most inspiring, the future is rife with new possibilities and people who are dedicated to fighting for stability within India’s environment.

– Stella Vallon
Photo: Flickr