Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean

The environment of India comprises some of the world's most biodiverse ecozones. The Deccan Traps, Gangetic Plains and the Himalayas are the major geographical features. The country faces different forms of pollution as its major environmental issue and is more vulnerable to the effects of climate change[1] being a developing nation. India has laws protecting the environment and is one of the countries that signed the Convention on Biological Diversity[2] (CBD) treaty. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and each particular state forest departments plan and implement environmental policies throughout the country.



Main article: Wildlife of India

The Bengal tiger. India has the highest number of cat species in the world.[3]

India has some of the world's most biodiverse ecozones—desert, high mountains, highlands, tropical and temperate forests, swamplands, plains, grasslands, areas surrounding rivers and an island archipelago. It hosts three biodiverse hotspots: the Western Ghats, the Himalayas and the Indo-Burma region. These hotspots have numerous endemic species.[4]

In 1992, around 7,43,534 km2 of land in the country was under forests and 92 percent of that belonged to the government. Only 22.7 percent was forested compared to the recommended 33 percent by the National Forest Policy Resolution (1952). Majority of it are broad-leaved deciduous trees which comprise one-sixth sal and one-tenth teak. Coniferous types are found in the northern high altitude regions and comprise pines, junipers and deodars.[5]

There are 350 species of mammals, 375 reptiles, 130 amphibians, 20,000 insects, 19000 fish[6] and 1200 species of birds in India. The Asiatic lion, Bengal tiger and leopard are the main predators; the country has the most species of cats than any other.[7] Elephants, the Indian Rhinoceros and eight species of deer are also found.[8]

There are over 17000 species of flowering plants in India, which account for six percent of the total plant species in the world. India comprises seven percent of world's flora. Wide range of climatic conditions in India gave rise to rich variety of flora. India covers more than 45,000 species of flora, out of which several are endemic to the region. India is divided into eight main floristic regions: North-Western Himalayas, Eastern Himalayas, Assam, Indus plain, Ganga plain, the Deccan, the Malabar and the Andamans.[9]


Main article: Geography of India

India lies on the Indian Plate, the northern portion of the Indo-Australian Plate, whose continental crust forms the Indian subcontinent. The country is situated north of the equator between 8°4' and 37°6' north latitude and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude. It is the seventh-largest country in the world, with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometres (1,269,219 sq mi).[10] India measures 3,214 km (1,997 mi) from north to south and 2,933 km (1,822 mi) from east to west. It has a land frontier of 15,200 km (9,445 mi) and a coastline of 7,517 km (4,671 mi).

The formation of the Himalayas (pictured) during the Early Eocene some 52 mya was a key factor in determining India's modern-day climate; global climate and ocean chemistry may have been impacted too.[11]

The Indian plate and Eurasia collided between 40 and 60 million years ago according to four observations, one being that there is no mammalian fossil record in India from around 50 million years ago.[12] On its way, the Indian plate passed over the Reunion hotspot which led to volcanic activity, thus forming the Deccan Traps. Its collision with the Eurasian plate led to the rise of the Himalayas and the continuous tectonic activity still makes it an earthquake prone area. The Gangetic plains were formed by the deposition of silt by the Ganga and its tributaries into the area between the Himalayas and the Vindhya range.[13] The rock formations can be divided into the Archaean, Proterozoic (Dharwar system), Cuddupah system, Vindhyan system, Gondwana system, The Deccan Traps, Tertiary system, Pleistocene period and recent formations.[14]

The climate comprises a wide range of weather conditions across a vast geographic scale and varied topography, making generalisations difficult. Given the size of India with the Himalayas, Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, there is a great variation in temperature and precipitation distribution in the subcontinent.[15] Based on the Köppen system, where the mean monthly temperature, mean monthly rainfall and mean annual rainfall are considered, India hosts six major climatic subtypes, ranging from arid desert in the west, alpine tundra and glaciers in the north, and humid tropical regions supporting rainforests in the southwest and the island territories. Many regions have starkly different microclimates. The Indian Meteorological Department divides the seasons into four: Winter (mid-December to mid-March), Summer (mid-March to May), Rainy (June to September), and Retreating Monsoon (October to mid-December).[15]


Main article: Environmental issues in India

Air pollution in India is a major environmental issue. Shown above is the Taj Mahal blanketed by smog.

Pollution is one of the main environmental issues in India.

Climate change

Further information: Climate change in India and Effects of global warming on South Asia

Being a developing nation, India is more vulnerable to the effects of climate change due to its dependence on climate-sensitive sectors like agriculture and forestry.[19] Low per capita incomes and small public budgets also lead to low financial adaptive capacity.[19] The nation is vulnerable to the immediate socio-economic effects of climate change. A 2002 study indicated that the temperature over the country increased at around 0.57° per 100 years.[19]

Inadequate infrastructure also means that people are more exposed, and less resilient, to climate change. For example, as of 2015, only 124 million Indians were connected to a sewer and 297 million to a septic tank.[20] The remainder depend on pit latrines or open defecation, which creates major risks of waterborne disease during floods - which will become more frequent and severe with climate change. These risks are more severe in urban areas, where the higher density of people means that basic infrastructure options might not be adequate. Additionally, many Indian megacities are in floodplains and deltas, and will therefore be very exposed to climate hazards such as sea level rise, storm surges and cyclones.[21]

Although India still has low average incomes per person, the country is now the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions after China and the USA. The central government has pledged to reduce the emission intensity of Gross Domestic Product by 20-25%, relative to 2005 levels, by 2020. India has also made major pledges to expand its renewable energy supply, enhance energy efficiency, build mass transit and other measures to reduce its emissions.[22] There is evidence that many of these climate actions could generate substantial benefits in addition to reducing India's carbon footprint. Many low-carbon measures are economically attractive, including more efficient air conditioners, parking demand management, gasification and vehicle performance standards.[23] Others offer social benefits: for example, Indian cities might see substantial improvements in air quality if the country were to promote renewable energy technologies instead of fossil fuels and walking/cycling/public transport instead of private vehicles.[24]


Main article: Conservation in India

Protected areas

Main article: Protected areas of India

In 2009, around 4.8 percent of the total area of the country were designated as protected areas. That comprised 100 national parks, 514 sanctuaries, 41 conservation reserves and four community reserves.[25]

Policy and law

Main article: Environmental policy of the Government of India

In the Directive Principles of State Policy, Article 48 says "the state shall endeavour to protect and improve the environment and to safeguard the forests and wildlife of the country"; Article 51-A states that "it shall be the duty of every citizen of India to protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures."[7]

India is one of the parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) treaty. Prior to the CBD, India had different laws to govern the environment. The Indian Wildlife Protection Act 1972 protected the biodiversity. In addition to this act, the government passed the Environment (Protection) Act 1986 and Foreign Trade (Development and Regulation) Act 1992 for control of biodiversity.[25]

Renewable energy

See also: Energy policy of India

Main article: Renewable energy in India

Renewable energy in India comes under the purview of the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy. India was the first country in the world to set up a ministry of non-conventional energy resources, in the early 1980s. Its cumulative grid interactive or grid tied renewable energy capacity (excluding large hydro) has reached 33.8 GW,[26] of which 66% comes from wind, while solar power contributes 4.59% along with biomass and hydro power.[27]


In 1973, the government launched Project Tiger, a conservation program aimed at protecting the national animal, the tiger. Its population reached as low as 2000 in 1970. Human population growth, cultivation of forest land and mainly hunting were the key factors for this decline. Aided by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Indian conservationists were instrumental in getting the government to ban hunting and set aside national parks. Project Tiger further served as a model for protecting endangered species like the Indian elephant and rhinoceros.[28] Around that year, after a protest in a village by the locals against loggers sent by a company, by threatening to hug the trees, similar protests got triggered, collectively known as the Chipko Movement. In the same year, the National Committee for Environmental Protection and Control was formed; in 1980, a department for Environment and finally five years later the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change was formed. The environmentalist movement in India began with these incidents.[28] Historian Ramachandra Guha calls Medha Patkar as "the most celebrated environmental activist in contemporary India".[28] New age India is concerned about the air and water quality, several civil society groups such as Environmentalist Foundation of India have forged a successful community based conservation model to revive lakes across the country.[29]


The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change through its Department of Environment and the particular state forest departments plan and implement environmental policy in each state.[30][31] Some national-level environmental organisations (governmental and non-governmental) include:[32]

There are at least 85 widely diversified environmental organisations involved with Environmental protection and environmental education in Tamil Nadu.[33][34]

See also


  1. ^ Wang, Guiling; Schimel, David (2003). "Climate Change, Climate Modes, and Climate Impacts". Annual Review of Environment and Resources. 28 (1): 1–28. doi:10.1146/ ISSN 1543-5938.
  2. ^ Cbd, Secretariat To The (25 February 2014). Handbook of the Convention on Biological Diversity. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-134-20190-7.
  3. ^ Sharma, B. K.; Kulshreshtha, Seema; Rahmani, Asad R. (14 September 2013). Faunal Heritage of Rajasthan, India: General Background and Ecology of Vertebrates. Springer Science & Business Media. ISBN 978-1-4614-0800-0.
  4. ^ [1] Archived 9 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Nag, Prithvish; Sengupta, Smita (1 January 1992). Geography of India. Concept Publishing Company. p. 79. ISBN 9788170223849.
  6. ^ Das, Chhanda (1 January 2007). A Treatise on Wildlife Conservation in India. Classique Books. p. 65. ISBN 9788187616221.
  7. ^ a b Singh, Singh & Mohanka 2007, p. 116–118.
  8. ^ Wildlife Of India. Har-Anand Publications. 1 August 2010. pp. 17–22. ISBN 9788124109700.
  9. ^ Majid 2014, p. 5.2.
  10. ^ "India". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 17 July 2012. Total area excludes disputed territories not under Indian control.
  11. ^ Rowley DB (1996). "Age of initiation of collision between India and Asia: A review of stratigraphic data" (PDF). Earth and Planetary Science Letters. 145 (1): 1–13. Bibcode:1996E&PSL.145....1R. doi:10.1016/s0012-821x(96)00201-4. Archived from the original (PDF) on 28 December 2006. Retrieved 2007-03-31.
  12. ^ Molnar, Peter (1986). "Geological History and Structure of the Himalaya" (PDF). American Scientist. 74 (2): 151. Bibcode:1986AmSci..74..144M. Archived from the original (PDF) on 5 June 2016. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  13. ^ Sanyal, Sanjeev (15 November 2012). Land of seven rivers: History of India's Geography. Penguin UK. pp. 17–18. ISBN 9788184756715.
  14. ^ Majid 2014, p. 2.3.
  15. ^ a b Majid 2014, pp. 4.27, 4.15.
  16. ^ Singh, Singh & Mohanka 2007, pp. 327.
  17. ^ a b Majid 2014, pp. 17.23–17.24.
  18. ^ Singh, Singh & Mohanka 2007, pp. 231–232, 300.
  19. ^ a b c Shukla, P. R. (1 January 2003). Climate Change and India: Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation. Universities Press. pp. 12, 13, 21. ISBN 9788173714719.
  20. ^ WHO and UNICEF (2015). "Joint Monitoring Programme". Retrieved 10 April 2018.
  21. ^ Cruz, RV, Harasawa H, Lal M, Wu S, Anokhin Y, Punsalmaa B, Honda Y, Jafari M, Li C, HuuNinh N (2007). "Asia". Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability, Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: 469–506. Archived from the original on 11 March 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2018.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  22. ^ "India's Intended Nationally Determined Contribution: Working Towards Climate Justice" (PDF). 2015.
  23. ^ Colenbrander, S (2017). "Can low-carbon urban development be pro-poor? The case of Kolkata, India" (PDF). Environment and Urbanization. 29: 139–158. doi:10.1177/0956247816677775. S2CID 62880332.
  24. ^ Guttikunda, SK (2014). "Nature of air pollution, emission sources, and management in the Indian cities" (PDF). Atmospheric Environment. 95: 501–510. Bibcode:2014AtmEn..95..501G. doi:10.1016/j.atmosenv.2014.07.006. S2CID 98270235.
  25. ^ a b Ganguly, Sunayana (6 November 2015). Deliberating Environmental Policy in India: Participation and the Role of Advocacy. Routledge. pp. 58–59. ISBN 9781317592235.
  26. ^ "Renewable energy achievements". Archived from the original on 1 March 2012. Retrieved 2 February 2014.
  27. ^ "Indian Renewable Installed Capacity has reached 27.7GW - Renew India Campaign - solar photovoltaic, Indian Solar News, Indian Wind News, Indian Wind Market". Retrieved 30 April 2016.
  28. ^ a b c Guha, Ramachandra (1 January 2006). How Much Should a Person Consume?: Environmentalism in India and the United States. University of California Press. pp. 35, 54, 55, 59. ISBN 9780520248038.
  29. ^ "This Organisation Has Restored 39 Lakes in 10 Years. This Year, You Can Help Them Fight Drought!". 6 May 2017.
  30. ^ About the Ministry, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Government of India, archived from the original on 4 October 2009
  31. ^ Welcome To Department of Environment, Chennai: Government of Tamil Nadu, Department of Environment, 2007, archived from the original on 24 January 2010
  32. ^ Environmental Biology. Rastogi Publications. p. 333. ISBN 9788171337491.
  33. ^ Directory of Environmental Resource Persons in Tamil Nadu (PDF), Chennai: ENVIS & World Wide Fund for Nature - India/Tamil Nadu State Office, 2008, archived from the original (PDF) on 2 October 2011, retrieved 7 December 2009
  34. ^ 2nd source (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 19 June 2009


Further reading