Outlook India, January 31, 2022
Marking an upgrade in its performance on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), India improved its score to 66 on NITI Aayog’s SDG India Index in 2020-21, reported the latest edition of the Economic Survey released on Monday. This was up from 60 in 2019-20 and 57 in 2018-19. The SDG index is a measure of the progress achieved by states and union territories (UTs) on parameters like health, education, gender, economic growth, institutions, climate change, and the environment.
While Kerala and Chandigarh emerged as the top state and UT in 2021-22, Bihar, Jharkhand, and Assam were the worst-performing states. The survey shows that the number of front runners (scoring 65-99) increased to 22 states and UTs in 2020-21 from 10 in 2019-20. The SDG scores range between 0 and 100 with a higher score indicating that a state is closer to achieving the targets.
Pleased with the country’s progress towards SDG goals, Harsh Jaitli, the Chief Executive Officer of Voluntary Action Network India (VANI) says, “Indian civil society is proud of its partnership with government in achieving SDG targets. We all have been on receiving end of disasters caused by climate change, the Indian CSOs through their innovations are committed to safe and healthy life on the planet.”
“Despite 2020-21 being a pandemic year, India performed well on eight of the 15 SDGs measured by the NITI Aayog SDG India Index. These included – Goal 3 (good health and well-being), Goal 6 (clean water and sanitation), Goal 7 (affordable and clean energy), Goal 10 (reduced inequalities), Goal 11 (sustainable cities and communities), Goal 12 (responsible consumption and production), Goal 15 (life on land) and Goal 16 (peace, justice, and strong institutions),” points out the survey.
The Economic Survey places special emphasis on Goal 15 which focuses on managing forests sustainably. Highlighting the increased forest cover, the survey adds that India is one amongst the top 10 countries in terms of forest area as per cent of the total geographical area of the country and per cent of world forest area—accounting for 2 per cent of the world’s total forest area in 2020. The country has added an average of 2,66,000 ha of additional forest area every year since 2010. The increase in total forest cover has been attributed to an increase in very dense forest—all lands with tree canopy density of 70 per cent and above—which rose by 19.54 per cent between 2011 and 2021. Of all the states, Madhya Pradesh boasted the largest forest cover in the country with 11 per cent.
The survey notes that special attention is being paid to tracking SDGs in the Northeast region. The Northeastern Region (NER) District SDG Index 2021-22 developed by the NITI Aayog has been constructed with 84 indicators and covers 15 global goals, 50 SDG targets and 103 districts in the eight states of the region.
Dipankar Ghosh, Partner and Leader for Sustainability & Climate Change at Thinkthrough Consulting (TTC) expresses, “The substantial progress of India on the SDG front, as evident from the systematic monitoring through NITI Aayog’s Index & Dashboard, demonstrates commendable steps by India in the initial years of United Nation’s ‘Decade of Action’ (2020-29, that calls for an optimum combination of global, local and people actions towards the success of the UN Global Goals.”
However, Rajesh Tandon, Founder of the Society for Participatory Research in Asia (PRIA) is disappointed by the Economic Survey. He says the government has “completely glossed over parameters where it has done better whereas hidden critical indices SDG 1 and 2 on poverty and hunger. We all know that there was a considerable impact on poverty and hunger during the pandemic. I am so disappointed by the Economic Survey for not picking up issues which matter from an economic point of view.”
He adds that globally, India fared worse than Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. The ‘Sustainable Development Report 2020’ brought out by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network revealed that India ranked 117 in 2020, two spots below 115, its rank in 2019 out of the 166 countries on the SDG Index. At the 109th rank, neighbour Bangladesh scored better than India on the index.
SDG 12 stands for ensuring sustainable consumption and production patterns. Pradeep Mehta, Secretary-General, of Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS International) – one of the largest consumer groups in India, says, “SDGs have to be approached in a whole of government manner. The climate change agenda can be advanced by promotion of SDG12 – Responsible Consumption and Production but our Ecomark is not being taken up seriously by the government. ”
Ecomark is environmental labelling, a market instrument to promote sustainable cons and prod.
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