Despite an improvement in overall performance, India comes out worst among other emerging economies, including China, in efforts to address environmental challenges, with dramatic declines on air quality, according to Yale University researchers.
India ranks 155th out of 178 countries in the 2014 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) issued by Yale University, while China ranks 118th, Brazil 77th, Russia 73rd, and South Africa 72nd.
A bottom performer on nearly every policy issue included in the 2014 EPI, with the exception of forests, fisheries, and water resources, India's performance lags most notably in the protection of human health from environmental harm, the New Heaven, Connecticut-based institution said in a media release.
"In particular, India's air quality is among the worst in the world, tying China in terms of the proportion of the population exposed to average air pollution levels exceeding World Health Organisation thresholds," it said.
"Although India is an 'emerging market' alongside China, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa, its environment severely lags behind these others," said Angel Hsu of the Yale Centre for Environmental Law and Policy and lead author of the report.
"Very low GDP per capita coupled with the second highest population in the world means India's environmental challenge is more formidable than that faced by other emerging economies."
Switzerland comes in at the very top of the 2014 EPI. Luxembourg, Australia, Singapore and the Czech Republic round up the top five positions of the index, which ranks countries on high-priority environmental concerns that include air quality, water management and climate change.
The stresses of urbanisation without sufficient investment in environmental protection help explain why India has seen a 100 percent decline in its air quality scores over the past decade, Yale researchers said.
While media attention has focused on neighbouring China's air quality over the last year, India and other South Asian countries, including Bangladesh and Nepal, rank the worst in the EPI's air quality category.
This category also includes a household air quality indicator assessing the percentage of solid fuel used primarily for cooking and heating, the Yale release said.
(Arun Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)