ESI 2008
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Overview

Environmental Sustainability Index (ESI) is a comparative analysis of environmental achievements, challenges and priorities among Indian states. It is designed to sensitize, inform and empower citizens and policy makers. It aggregates quantitative data on states’ initial endowment and resource use trajectory, magnitude of pollution and its impact on human health & ecosystem vitality, policy & societal response to maintain and improve present environmental conditions into a composite index that provides the overall picture of state-level sustainability. ESI is developed with the objectives of: (1) Promoting information and evidence based policy making, (2) Prioritization in policy and budget allocation within the state, and (3) Measuring and monitoring sustainable development at the state level.

ESI measures the potential of states to maintain their environment in the coming decades given the various environmental resources that a state is endowed with. Dimensions of sustainability both as historical conditions and present efforts are mapped through 40 indicators in 28 states of India; and ESI is constructed as a composite index from these 40 key environmental indicators. Although there are no clear normative benchmarks or thresholds for ‘good’ performance on many of the indicators, scores on each indicator can be ranked from ‘best’ to ‘worst’. The index is constructed on this relative variation within the dataset thus providing a comparative benchmark for Indian states with their peers. Based on the aggregate ESI, states are categorized into five groups: most sustainable (top 20 percentile), more sustainable (60-80 percentile), medium sustainable (40-60 percentile), less sustainable (20-40 percentile) and least sustainable (bottom 20 percentile). Higher ESI for a state indicates the state has the benefit of better environmental quality and/or policy thus creating the potential to maintain its environment in the future. Lower ESI for a state is an indication of challenges in sustainable development due to higher pollution and degradation, more stress on the ecosystems and/or less responsive policies and institutions.

ESI is developed based on the Driving Force-Pressure-State-Impact-Response framework. Thus the chain of causal links starting with ‘driving forces’ (Anthropogenic activities) through ‘pressures’ (pollution& waste) to ‘states’ (air quality, water quality) and ‘impacts’ on human health, eventually leading to political ‘responses’ (conservation, emission reduction) is reflected in the results. Since a state’s long term sustainability is a combination of the stock (historical endowment) and flow (environmental services and rate of resource extraction leading to depreciation of the stock); disaggregating states’ overall ESI into these components reveals some interesting patterns of sustainability.