According to fsdinternational.org, "India makes up 2.4 percent of the world's land, while supporting 16 percent of the world's population. The compounding result is a severely unsustainable use of natural resources for several generations" (http://www.fsdinternational.org/country/india/envissues). Like many booming economies, especially in countries where about 1/3 of its over 1 billion population lives at or below the poverty line, India faces serious environmental issues. From air & water pollution, deforestation, erosion, falling water tables, draught, in addition to significant loss of species and liter problems India is juggling balancing the needs of its massive population with her environmental health. If you have never traveled to this region before and are coming from an industrialized, wealthy nation India's environmental problems may be a shock. Here are some outside resources for more information on India's environmental issues. We highly recommend the UNICEF.org link listed below:
Air Pollution: Especially in big cities air pollution is a significant problem. From the emissions from millions of cars, rickshaws, buses, and trucks choking the roads in addition to industrial pollution spewing out black carbon particulate (soot) the air quality can be less then desirable, especially in crowded cities. To ease the impact that the poor air quality has in the big cities or if riding behind a vehicle pumping out dirty fuel, bring a face cover or bandana to tie around your face covering your mouth and nose.
Water pollution & lack of Access to Clean Water: A major problem in many parts of India and most of it is from pesticide farm run off, heavy metals and industrial pollution & raw untreated sewage being dumped into the river, people defecating in the river, and partially cremated bodies being floated down rivers. Parts of the Ganges and Yamuna are basically dead rivers, choked of oxygen. Many large and small communities still have difficulty accessing clean and safe drinking water that is not infected with E coli and other bacteria. Environmental and local NGO's are attempting to address these problems, however due to corruption on many levels, and difficulty controlling engrained behavior on such a large population, water pollution is still a major problem in India. This creates a tremendous problem for healthy drinking water for locals. Although access has improved, water born illnesses are still a significant problem in India. (See above links such as fsdinternationl or UNICEF link for more information). If you intend to swim in the Ganges we recommend doing so above Haridwar & Rishikesh as many parts of the Ganges that run through Uttar Pradesh are severely polluted. Click here for more information on safe & unsafe drinking water.
Deforestation: Forest cover in India is rapidly declining due to population growth, sprawl, logging interests, wood used for cooking and heat, and industry. According to http://www.isfoundation.com/news/effects-industry-deforestation-india, "India, along with most of the other developing nations, is experiencing industrial growth and a population explosion, resulting in fast depletion of their forests. India once had 14.8 billion acres of land that was forested, but now has just dwindled to 8.6 billion acres.” In addition demand for forest products and palm oil cultivation is another huge source of deforestation. According to the World Wildlife Fund, "It is estimated that total industrial roundwood consumption in India could exceed 70 million m3 per year by the end of the decade (350,000 large shipping containers), while domestic supply would fall short of this figure by an estimated 14 million m3. (1)
As the nation will have to depend heavily on imports to meet this growing demand, there is fear that this could result in loss of high conservation value forests and biodiversity elsewhere"
(1: International Timber Trade Organization. 2003. Review of the Indian Timber Market. PPD 49/02 (M) http://wwf.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/india/india_environmental_problems/#1
Endangered Species: India is home to a vast array of biodiversity and exotic species of wildlife. From Rhinocaris's Bengal Tigers, Asian Elephants, Gharial Crocodiles, Sea Turtles. Unfortunately due to habitat loss, pollution, logging, lack of prey, and the Asian medicine trade many of India's once thriving wildlife population is now endangered. Below are some links that can better explain endangered species and threats to wildlife in India:
Waste Management/Litter: http://www.theatlantic.com/features/archive/2014/06/confessions-of-a-trash-tourist-india/373118/