In two years, India dropped 36 ranks to reach the bottom five in 2018 in a list that measures the environmental performance of 180 countries. The list – prepared by Yale University and Columbia University in collaboration with the World Economic Forum – was released on Tuesday.

India faces “a public health crisis that demands urgent attention”, the Environmental Performance Index report observed. The country ranks 177 in the world – down from 141 in 2016 – and fares better than only Bangladesh among 26 Asian nations.

China has taken several steps over the past decade to limit deaths related to air pollution, but India has made “little progress”, the report said. “If appropriate measures are enacted, India can learn from the success of the actions taken in China to decrease the levels of air pollution,” it said.

Switzerland, France, Denmark, Malta and Sweden make up the top five of the index. New Zealand, Israel and Japan are the only non-European countries in the top 20.

“India’s low scores are influenced by poor performance in the environmental health policy objective,” the report said. “Despite government action, pollution from solid fuels, coal and crop residue burning and emissions from motor vehicles continue to severely degrade the air quality for millions of Indians.”

The Environmental Performance Index report rated countries on 10 indicators under two broad categories. In terms of “environmental health”, India found itself at the bottom and at 140 in “ecosystem vitality”.

  • Environmental Health: India ranked 178 in air quality, 145 in water and sanitation and 175 in heavy metals. The report said there is “an urgent need to ramp up sanitation efforts in India”. It also acknowledged India’s steps towards building separate toilets for girls and women.
  • Ecosystem Vitality: India ranked 125 in agriculture, 131 in air pollution, 139 in biodiversity and habitat, 120 in climate and energy, 53 in fisheries, 68 in forests and 107 in water resources.