The State of India’s Environment in Figures (SoE) is an annual e-publication of ‘Down to Earth’, the magazine wing of the Indian environment think-tank Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), that tells the key stories of the past year using raw data. The book is divided into various segments/sectors which CSE has been actively researching about and has a credible expertise in. The 2017 e-book being submitted here, contains chapters of contemporary significance ranging from ‘State of Wildlife’, ‘State of Energy’, ‘State of Health’, ‘State of Indian States’, ‘State of Legislatures’, ‘State of Water’, among others. To generate the content, we work with open source government data, datasets generated by CSE’s field experts, and datasets released by credible international organizations like the United Nations. The idea is that the book will have factsheets on different aspects of health, environment, agriculture and politics, easily accessible to the general public in one place for a birds-eye view and a glimpse of key developments and discourse on environment of the year. As a research and analysis organization, CSE has been active in opening up avenues for Environmental research, discussions and awareness. We realised that as far as the data analysis is concerned, there has been a void in the academic and research discussions. There is a lot of data that is being collected by numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations across the country but no concentrated and systematic organization of the vast amounts of data is available to encourage discussions and debates essential for governance. We believe that this is the first step towards activating the full power of the enormous databases which would otherwise be lying dormant in government archives. We have been aiming to generate contextualized and targeted analysis geared towards starting the right kind of discussions and hopefully bringing about positive policy changes. The factsheets are eagerly picked up by various media organisations and even used by Parliamentarians and policymakers as credible analysis.The final product is a priced publication (We have shared a special pdf link with you for review). Despite being only two years old, the publication has already created a niche for itself in the environmental and political discussions among the intelligentsia and media in the country. Started in 2016, we release the e-book on the World Environment Day (June 5) every year.
What makes this project innovative?
Data, big or small has become the fulcrum of how we interpret reality. Visualization through factsheets is one of the most accessible formats and as a result, stand-alone factsheets are fairly common. Where SoE differs from the ordinary analysis and factsheet is that it is a compendium of wide-ranging and exhaustive factsheets, which is among first of its kind initiative in the country. The e-book is also innovative in that we not only provide the factsheets and the analysis by CSE field experts but also provide the link to the raw data. It’s the bigger picture along with big-data. As a result, the readers have access not only to the focused analysis but also to the various archives and links from where the raw data has been extracted. We believe that it opens up spaces for further discussions and open-ended and responsible research. In order to increase the accessibility of the information and data used for analysis in the book, an interactive pdf format is used. This allows us to hyperlink the data sources in each chapter so that the reader of the book has access to even that data which is beyond the scope of discussion in the given chapter. To facilitate this, a microsite is designed specifically for each edition of the book on the CSE website. This is where the raw tables and data used for analysis are stored, in an organised chapter-wise format. On the website, this is an invisible link which can be accessed exclusively by the subscribers.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The annual e-book State of India's Environment - in figures contributed to development debates and news stories on TV and in print media too. It was cited by leading Indian news channels, websites and newspapers including Aajtak, Hindustan Times, Mint, The Wire, Scroll, Millenium Post, Dilplomat, etc.In fact, Aajtak , one of the widely viewed Hindi news channel and part of the India Today Group, the biggest media group in India, did a prime time story on the factsheet we did analyzing the flagship government scheme on crop insurance, Pradhan Mantri Fasal Bima Yojana, on June 6, 217, a day after we released the ebook. Two days later, Hindustan Times did a story on water resources, using our factsheets from the book for the same. Millennium Post newspaper used the book to a story on farmer suicides in the country (http://www.millenniumpost.in/opinion/opinion-246583). Similarly Mint, a leading business newspaper, used the book to do a story on the rise of vector-borne diseases in the country (http://www.livemint.com/Opinion/Kc9UZlGOkuDkfpkJLpvFhP/The-rising-challenge-of-vectorborne-diseases.html). Three other notable ones include: https://www.counterview.net/2017/06/farmers-in-distress-insurance-companies.html. https://thewire.in/agriculture/insurance-companies-premium-farmers-claims. https://thediplomat.com/2017/10/indias-wildlife-trafficking-epidemic/
Source and methodology
SoE is an annual project which has a dedicated team. After much deliberation, we have devised an effective methodology which spans the whole year. We closely watch and catalogue the most important and influential trends in the year and based on this comprehensive list, we finalise the broad issues which we think should be highlighted. We also draw up a list of topics we believe are going to be of importance in the coming year’s policy and environmental decisions. Once the details have been sketched, we set about to find the relevant data sets by looking at government data/ ministry websites/ and talking to researchers within CSE. We have the advantage of having access to a number of in-house experts working in and abreast of the latest developments in the field. The analysis includes looking at different datasets to find trends and then interviewing the data to fine-tune it. Checking the authenticity and veracity of the data is a crucial step in the process and the in-house experts help immensely at this stage. Visualization is the last process before each story is given a final shape.In SoE in Figures 2017, data sources used:Multiple UN agencies, Indian government (9 ministries), Parliament questions, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, National Bank For Agriculture And Rural Development, Indian Space Research Organisation, India Meteorological Department, Wildlife Institute of India, NASA
We use Adobe Indesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, MS Excel and HTML.
Rajit Sengupta, Assistant Editor, Down to Earth magazineRaj Kumar, Senior visualizor Richard Mahapatra, Managing Direcor, Down to Earth