High Environmental Pollution in India and Pakistan

With a score of just 3.73 out of 100, India ranks as the worst country for the ill effects of toxic air pollution on human health among 132 nations, according to a report presented at the World Economic Forum 2012. India's neighbors also score poorly for toxic air pollution, but still significantly better than India. For example China scores 19.7, followed by Pakistan (18.76), Nepal (18.01) and Bangladesh (13.66).

In the overall rankings based on 22 policy indicators, India finds itself ranked at 125 among the bottom ten environmental laggards such as Yemen, South Africa, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Iraq while Pakistan ranks slightly better at 120. The indicators used for this ranking are in ten major policy categories including air and water pollution, climate change, boidiversity, and forest management.

These rankings are part of a joint Yale-Columbia study to index the nations of the world in terms of their overall environmental performance. The Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy and Columbia's Center for International Earth Science Information Network have brought out the Environment Performance Index rankings every two years since 2006.

The Yale-Columbia study confirms that environmental problems in South Asia are growing rapidly. The increasing consumption by rapidly growing population is depleting natural resources, and straining the environment and the infrastructure like never before. Soil erosion, deforestation, rapid industrialization, urbanization, and land and water degradation are all contributing to it.

It's important to remember that Bhopal still remains the worst recorded industrial accident in the history of mankind. As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up industries to lower their production costs and increase their profits, the lessons of Bhopal must not be forgotten.

It is the responsibility of the governments of the developing countries to legislate carefully and enforce strict environmental and safety standards to protect their people by reversing the rapidly unfolding environmental degradation. Public interest groups, NGOs and environmental and labor activists must press the politicians and the bureaucrats for policies to protect the people against the growing environmental hazards stemming from growing consumption and increasing global footprint of large industrial conglomerates.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pak Entrepreneur Recycles Trash into Energy and Fertilizer

Bhopal Disaster

Environmental Pollution in India

Rising Population, Depleting Resources

India Leads the World in Open Defecation

Heavy Disease Burdens in South Asia


Riaz Haq said…
Here's a report in The News about $10 billion Chinese investment in energy projects in Pakistan:

China’s state-owned Three Gorges Corp. plans to invest $10 billion by 2018 in Pakistan’s energy sector and a delegation is scheduled to visit Pakistan on February 7, officials said on Friday.

The Hong Kong-based United Energy Group Limited of China also intends to establish a 2,000 megawatts power project in Sindh as their delegation is also visiting Pakistan next month to hold further talks on setting up the power projects, they said.

Sindh Coal and Energy Department has signed memorandums of understating (MoU) with the two companies, which have shown interest in developing coal-fired power plants in Thar and Badin coal fields, as well, the officials said.

In an attempt to resolve the issue, the government is pinning hopes on Thar Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) pilot project, which contains the country’s largest coal deposits of around 850 trillion cubic feet spanning over 3,800 square miles, they said.

Overall, according to the World Energy Council, Pakistan has slightly more than 2,000 million tons of proven recoverable coal reserves.

Pakistan’s current electricity demand is around 25,000 megawatts per day, but the current electrical production is less than 20,000 megawatts per day, leaving a deficit of slightly more than 5,000 megawatts, and by 2015, domestic demand is projected to rise to 30,000 megawatts per day.

Currently, the country depends on oil and natural gas to generate up to 60 percent of its electricity needs, further impacting the country’s balance of payments as the price of oil rises and the ongoing power shortages are beginning to impact the country’s bottom-line exports, the officials said.

Member of the Science and Technology Planning Commission, Dr Samar Mubarakmand, has said that Thar coal project would be beneficial for common people and free from all defects.

The success of the Thar coal project would lead to investment from leading international companies, he said.

With the completion of coal-fired power generation project, the nation would get cheap and sufficient power supply, which would resolve the current energy crisis, he added.

Mubarakmand said that the country had enough coal reserves through which it could daily produce 50-60 million cubic feet gasifier, which would end gas shortage from the country.

It is for the first time that the coal gasification is being launched on commercial basis, which will help in abundant and cheap electricity.

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a NY Times story on India's poor showing for serious pollution:

India has the worst air pollution in the entire world, beating China, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh, according to a study released during this year’s World Economic Forum in Davos.

Of 132 countries whose environments were surveyed, India ranks dead last in the ‘Air (effects on human health)’ ranking. The annual study, the Environmental Performance Index, is conducted and written by environmental research centers at Yale and Columbia universities with assistance from dozens of outside scientists. The study uses satellite data to measure air pollution concentrations.

India’s high levels of fine particulate matter (a subject we’ve been looking at on India Ink, albeit just in Delhi) are one of the major factors contributing to the country’s abysmal air quality. Levels of so-called PM 2.5, for the 2.5 micron size of the particulates, are nearly five times the threshold where they become unsafe for human beings.

Particulate matter is one of the leading causes of acute lower respiratory infections and cancer. The World Health Organization found that Acute Respiratory Infections were one of the most common causes of deaths in children under 5 in India, and contributed to 13% of in-patient deaths in paediatric wards in India.

When it comes to overall environment, India ranked among the world’s “Worst Performers,” at No. 125 out of the 132 nations, beating only Kuwait, Yemen, South Africa, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iraq. Neighboring Pakistan, in contrast, ranked 120th and Bangladesh was listed as No. 115 on overall environment.

It is not just India’s big cities which are grappling with air pollution, said Anumita Roychowdhury, executive director of India’s Centre for Science and Environment, a non-profit organization which was not involved in the study. Air pollution also is worsening in smaller cities, she said.

The main culprit, Ms. Roychowdhury said, is the growing number of vehicles in India. While the country still has far fewer vehicles per capita than developed nations, India’s cars are more polluting, Ms. Roychowdhury said. Other air pollution experts also cite India’s reliance coal and polluting industries like brick-making that are located close to densely-populated areas.

Emission standards are nearly “10 years behind European standards,” Ms. Roychowdhury said, and these standards are not legally enforceable, unlike in countries like the United States which has the Clean Air Act. India has an Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 which is supposed to be enforced by the Central Pollution Control Board. This act lacks teeth, Ms. Roychowdhury said. “We need to take big steps or the problem will overwhelm us,” she said.

D. Saha, a scientist in the “Air Lab” at India’s Central Pollution Control Board said the study’s findings were not a matter of huge concern.

“We should not compare our country with others,” Dr. Saha said. “India has a different terrain.” He cited seasonal rainfall, deserts and dusty conditions as being responsible for the particulate matter. “Can we put water sprinklers across the country?,” he asked.

Particulate matter comes from boilers, thermal power plants and cars, as well, he said, but India would not have development if these activities were curbed, he said. “The diseases mentioned in the report are caused by many factors not just particulate matter, we are raising undue alarm,” Mr. Saha said.

His advice? “It is a non-issue, we have other pressing problems like poverty, focus on them.”

Riaz Haq said…
A newly-wed woman in a village in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh recently left her husband's home because the house had no toilet, reports BBC:

Anita Narre returned eight days later after her husband, a daily wage worker, built one with savings and aid from villagers.

An NGO announced a $10,000 reward for Mrs Narre for her "brave" decision and forcing her husband to build a toilet.

More than half a billion Indians still lack access to basic sanitation.

The problem is acute in rural India and it is the women who suffer most.

Mrs Narre's husband, Shivram, said he was not able to build a toilet at home because of lack of money.

He admitted that his wife returned home only after he constructed one with his savings and "some support from the village council".

"It is not nice for women to go outside to defecate. That's why every home should have a toilet. Those who don't should make sure there is one," Mrs Narre told the BBC.

Many people in India do not have access to flush toilets or other latrines.

But under new local laws in states like Chhattisgarh, representatives are obliged to construct a flush toilet in their own home within a year of being elected. Those who fail to do so face dismissal.

The law making toilets mandatory has been introduced in several Indian states as part of the "sanitation for all" drive by the Indian government.

The programme aims to eradicate the practice of open defecation, which is common in rural and poor areas of India.

Special funds are made available for people to construct toilets to promote hygiene and eradicate the practice of faeces collection - or scavenging - which is mainly carried out by low-caste people.

Riaz Haq said…
Here's NY Times on pollution in India and China:

The United States space agency published a map in September that showed how rates of premature deaths from air pollution vary around the world. It indicated that northern China has one of the worst rates, attributed to the density of a deadly fine particulate matter, known as PM 2.5, that often results from coal burning. The map was based on data collected by a research team led by Jason West, an earth scientist at the University of North Carolina.

The map also showed that the rate in northern China — what appears to be about 1,000 or more deaths each year per 1,000 square kilometers, or 386 square miles — is matched by that of northern India, in a diagonal belt stretching from New Delhi southeast to Calcutta. Those acutely polluted areas are colored dark brown on the NASA map. (Europe was perhaps surprisingly colored a deep brown too, though the rate was not as bad as that of the two Asian nations.)

Various recent studies and data suggest that air quality in Delhi is worse than in Beijing, though India’s air pollution problems do not get nearly as much attention on the world stage as those of Beijing. One study shows that Indians have the world’s weakest lungs. The World Health Organization says India has the world’s highest rate of death caused by chronic respiratory diseases, and it has more deaths from asthma than any other nation.

Yet, Indians and foreigners living in Delhi do not express anxiety about the air the way that residents of Beijing and other Chinese cities do. Air purifiers are a rarity in homes there, and face masks are generally not seen on the streets. The Indian news media do not cover air pollution to nearly the same extent the Chinese media do. (Government censors in China had blocked widespread coverage of the problem for years, but they loosened the restrictions during an infamous surge in pollution across northern China in January 2013; now even official state-run Chinese news organizations report regularly on air pollution.)
Mr. Krishnan said in an interview that Delhi had been making the same kind of data available to the public well before Chinese officials agreed to release their numbers, and that the Indian numbers proved without a doubt that the air quality in the Indian capital was poor. However, he said, there has never in India been populist demand for the government to change policy to improve the air, as there is now in China.

“I think when you have the sense that they’re hiding something, it galvanizes public attention in a counterintuitive way,” said Mr. Krishnan, who has lived in Beijing since early 2010.

“I don’t think the Indian media has given enough attention to this issue,” he added. “I remember an Indian environmental scholar visited Beijing a few months ago, and he was surprised that pollution was getting so much attention in the press here.”

Coverage of air quality by the Indian news media “will have to change very soon,” Mr. Krishnan said...


Riaz Haq said…
Proof of the grave air pollution problem confronting India is seen not just in the suffocating smog that on many days crowds out the sun in New Delhi, the world’s most polluted city. It can be measured as well in the fact that the country has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases, which kill an estimated 1.5 million Indians every year. A 2014 World Health Organization report concluded of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, India has 13.

After years of denial and indifference, ordinary Indians appear to be waking up to the dangers of relying on some of the dirtiest energy sources on the planet, including coal, diesel oil and burning garbage, to sustain economic growth and an exploding population. Yet the government has failed to address with any urgency what is indisputably a national health emergency.

And it is more than just a national emergency. The unregulated use of these energy sources adds copious emissions of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas responsible for the warming of the Earth’s atmosphere. So India’s inaction is a problem for everybody, not just its more than 1.2 billion people.

World leaders are now preparing for a global summit on climate change in Paris in December, where they hope to agree on a global strategy. There have been positive gestures. Three months ago, the United States and China announced a breakthrough deal in which the Americans agreed to new emissions reductions and the Chinese agreed to a date when their emissions would peak. The European Union has made an ambitious pledge to reduce emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels by 2030.

As the world’s third-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, India also needs to make a similarly strong commitment to keep the momentum going — not just because its own emissions are large (about 5 percent of the world’s total as of 2011) but because India often speaks for the developing world, and the example it sets will be crucial.

President Obama and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India made only modest progress on climate change during their summit in New Delhi last month. Although Mr. Modi said he would make a positive contribution in Paris, there was no specific pledge to cut carbon emissions. Later one of his advisers told The Times that India is hoping to cut a side deal in Paris that would ensure India has “exemptions” from whatever broader agreement is reached. The notion of some kind of carve-out is not at all encouraging.
As Michael Bloomberg, the former New York mayor and now the United Nations envoy for climate change and cities, argued on a visit to New Delhi last week, the notion of a choice between economic development and environmental quality is a false one because “if you don’t focus on the environmental quality you will not be able to fix the economic side.” Therein lies a message for India.


Riaz Haq said…
NEW DELHI: Mounting evidence that India's poor air quality is cutting short lives is increasing pressure on the government to speed up corrective measures.

The latest pointer to the magnitude of the problem is a study by environmental economists from University of Chicago, Harvard, and Yale. Their report, published on Saturday, says that 99.5% of the Indian population breathes air that has pollutants way above the levels considered to be safe ..

Read more at:
Riaz Haq said…
India and China account for more than half of the world’s premature deaths due to air pollution, a new report said.

Noting that India’s lives lost to the tiny particulate matter is “approaching” China’s numbers, the ‘State of Global Air 2017’ report said that among the 10 most populous countries and the European Union (EU), Bangladesh and India have the highest exposure to PM2.5, the “steepest” rise since 2010.

Globally, there was 60 per cent rise in ozone attributable deaths, with a striking 67 per cent of this increase occurring in India.
The ‘State of Global Air 2017’ is the first of a new series of annual reports and accompanying interactive website, designed by Health Effects Institute in cooperation with the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington and University of British Columbia.
In 2015, long-term exposure to PM2.5 contributed to 4.2 million deaths and to a loss of 103 million years of healthy life. China and India together accounted for 52 per cent of the total global deaths attributable to PM2.5.
It found that increasing exposure and a growing and aging population have meant that India now rivals China for among the highest air pollution health burdens in the world, with both countries facing some 1.1 million early deaths due to it in 2015.
According to the report, while 11,08,100 deaths were attributed to PM2.5 exposure in China in 2015, in India, it was 10,90,400.
Around 92 per cent of the world’s population lives in areas with “unhealthy” air.
Bangladesh and India, have experienced the steepest rise in air pollution levels since 2010 and now have the highest PM2.5 concentrations among the countries.
Among the world’s 10 most populous countries and the EU, the biggest increase (14 per cent to 25 per cent) in seasonal average population-weighted concentrations of ozone over the last 25 years were experienced in China, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Brazil.
China, India, Bangladesh, and Japan increases in exposure, combined with increases in population growth and aging, resulted in net increases in attributable mortality.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, Bangladesh and India had PM2.5 attributable Disability Adjusted Life Years (DALYs) rates that were 5 to 10 times the lowest rates, which were found in the US and Japan.



Riaz Haq said…
Open Defecation in India: A Major Health Hazard and Hurdle in Infection Control
Paurush Ambesh1 and Sushil Prakash Ambeshcorresponding author2
Author information ► Article notes ► Copyright and License information ► Disclaimer


“Cleanliness is next to Godliness”, a proverbial adage that traces its inception to ancient Indian times, is the epitome of irony in the current Indian health situation. The lost Indus Valley Civilization, with modern cities like Harappa and Mohenjodaro, was once the gold standard of sanitation infrastructure. Its extensive and efficient sewage system was not only an exemplary gem, but also a gift of knowledge to entire mankind. However history resides in books and has little relevance to the current situation.

Though over the last 50 years, the general health of Indians has improved and the life expectancy has increased, myriad health and sanitation problems still stare one in the face. The biggest one, open defecation, is the mother of all infection and morbidity. The WHO declared the year 2008 as International Year of Sanitation. It was here that the term ‘Open Defecation’ was widely publicized. Community Led Total Sanitation (CLTS) programs helped spread the term all around the globe.

It is a matter of national concern as India has the most number of people practicing open defecation in the world, around 600 million [1], and is followed by Indonesia, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ethiopia. Still these countries come nowhere close to the staggering number contributed by India.

Most of it occurs in villages with a prevalence of 65% [2]. In urban settings the prevalence is close to 16%. The problem has thick deep roots with a multi-factorial origin. Unavailability of proper toilets or toilets with dimly lit, broken or clogged latrines is common. However, the biggest problem is the mindset of people in both rural and urban settings. Children grow watching parents and grandparents practice open defecation. Most farmers believe that waking up early and defecating in the field, not only adds natural fertilizer to the soil, but also rejuvenates the bowel and the mind.

Open defecation is a major cause of fatal diarrhea. Everyday about 2000 children aged less than five succumb to diarrhea and every 40 seconds a life is lost [3]. It is depressing that all this needless suffering is actually preventable. In densely populated countries like India, the health impact is magnified many fold [4]. There is evidence to suggest that water sanitation and hygiene practices are associated with child linear growth [5]. Children have a tendency to put common things in their mouth. In rural settings where open defecation is prevalent, large amounts of fecal pathogens via human and animal feces, are ingested by children. This creates a massive reservoir of bacteria, parasites and viruses that keep spreading gastrointestinal infection. An eventual result is growth stunting and malnutrition.

Though the health challenges seem to compound with time, the health budget allocation by the Government of India is getting smaller every year. This year also it is quite meager, only about 1% of the Gross Domestic Product. This may put financial constraints on dealing with sanitation linked diseases.

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