India alarmingly filthy even by the standards of poor countries: The Economist
-The Economic Times
'Bharat' is not going to be 'swachh' anytime soon despite the ambitious programme launched by the Narendra Modi government to clean the country. Next year India will send its second rocket to the Moon but when it comes to pollution, India is alarmingly filthy even by the standards of poor countries, writes The Economist magazine.
India's air and water are heavily polluted causing not only a large number of deaths in the country but also contributing to the problem globally, it says.
"Delhi’s deadly air is part of a wider crisis. Seventy percent of surface water is tainted. In the World Health Organisation’s rankings of air pollution, Indian cities claim 14 of the top 15 spots. In an index of countries’ environmental health from Yale and Columbia universities, India ranks a dismal 177th out of 180," says an article in the latest issue of the magazine.
"Recent estimates put the annual death toll from breathing pm 2.5 alone at 1.2m-2.2m a year. The lifespan of Delhi-dwellers is shortened by more than ten years, says the University of Chicago. Consumption of dirty water directly causes 200,000 deaths a year, a government think-tank reckons, without measuring its contribution to slower killers such as kidney disease. Some 600m Indians, nearly half the country, live in areas where water is in short supply. As pollutants taint groundwater, and global warming makes the vital monsoon rains more erratic, the country is poisoning its own future," the article says.
The article argues that India can't hide behind the excuse of being a poor country because it is polluted not just in absolute terms, but also relative to its level of development. "It is true that some ways of cutting pollution are expensive. But there are also cheap solutions, such as undoing mistakes that Indian bureaucrats have themselves made. By subsidising rice farmers, for instance, the government has in effect cheered on the guzzling of groundwater and the torching of stubble. Rules that encourage the use of coal have not made India more self-reliant, as intended, but instead have led to big imports of foreign coal while blackening India’s skies. Much cleaner gas-fired power plants, meanwhile, sit idle," the article says.
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