Friday, January 27, 2012

Study Finds India's Air Most Toxic in the World

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

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

yawn!

Studies like this are dime a dozen.

Shams said...

I do not know if you have recently been to Karachi or Lahore. It is true that about 10 years ago the air in Karachi and Lahore was quite toxic, mostly due to diesel buses and 2-stroke motor-bikes and auto-rickshaws. That has all changed due to the use of CNG in literally all vehicles. Pakistan now has the largest number of CNG vehicles in the world - period. The air quality in Karachi is exceptionally good, thanks to all commercial vehicles' use of CNG and the continuous sea breeze. Lahore and other Punjab cities also have reduced pollution, but in the winter, they burn a lot of wood and coal, though not as much as they used to since now they burn natural gas.

What that has done is to remove: sulfur dioxide (SO2); ozone (O3); nitrogen dioxide(NO2); Hydrogen Sulfide; and Ammonia. Clearly where combustion is, CO2 will be there, but with CNG, the days of CO carbon monoxide are also gone. The particulates, such as carbon soot are is also gone.

So - some idiot in the World Economic Forum must have pulled this data out of thin air, likely with bias against Pakistan. Apparently, no new studies have been undertaken..

If you want to publish accurate result, then have someone at PCSIR or Karachi University run some tests - just send them air quality analyzers that cost under $10,000.

Riaz Haq said...

Shams: "I do not know if you have recently been to Karachi or Lahore. It is true that about 10 years ago the air in Karachi and Lahore was quite toxic, mostly due to diesel buses and 2-stroke motor-bikes and auto-rickshaws. That has all changed due to the use of CNG in literally all vehicles...."

I agree with you that world's largest fleet of CNG vehicles is helping, and the air pollution situation would be a lot worse if natural gas was not the primary fuel used for energy in Pakistan.

The situation in Pakistan would probably be as bad as India if Pakistan relied on burning dirty fossil fuels like coal. However, the problem of air pollution from particulates in major Pakistani cities is still quite acute, and obviously visible to the naked eye.

During my travel to Dubai, Karachi and Beijing in 2009, I saw that Karachi was about as bad as Dubai and Beijing in terms of a constant layer of haze that hung over it during summer.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2009/12/pakistan-leads-south-asia-in-use-of.html

Mukund said...

" As India, Pakistan and other developing nations vie for foreign direct investments by multi-national companies seeking to set up "

LOL. You never cease to imply
Pak == India in FDI. Pls mention the names of American companies who have invested in pakistan.

Riaz Haq said...

Mukund: "Pls mention the names of American companies who have invested in pakistan."

There are over 300 foreign multinational companies, including American companies, with operations in Pakistan. And more are coming every year in spite of economic slowdown. Almost all big name American and European companies operate in Pakistan.

Here's an excerpt from a US govt website:

U.S. firms have a strong presence in Pakistan. More than 70 wholly-owned U.S. subsidiaries are registered with the American Business Council (ABC) and American Business Forum (ABF) in Pakistan. There are also hundreds of local firms representing U.S. firms in the market. Leading U.S. businesses in Pakistan include Citibank, Pepsi-Cola, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, NCR, Teradata, Pfizer, Abbot, Eli Lilly, Wyeth, DuPont, Oracle, Microsoft, Cisco, Intel, Chevron, 3M, IBM, Apple, Monsanto, McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Dominoes Pizza, and Caterpillar.

Despite security challenges and common emerging market concerns about intellectual property rights (IPR) protection, contract enforcement, and governance issues, the Pakistan market offers many attractive trade and investment opportunities in a broad range of sectors: among others, energy (power generation); transportation (aerospace and railways); information and communications technology; architecture, construction, and engineering; health; environmental technology; agricultural technology; safety and security; franchising; and services.


http://export.gov/arizona/access2012/eg_us_az_040465.asp#P152_30584

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.


http://www.thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=89763&Cat=3

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.”


http://india.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/02/01/indias-air-the-worlds-unhealthiest-study-says/

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...


http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/01/27/india-and-china-besieged-by-air-pollution/


http://eoimages.gsfc.nasa.gov/images/imagerecords/82000/82087/pollution_excess_deaths_lrg.png

Riaz Haq said...

With India's population growth faster than poverty reduction rates, the absolute number of poor in India has gone up 5% since 1990.

Excerpt from the Guardian:

" (British minister of international development) Alexander contrasted the rapid growth in China with India's economic success - highlighting government figures that showed the number of poor people had dropped in the one-party communist state by 70% since 1990 but had risen in the world's biggest democracy by 5%"

http://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/nov/19/britain-aid-to-india-825m

Riaz Haq said...

New Delhi’s air is the most polluted in the world, according to an international report that quantifies pollution levels, confirming findings by experts confounded by the lack of attention to the city’s problem.

The findings by the World Health Organization, released on Wednesday, show that the cities ranking second through fourth are also in India, in the central Hindi belt.

For years, experts have wondered why so much international attention has focused on air pollution in Beijing when some say conditions are as bad or even worse in South Asia.

“I am shocked at the extent of the problem they found in India,” said Dr. Sundeep Salvi, the director of the Chest Research Foundation in Pune, India. “This is incredibly bad, and there is a complete lack of awareness about it both amongst policy makers and the common man.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/world/asia/cities-in-india-among-the-most-polluted-who-says.html?_r=0

Riaz Haq said...

The world's top 4 dirtiest cities are all in India.

And half of the top 20 dirtiest cities are India, according to WHO:

Here's an excerpt from a 2014 NY Times story:

New Delhi’s air is the most polluted in the world, according to an international report that quantifies pollution levels, confirming findings by experts confounded by the lack of attention to the city’s problem.

The findings by the World Health Organization, released on Wednesday, show that the cities ranking second through fourth are also in India, in the central Hindi belt.

For years, experts have wondered why so much international attention has focused on air pollution in Beijing when some say conditions are as bad or even worse in South Asia.
-------
China’s extensive pollution problems have grown out of efforts by the country’s leaders to develop manufacturing and industrial capacity no matter the cost. But India has little to show for its toxic air. The country’s economy is sputtering, its small manufacturing sector has been shrinking, and efforts to build roads and open coal and metal mines have foundered on corruption and environmental concerns. Pakistan, which had three cities among the world’s 10 most polluted, has even less to show for its pollution levels, as economic growth there has been well below India’s for decades.

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/09/world/asia/cities-in-india-among-the-most-polluted-who-says.html?_r=0

http://binscorner.com/pages/2/25-dirtiest-cities-in-the-world.html

Half of the top 20 cities in the world with the highest levels of PM2.5 were in India, according to the pollution data released by the WHO, which included 1,600 cities. Other cities with high levels were located in Pakistan and Bangladesh.


http://www.cnn.com/2014/05/08/world/asia/india-pollution-who/