information and stories about India.

India water crisisIndia’s dry season has been notably harsh in 2019, and the country is suffering its lowest rainfall before a monsoon season in six decades. Just under half the population is facing a drought and dozens have died from the combination of a heat wave and a lack of water. The India water crisis is also causing evacuations as the drought is forcing families to leave their homes in search of water.

Chennai, India’s sixth largest city, is facing extreme water scarcity. The reservoir water supply shrank between 2018 and 2019 and is almost entirely drained of water.

Effect of the Drought

Experts blame the severe drought on mismanaged resources along with industrial and human waste, bad policy decisions and climate change. Thirty-two states have organized a State Action Plan on Climate Change in order to achieve national as well as regional priorities. But many farmers claim the government plan has not been carried out. “There is a lack of interest among politicians and the bureaucracy, which is keen to look for temporary solutions to drought and climate change impacts,” stated agricultural and climate change researcher Atul Deulgaonkar.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the drought has not only affected the monsoon and winter crops but also destroyed supplementary crops. Because agriculture is the most important sector of its economy, India is heavily reliant on monsoon rains. The drought is particularly dangerous for marginalized farmers in rural areas. Approximately 80 percent of districts in Karnataka and 72 percent in Maharashtra are faced with crop failure, which has put the livelihood of eight million farmers in jeopardy.

Solutions to the Crisis

However, there are solutions to the crisis such as reducing the need for the enormous amounts of water used for crops. Because agriculture accounts for nearly 90 percent of India’s water consumption, reducing the dependence on water-intensive crops and agricultural methods would substantially increase water for drinking and make farmers less vulnerable to water shortages. Environmental scientist Kyle Davis stated, “Diversifying the crops that a country grows can be an effective way to adapt its food-production systems to the growing influence of climate change.” In addition, the use of alternative grains can improve nutrition and reduce greenhouse emissions from agriculture.

Other steps are currently underway for alleviating the water crisis. In 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi proposed an $87 billion plan to reduce flooding and improve irrigation by linking 60 rivers across India. So far only 16 rivers have been linked and the effect of this plan is yet to be determined. Some Indian states such as Maharashtra have followed the example of Israel and implemented a drip irrigation method, which involves dripping water onto individual plants through tubes or pipes rather than flooding whole fields.

Whatever the means, the India water crisis must come to an end. One-hundred million children in India lack water and one out of every two are underfed. Water security must be guaranteed in India amidst rising temperatures and falling water tables so families can raise their children with dignity and health in the upcoming century. A slew of solutions indicate hope for the future, though.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pixabay

Zimba ChlorinatorNearly 780 million people lack access to clean drinking water. People living in third-world countries have no choice but to drink unclean water, which can lead to diseases such as cholera, Guinea worm disease, typhoid, and dysentery. Upward of 3.5 million people, most of whom are children, pass away annually as a result of these waterborne illnesses.

As Zimba’s website reports, “Most developing countries do not have the infrastructure required for the supply of treated piped water to each and every household.” The lack of proper plumbing drives consumers to use alternate methods of water purification. Adding chlorine to unsafe water can make it drinkable, but a lot of guesswork may be involved in deciding just how much chlorine is needed to make the water safe to drink. Zimba, a point-of-use water chlorinator, eliminates the need for guessing.

Suprio Das and the Zimba Chlorinator

Prior to his invention of the Zimba chlorinator, Suprio Das had been working as an electrical engineer in Kolkata, where he witnessed the devastation caused by drinking contaminated water. In India, about 1,600 children die daily from drinking contaminated water. He decided to create something that could help people gain access to clean drinking water.

He knew he needed to design a chlorinator that is easy to use as well as durable. The final product weighs 12 kilograms (approximately 26 pounds). The exterior is composed of fiberglass, which helps it withstand years of use and weathering, while the interior is made of virgin polypropylene plastic. Another impressive trait about the chlorinator is that it can be placed on preexisting water sources like hand pumps, taps or faucets, with installation time being less than thirty minutes. Rather than relying on electricity, the chlorinator is gravity-powered, and it can purify thousands of liters of water a day.

How the Chlorinator Works

The purification process begins when water is filled in the top of the device. The pressure triggers the release of a premeasured dose of liquid chlorine (sodium hypochlorite) into the water being held in a storage tank. There, the water is exposed to the chlorine for about thirty minutes, which is the amount of time the World Health Organization recommends. The clean water then flows into the main tank and awaits retrieval from the tap.

Impact of the Chlorinator

As of 2018, Zimba chlorinators are being used in India, Bangladesh, Kenya and the Dominican Republic. And Zimba experts believe that the use of the chlorinator can help save the lives of 1.5 million children between 2015 and 2030. It has even been included in PATH’s Innovation Countdown 2030 report as a product that promises to contribute to health improvements in the next fifteen years.

In a country that has unlimited access to clean drinking water by way of public water fountains, water filtration systems and proper plumbing, it is hard to imagine the difficulties people face just to get a sip of water that is safe to consume. With the help of the Zimba chlorinator, people living in underdeveloped nations have easier access to purified water.

— Sareen Mekhitarian
Photo: Flickr

illegal mica minesIf you’ve ever used glittery lipstick or eyeshadow, there’s a good chance the products used contained mica, a brittle, shiny mineral which creates a glittering effect in everything from makeup to paint to toothpaste. According to the Responsible Mica Initiative, there’s a one in four chance that the glitter in that makeup came from an illegal mine that supported child labor.

Where does Mica come from?

Approximately 90 percent of the world’s mica comes from India, particularly from region of Jharkhand where the world’s largest mica deposits can be found. Despite its mineral wealth, the region is plagued by poverty and hunger. Of the 33 million people who live in Jharkhand, 13 million are living below the poverty line. This makes Jharkhand one of the poorest regions in India.

Almost half of the children there are underweight while nearly half of its children under the age of five suffer from stunted growth. In addition, illiteracy is also common. In the rural areas of Jharkhand, the percentage of women who are literate is barely more than 45 percent. Because of this poverty, child labor has become common. Having no other options, many families allow their children to find work instead of going to school.

The mica mines in the region, many of which are run by cartels, are more than willing to take advantage of this. While employing miners under the age of eighteen is illegal, it is estimated that around 20,000 children and teenagers in Jharkhand are working for mica mines. However, it’s hard to say if this is the true number, given that all of these children are working for mines that do not officially exist.

The Dangers of Mica Mining

Some of these children are as young as five, and the nature of their work leaves them completely unprotected from the danger of the mines. These “ghost” mines, as the illegal mines are sometimes called, operate without any sort of safety regulations. The hollowed-out caves often collapse, frequently crushing miners or trapping them underground.

While the true number can’t be found, some estimates claim that at least two to five children die in the mica mines each month. Many of these deaths are never reported because of the risk they would pose to the mica industry. One mica miner recalled the story of a woman who had fallen into the mines and died, but her death certificate claimed that the cause of death was a fall from a two-story building.

Even without that risk, other dangers include the risk of being stung by scorpions that hide under the rocks and cutting themselves. In addition, many miners end up breathing in silica dust, which can lead to silicosis, a chronic respiratory condition that leads to breathing difficulties and eventual scarring in the lungs. Many workers also run a high risk of contracting asthma or black lung disease.

To add insult to injury, miners usually receive a pittance for their work, especially underage miners. One child reported that his usual daily pay was about 50 rupees or less than $1. Worst of all, reports on illegal mica mining show that ghost mines aren’t an anomaly in Jharkhand. Some claim that at least 70 percent of the region’s exported mica is illegally mined.

The Solution

How will the makeup industry and makeup buyers distance themselves from the cruelty and corruption that supplies so much mica? One answer is to stop using mica or to ensure that the mica they use is ethically sourced. As the world becomes aware of the plight of the Jharkhand miners, this is what many makeup companies are doing. In January 2018, the company Lush began using synthetic mica, which is produced in a lab.

Other companies are calling for a more ethical supply chain. The Responsible Mica Initiative, an alliance formed between cosmetics companies including l’Oreal, Chanel and Estee Lauder, has the goal of eradicating child labor in mica production within the next five years. Along with their efforts to ensure that their companies only use ethically sourced mica, the Initiative is working with the Indian government and local authorities to empower communities in the Jharkhand region in hopes of cutting off the region’s dependence on predatory mica mines.

Cracking Down on Illigal Mines

Meanwhile, the Indian government has been doing what they can to crack down on illegal mines. After an ongoing investigation, including the investigation of several unreported deaths in the Jharkhand region, the Indian government has begun pushing to legalize mica mining again. If more mines become legal, the logic goes, they would have to allow for accountability regarding how they treat their workers and they wouldn’t be able to employ children or teenagers.

Many experts agree, however, that the key to stopping predatory illegal mines is ensuring that the people of Jharkhand do not have to depend on those mines to survive. This is what the Responsible Mica Initiative is aiming to do by empowering villages in rural Jharkhand. Its empowerment programs involve efforts to have more children enrolled in school, to educate people on alternate sources of income, to improve healthcare in villages and to strengthen local institutions.

In a region afflicted with poverty and crippled by its dependence on mica, the issue goes far deeper than simply eradicating illegal mines. However, with the persistance of makeup companies and organizations like the Responsible Mica Initiative, the region may be able to climb out of poverty and break the cycle of child exploitation that has plagued it for so long.

– Keira Charles

Photo: Flickr

 

2019 Indian electionsThe 2019 elections in India represent the largest displays of democracy around the world. Because of the number of eligible constituents, more than seven phases of the election took place throughout the country. The same rules that apply in America apply in India; you have to be at least 18 years old and register to vote. The casting of votes ended on May 19, and the counted votes were revealed on May 23.

There were two primary candidates in the running for the elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who won the 2014 elections, ran as part of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The opposing candidate was Rahul Gandhi, a member of the Congress Party.

Narendra Modi

“Together with All, Progress for All” was Narendra Modi’s campaign slogan for the 2019 elections in India. But, what does this statement mean for the country as a whole? India is one of the poorest countries in the world, even though its economy is rapidly growing. According to Forbes, “The GDP per capita of Delhi, the National Capital Territory with a population of 20-25 million, is roughly equal to that of Indonesia at around $4,000.” Although some provinces come in even lower.

The wealthiest territory in India is Delhi, and the poorest states are Bihar and Uttar. The disparity is so great that Delhi’s GDP per capita is over four times that of each of the poorest states in India. So, what does Modi plan to do with such variety within one nation? He plans on reducing internal trade barriers between states and constructing a highway that would connect most of the country.

Modi also plans to continue the reform of the Goods and Services Tax (GST) that was implemented to reduce complications between different state taxes. The goal of the GST is to level the playing field for businesses, bringing about a common rule of taxation.

Reducing the internal trader barrier, implementing the construction of a national highway and continuing the reform of the GST will all help move India toward a reduction in national poverty. Uniting a scattered and diverse country through general taxation and a major roadway could help diminish chaos and confusion.

Rahul Gandhi

Rahul Gandhi is part of the National Congress Party and has spent much of his life in politics. The Congress Party’s slogan for the 2019 elections in India was, “Now, There will be Justice.” Gandhi claimed that, if elected, he could assure the people of India “truth, freedom, dignity, self-respect, and prosperity for our people.” Gandhi believes the injustice that ruled during Modi’s previous regime has left the countryside of India scattered and depraved.

He his plan was to create job sustainability throughout the country by deferring application fees for government jobs and other work. He also hoped to bring growth to the manufactoring businesses and to encourage people to take up entrepreneur endeavors through the Enterprise Support Agency.

Furthermore, Gandhi planned to push for incentives for businesses to hire women and broaden diversity among the workplace. He wanted to abolish the law that states women are unable to work night shifts and to reinstate the Equal Remuneration Act of 1976, which demanded men and women have equal pay.

The Election

The votes for the 2019 elections in Indian were counted on May 23. The nation reelected Modi who must continue to address the issue of regional disparity between states. If the government focuses on unifying its nation and bringing the people to one comprehensive understanding of law and regulation, India’s economic gain could be substantial.

Hannah Vaughn
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Wastewater in India
India is not only one of the most populated countries in the world, but it is also one of the poorest. In addition to poverty, India is grappling with a lack of access to clean water and increasing pollution. This not only takes a toll on households but also affects industrial and agricultural demands. Urban runoff is an issue when domestic waste and untreated water go into storm drains, polluting lakes and rivers. Approximately only 30 percent of the wastewater in India is cleaned and filtered.

The U.S. Agency for International Development teamed up with a nongovernmental organization, Agra Municipal Corporation, to formulate a treatment plan to clean the wastewater in India.

What is Being Done?

North of the Taj Mahal runs the Yamuna River, one of the most polluted waterways in India. Agra, the city through which the river runs, is a slum community. As of 2009, this community has had no access to sanitation facilities, disposal systems or waste collection. At least 85 percent of the residents in Agra have resorted to open defecation that ultimately pollutes the Yamuna River, where residents collect drinking water. This lack of sanitation has left the community vulnerable to diseases such as cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio.

USAID-supported NGO Center for Urban and Regional Excellence decided to reverse the state of Agra and come up with a treatment plan. In 2011, they built a wastewater treatment plant to clean the water, leading to healthier community members. Instead of chemicals, the treatment plant uses natural methods to sanitize the water. Moreover, they designed the plant to be low-maintenance, thus keeping it cost-efficient. After filtering and sanitizing the water, it flows back into the community for residents to collect.

As of 2017, the Agra Municipal Corporation, who initially teamed up with USAID, took over operating the plant. And they made it their mission to continue working to improve the lives of the residents.

The Progress

The Center for Urban and Regional Excellence’s transformation of Agra influenced the government to also act. As a result, the government planned to cleanse the entire country by the end of 2019. On Oct. 2, 2014, the Prime Minister of India declared the Swachh Bharat Mission. At the time, only 38.7 percent of the country was clean—less than half. As of 2019, India’s government reported 98.9 percent of the country is now clean. Since the mission began, they built 9,023,034,753 household toilets and established

  • 5,054,745 open defecation-free villages,
  • 4,468 open defecation-free villages in Namami Gange,
  • 613 open defecation-free districts, and
  • 29 open defecation-free states.

Less than 2 percent away from meeting their goal, India has made big improvements to better the lives of its citizens by providing clean water for domestic and industrial purposes.

Lari’onna Green
Photo: Flickr

Improvements for Healthcare in India

Technical advancements are revolutionizing the health care industry in India. The country is now experiencing a rise of entrepreneurs and start-up culture, with a promising GDP that is expected to expand to 7.5 percent by 2020. In return, the health care industry of India can expect to see more personalized and accessible health options as well as better infrastructure. Below are five recent improvements for health care in India worth noting.

Five Improvements for Health Care in India

  1. The National Health Protection Scheme (NHPS), also called the Ayushman Bharat, is one of the biggest advances in Indian health care to date. The initiative provides health care coverage for 100 million low-income families in India — nearly 40 percent of the population will have secondary and tertiary care procedures handled for them. Priority is given to women, children and senior citizens. Another component of the NHPS involves setting up 150,000 wellness centers to take care of primary health. In poor regions of India where people have remained dependent on government hospitals, their lives should improve as the NHPS improves health care infrastructure and creates more job opportunities.
  2. In March 2019, Esri, a global company developing location intelligence software, opened its latest research and development center in New Delhi. Esri is bringing improvements for health care in India through geospatial mapping technologies with the software ArcGIS, which can assist health organizations in making decisions that impact the health of India’s population. In developing countries, the demand for health service can outweigh the availability of service. As a result, geospatial intelligence has not been a priority in India’s government policies. The infrastructure for health care networking in India is limited, but there is a possibility for growth with Esri building a hub in India. Medical mapping, or health geo-information, is an efficient way for countries to monitor disease outbreaks, flood risks, and many other functions that improve overall public wellness. For example, in 2013, African organizations used ArcGIS to find the regions of Africa most afflicted by the eye disease known as trachoma; health workers were then able to reach out and provide antibiotics and corrective surgery to these areas.
  3. The startup company Niramai is developing an affordable screening tool called Thermalytix to counter the high rate of breast cancer-related deaths in India. According to WHO, one in every 12 women have the risk of a breast cancer abnormality, and Indian women have a 50 percent chance of survival. By using thermography for early detection, the screening tool is radiation-free, non-invasive, privacy-sensitive and accurate. Thermography reading has been around for a while, especially in the world of holistic medicine, but Niramai’s device uses machine learning algorithms to ensure an accurate result, making it one of the most innovative improvements for health care in India yet.
  4. Phillips and GE Health care have made it possible for doctors in urban cities to see rural patients through an apparatus called Tele-ICU. Since most hospitals in India are not equipped with high-quality intensive care units to handle the high demand, Tele-ICU provides a new option and eliminates transportation risks for patients. It uses video cameras, microphones, alarms and other tools to monitor patients in need of intensive care. By establishing an intensivist and a nurse within a command center, doctors can review patients’ records electronically through Phillips’ Clinical Decision Support software. Through the InTeleEye Mobile Cart, the command center can enter the ICU and oversee a patient’s physical condition through a screen. Tele-ICU thus upgrades the care and reduces the length of stay, therefore diminishing overall hospital costs, too.
  5. Several phone apps have made improvements for health care in India with the goal of helping women. Maya, a comprehensive health tracker app, provides a tool for women to manage their menstrual health. The developer, Plackal Tech, claims that only 12 percent of women at reproductive age in India use sanitary napkins, likely due to the country’s stigma of menstruation. To combat this stigma, Maya helps educate and empower women to understand and nurture their bodies. Another app, Celes Care, has become India’s first virtual health clinic for women. In 2015, the World Bank found that 174 women died per 100,000 live births, which is an improvement from the 215-figure in 2010. This number is still high, however, compared to developed countries where the mother’s mortality rate stays in the single digits range. Apps like Celes Care are necessary to provide long-distance preventative health care and deliver prescriptions to women in India. Within a minute, users can connect privately with a female physician who will address issues concerning fertility, pregnancy, thyroid, PCOS, weight control and menopause.

Such innovative solutions provide hope for reducing health risks and increasing access to health care in India.

– Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

Dharavi slum redevelopmentThe Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project was approved by the state government of Maharashtra on October 16, 2018. The new proposal plans to renovate the entire slum as a whole while previous failed attempts planned to divide the slum into 12 parts. The new plan must take into account the previous failures in order to succeed in the redevelopment of such a populated area.

About Dharavi

Dharavi is considered Asia’s largest slum, spanning almost 600 acres of land. Located in Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, it is a long stretch of shanty houses, dirt roads and open sewage. It is estimated that the percentage of people in Greater Mumbai living in slums may be as high as 41.3 percent. Dharavi has a population of around one million people. Because Mumbai has some of the highest rental prices in the world, Dharavi has become a more affordable option for those moving to the city.

The slum was founded in 1882 during the time of British rule during the country’s urbanization. When the plague spread through India, the British government transferred much of its industry to Dharavi. What began as a fishing village has since grown into a densely populated, culturally rich and diverse area. It has an active informal economy where businesses will employ many slum residents for leather, textiles and pottery products.

About the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project

Redevelopment plans for Dharavi have been on hold for the past 15 years, beginning in February 2004. There is hope now that the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project will follow through after a Dubai-based firm called Sec-Link Technology Corporation (STC) won the global tender to renovate Dharavi for good.

Sec-Link Group is a special purpose organization working to redevelop slum around the world. This project is largely backed by the UAE. The Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project will cost around Rs 22,000 crore, which is over $3 billion. However, if the project continues to be delayed, the cost could grow to Rs 40,000 crore. STC proposed that slum residents will have larger, carpeted homes with 350 square feet as a minimum. Those above 300 square feet will get 400 square feet, and those over 500 will get an additional area of 35 percent.

The Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project includes using 200 acres to rehabilitate residents and build commercial units, 100 acres for a community garden and the remaining 300 acres will be for sale and commercial complexes. This also means that new infrastructures will be implemented, such as water systems and container housing.

Previous Issues

The reason that past redevelopment projects have failed is largely due to resistance from slum residents who felt the plans were not in their interest. Because Dharavi is so condensed, it has grown into its own ecosystem. Residents rely on the micro-enterprises in the slum, some of which take part in homes and outdoor spaces being used for places of work and social interaction. It is important to residents that the economy of Dharavi and their own livelihoods are supported during this change.

In order for a housing upgrade to work for all residents, it’s important the Dharavi Slum Redevelopment Project allows for the economic and social activities that thrive in slums. By converting slum buildings into industrial centers, Dharavi can grow from deprivation into a magnet of commerce. STC will begin working on the project in 2019 and plan to finish it in nine years.

Isadora Savage
Photo: Flickr

period poverty in IndiaPeriod poverty is often described as a lack of access to menstrual education and sanitary products. With 800 million women and girls menstruating daily, this is a subject that concerns half the population around the world. However, the issue is particularly prevalent in India where only 42 percent of women have access to sanitary pads. What is being done to alleviate this common problem? Here are the top five facts about period poverty in India.

Top Five Facts About Period Poverty in India

  1. Increased risk of disease: In India, an estimated 70 percent of all reproductive diseases are caused by poor menstrual hygiene. Women often use dirty rags as a replacement for sanitary pads. Even rags that are cleaned can still develop bacteria if not dried properly. Furthermore, 63 million adolescent girls in India, do not have access to a toilet in their homes. Without a clean and private space to change menstrual products, girls are less likely to properly manage their own hygiene
  2. Cultural stereotypes have a huge impact: Menstruation in India is often seen as a shameful conversation. Studies estimate that 71 percent of girls have no knowledge about menstrual health until after their first period. Women are often described as “dirty” while menstruating and are commonly separated in the home when dining, praying or participating in other activities. Some studies suggest that this is due to gender norms that become more prevalent at puberty. In addition, there is no required curriculum surrounding menstrual health in school.
  3. The high cost of sanitation facilities: Third on the list for the top five facts about period poverty in India is the expense of menstrual products. Approximately 70.62 million people in India live in extreme poverty on less than $1.90 dollars per day. The average Indian woman needs 300 rupees ($4.20) per month for menstrual products. For low-income households, the cost of sanitary pads is often unattainable. Furthermore, Since most adolescents do not have access to toilets at home, girls are more likely to pay for restrooms in public, which is another unaffordable expense.
  4. Period poverty in India affects education: On average, girls miss six days of class each month due to shame surrounding their periods or a lack of sanitary products. This contributes to the number of girls in India who drop out of school each year, around 23 percent. Girls that leave school are stunted in their careers and are more likely to become child brides. India has the highest number of child brides in the world, with 15.5 million children being married by the age of 18.
  5. Removal of taxes: While some parts of period poverty seem daunting, other parts seem hopeful. In 2017, the Indian government labeled menstrual products as luxury goods. Quickly after the announcement of the new tax, the public gathered to campaign against it. In July of 2018, the government removed the tax, thus making sanitary products more accessible to low-income households.

Working to Improve Conditions

The good news doesn’t end with the removal of taxes. Many positive strides have been taken to address the issues of period poverty. Binti is one organization in India (as well as 11 other countries) aiming to minimize the issue. The nonprofit is fighting for menstrual equality through education, distribution of sanitary products and government advocacy. The World Bank and WASH partnered together to create Menstrual Hygiene Day to spread awareness about the importance of sanitary products for women and girls around the world.

Documentaries have also aided in global education surrounding period poverty. For example, “Period. End of Sentence.” partnered with Action India (a nonprofit aiming to create gender equality) to create a documentary about the situation. The Netflix original was successful in fundraising enough money to install a vending machine of menstrual products in Hapur, India. It was also awarded an Oscar for “best documentary short film, gaining public recognition for its efforts.

Ultimately, when looking at the top five facts about period poverty in India, one can see it is a very prevalent issue. Menstrual inequality is often caused by shame around the conversation as well as the high cost of feminine products. This creates challenges in education and an increased risk of disease. However, many positive strides are being made, and governments are starting to see that this is a cause worth advocating for.

Anna Melnik

Photo: Flickr

How Kanpur's Pollution Is Being LoweredThe rising amount of pollution on Earth is something that almost everyone is well aware of. Pollution is something that continues to increase daily and can often remain in an area for years. It can be seen in the Arctic, the oceans, the forests and the most populated cities. In Kanpur, for example, the population is so dense that it has become nearly impossible to keep pollution to a minimum, especially in the winter time. Kanpur sees this pollution as a problem and is seeking out innovative solutions to help lower Kanpur’s pollution.

Health Problems From Pollution

Kanpur is home to 3 million people and contains a hazardous amount of pollution that is gradually killing the city. This can lead to health problems for its citizens as well as create a more difficult environment for the vulnerable population. Kanpur generates 400 tonnes of waste that often contaminates underground water sources, which leads to disease. In 2015, 40,000 patients were seen at the Murari Lal Chest Hospital, but in 2016 this number jumped to 64,000. The people seen are those who are able to afford healthcare, but many are not able to seek out medical help for pollution-related health problems.

The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) has recently come up with a solution to help lower Kanpur’s pollution. It’s called cloud seeding, it’s a process that involved a mixture of salt and silver iodide. These two substances are transported and dispersed through flares in an aircraft. Although these chemicals sound harmful, it actually is a very beneficial process that creates artificial rain. Artificial rain can be used in numerous ways, like providing relief during a severe drought, but in the case, it’s used to cleanse the air in a sense, thus reducing pollution.

Important Renewable Energy

Kanpur is working harder to put renewable energy to use. The city plans on ramping up clean energies daily through the use of solar energy. Clean energy is a great way to leave a smaller carbon footprint but have a bigger impact on reducing pollution. This power will be generated through a power grid to be used by the people on a regular basis. This method of reducing pollution is fairly new for those residing in Kanpur. Kanpur’s electric company, Kesco, will be taking the lead on this project with the solar power plants. This energy project will supply energy to 7.44 million homes and also improve employment in the area through the creation of new jobs in the solar energy field.

As we can see, Kanpur is finally taking the initiative when it comes to reducing pollution in the city. Not only is the city providing employment opportunities for its residents but it is also working to protect the environment by implementing a clean energy source. The CPCB is also working hard to create artificial rain to make sure that the air stays clean. These creative solutions are definitely working towards a major overall goal of making sure to help lower Kanpur’s pollution.

Emme Chadwick

Photo: Unsplash

Digital Bangladesh on its WayBangladesh has embarked on a journey to digitize itself and transition to a middle-income country by 2021. This goal is known as Digital Bangladesh. Incorporating digital technology in almost every sector of the country is an ambitious target for Bangladesh, yet it has already made progress with more initiatives on the way.

Information and Communication Technology

By 2021, the government aims to integrate Information & Communication Technology (ICT) as a key tool in eradicating poverty and establishing good governance as well as improving the quality of education, healthcare and law enforcement. The government has already laid out some of the foundation work for realizing Digital Bangladesh, such as preparing the National ICT Policy 2009 and the Right to Information Act 2009.

Some of the strategies being used to implement Digital Bangladesh include increasing the coverage of broadband internet connection and cellphone communication throughout the country in order to exchange information and access different types of services, integrating ICT into the school curriculum and improving the capacity and management of healthcare services. Other important areas Digital Bangladesh will improve are increased efficiency in judicial processes, improved coverage of social safety-net programs, reduced environmental impact as well as increased access to banking and financial services.

The Benefits of Digitizing

With more than 120 million cellphone subscribers and 43 million internet subscribers, the population of Bangladesh has been able to enjoy the benefits of digitizing different services around the country. Some examples of these digital services include admission registration to academic institutions, the publication of exam results online, online submission of tax returns, online banking systems and bill payments and filing complaints to police stations. Even video conferencing and telemedicine services are now available in rural areas of the country.

The Access to Information (a2i) Program, supported by UNDP and USAID since 2007, has been the driving force for Digital Bangladesh with the aim of increasing transparency, improving governance and reducing inefficiency in providing public services around the country. On average, six million e-services are provided per month to rural and remote areas through the 407 City Corporation Digital Centers, 321 Municipality Digital Centers and 4,547 Union Digital Centers.

Digitizing is helping to streamline government affairs. More than 25,000 websites of different unions, sub-districts, districts, departments and ministries are connected through the National Web Portal. This portal contains information for more than 43,000 government offices. Furthermore, activities are much more environmentally friendly now that the Prime Minister’s Office as well as around 20 ministries, 4 departments, 64 Deputy Commissioner’s offices and 7 Divisional Commissioner’s offices are using e-filing system. This created an efficient paper-less environment in offices.

Digital Banking

In terms of digital payments, as of December 2015, 18 banks are now operating mobile financial services in Bangladesh. Transactions have risen significantly to 120 percent on average since 2011. This amounts to $1.3 billion on average per month. Although these transactions are a small portion of the entire economy, it is still a notable shift towards digital services, thus a step closer to Digital Bangladesh.

More than one billion transactions in 2015, worth around $20 billion, were done digitally. Furthermore, 70 percent of government payments were also digital. As of 2016, around 38 million people in Bangladesh had utilized mobile money services, reflecting the shift from a cash-dominant economy to a more digital payment economy. The availability of mobile money orders has also been a remarkable stride towards Digital Bangladesh, especially for the rural areas in the country.

Furthermore, around 300 of the Digital Centers have been involved with rural e-Commerce, allowing people to purchase items that are not easily available in remote areas. It has also allowed small-scale women entrepreneurs to participate with 5000 women entrepreneurs who are involved with the e-Commerce platform called “ejoyeeta.com,” which consists of goods produced by these women.

Improvements Still Needed

Bangladesh still has a long way to go in terms of fully digitizing itself. The National Identification System needs to be fully implemented and incorporated with important services in order to improve access to digital financial services. Since human capital is an essential element when it comes to adopting new technology, programs aimed at incorporating ICT-based education from primary to tertiary level schools should be prioritized. Finally, having political stability is a necessity in realizing Digital Bangladesh, given how political turmoil is often a setback when it comes to the development of different sectors in the country, including ICT.

The progress Bangladesh has made so far in realizing its 2021 goal cannot be overlooked despite its lacking in certain areas. However, with the increase in different digital services and activities around the country, Bangladesh is gradually lifting itself up and shifting towards a more ICT based economy, making Digital Bangladesh a potential reality. 

Farihah Tasneem

Photo: Flickr