Diseases in India
India is a sub-continent in Southern Asia that boasts the second largest population in the world following China, with roughly 17 percent of the world’s population. India plays a vital role in multiple international organizations including the U.N., World Trade Organization (WTO) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While India has sustained large economic growth—up to 10 percent annually—and a GDP amounting to roughly $1.6 billion, not everyone has reaped the benefits of these feats. India ranks as one of the poorest nations in the world with approximately 68.8 percent of its citizens living in poverty—that is over 800 million people. A life of poverty for these citizens hastens the spread of diseases that inevitably lead to chronic impairment or death. These are the top eight diseases in India.

Top 8 Diseases in India

  1. Ischemic Heart Disease – Commonly referred to as coronary artery disease (CAD), this condition is the number one cause of death in India. Independent groups such as the Indian Heart Association work to raise awareness of the issue through cardiac screenings and informational sessions. Indian dietary habits can be poor with many foods involving butter, grease and fatty foods. This is especially true for poorer segments of the population where this type of food is cheaper and easily accessible. From 2007 to 2017, there was an approximate 49.8 percent increase in the number of deaths in India caused by ischemic heart disease.
  2. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) – People primarily contract this disease through smoking, second-hand smoking and fume inhalation. Roughly 30 million Indians suffer from a moderate or severe form of COPD. Early detection of COPD can lead to successful treatment and survival of the patient. Factory pollution in India is rampant and the use of cigarettes is all too common, especially among poorer sections of the population. The impoverished have limited access to medical clinics with 56 percent of the population lacking health care, and thus, unable to get adequate treatment for COPD.
  3. Diarrheal Diseases – Diarrheal diseases account for a significant portion of childhood mortality in India. It is the third leading cause of childhood mortality and studies have correlated this to hygiene, malnutrition, improper sanitation and an impoverished upbringing. A lack of affordable care and education for families will lead to further prominence of diarrheal diseases in Indian society. Currently, the U.S. Agency for International Development is working to implement effective and affordable solutions to counteract sanitary related diseases in India.
  4. Lower Respiratory Infections – Respiratory infections such as influenza, pneumonia and bronchitis are all diseases that harm lung function in the body. Indians are extremely susceptible to these due to the high concentration of air pollution throughout the country, especially in poor rural and urban areas. In 2018, 14 out of 15 of the most polluted cities in the world were in India according to the World Health Organization. Further, air pollution also led to roughly 1.24 million deaths in India over the course of 2015.
  5. Tuberculosis – In 2016, there were 2.8 million reported cases of TB and about 450,000 deaths. This disease is rampant among the impoverished in India because there is not a sufficient amount of clinics and professionals to resolve the issue. The vaccine for tuberculosis is not accessible for Indians in the poor parts of the nation. Prime Minister Narendra Modi aims to eradicate tuberculosis by 2025. Through a $1 million partnership with USAID, India hopes to strengthen the detection and treatment of tuberculosis.
  6. Neonatal Disorders – While incidences of neonatal disorders in India have decreased from 52 per 1,000 live births in 1990 to 28 per 1,000 in 2013, this is not an indicator of sustainable progression in India. The truth of the matter is that neonatal decline simply boosted the infant mortality rate because of a brief time-lapse in the survival of the newborn. In India, one can attribute neonatal deaths to asphyxia, pneumonia, sepsis, meningitis, tetanus and an array of other preterm abnormalities. Further, studies show that there is an inverse correlation between socioeconomic status and neonatal deaths. In impoverished rural parts of the country, the neonatal mortality rate is 31 per 1,000 live births whereas it is 15 per 1,000 live births in urban parts of the nation.
  7. Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) – Contrary to popular belief, CKD impacts lower-income countries as well as developed ones. In more developed countries, individuals are able to get access to life-saving treatments. Lower-income nations and portions of nations do not share the same luxury. Scientists predict that there will be 7.63 million deaths from CKD in India in 2020; this is up from the 3.78 million CKD deaths in 1990. The poor in India do not have the finances to receive transplants or the means to attend a reputable hospital.
  8. Tumors – Accounting for 9.4 percent of deaths in India, tumors are the product of pathogens and the buildup of harmful germs in the human body. While not extremely common, these tumors are affecting young and middle-age individuals at an alarming rate. Tumors are also root identifiers of cancer. In the last 26 years, the cancer rate in India has doubled and caused significant economic loss, exemplified by a $6.7 billion loss in 2012. Breast cancer, cervical cancer, lung cancer and oral cancer are extremely prominent in the nation. The costs of treatment are not attainable for all of the affected and thus cause an increase in mortality. India aims to increase the number of physicians and centers for treatment and research through a $20 million initiative. Nongovernmental organizations are also working to raise awareness and supporting early detection methods across the nation.

Since its independence in 1947, India became one of the strongest nations on the planet. With an unprecedented economic boom, India is an emerging global superpower. Despite India’s successes, it is still lagging behind many western countries in its accessibility to medicine, medical facilities and equal wealth distribution.

The top eight diseases in India are pressing problems the nation can resolve through adequate reform. While the situation may appear hopeless, India is taking strides forward to ensure that each citizen lives a prosperous and meaningful life. Technological advances such as new surgical techniques and radiotherapy equipment continue to help counteract malignant tumors and potent cancers. Furthermore, the Indian government has enacted the National Clean Air Plan to reduce air pollution by 20 to 30 percent by 2024. This has prompted individual cities throughout the nation to limit their carbon output through the use of more efficient technologies and stricter regulations. India can continue to thrive as a global economic power while working to resolve its internal problems.

– Jai Shah
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Palau
Palau is a small country in the Pacific Ocean that attracts tourists from all over the world with its amazing scuba diving sites, stunning rock islands and gorgeous beaches. With a population of about 21,000 people, Palau is continuously working towards improving life on the island by bringing focus to some of its biggest issues such as lack of funding for non-communicable diseases, and drug and alcohol addiction in children and adults. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Palau.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Palau

  1. According to the CIA World Fact Book, life expectancy in Palau was 70.4 years for men and 77 years for women as of 2018. The life expectancy has stayed relatively the same over the years with only a two-year decrease since 1995.
  2. The leading causes of death in Palau are non-communicable diseases (NCD) with cardiovascular disease, cancer, chronic respiratory diseases and diabetes being the four main causes of death in the country. Because of the lack of funds going into the prevention and treatment of these diseases, President Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed a law in 2016 to set 10 percent of the revenue raised from alcohol and tobacco taxes aside to finance NCD prevention.
  3. Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne disease which can cause high fever, headache, vomiting and skin rash. Palau is no stranger to this disease and the Ministry of Health has been educating and bringing awareness to the public ever since its biggest outbreak in 2008. In December 2018, the Ministry of Health reported its first-ever cases of the Dengue Serotype 3 virus which the small country had never seen. It immediately issued an alert and urged the public to search for and kill mosquitos in and around homes, wear clothes to cover skin and use bug repellant. Fortunately, the country did not report any deaths from dengue fever and it had only 250 cases as of June 2019.
  4. Both children and adults in Palau have a dependence on drugs, cigarettes and alcohol. The country has created many educational efforts and protective laws for children, but despite these efforts, 70 percent of children chew on a drug called betel nut. The betel nut which has been a part of cultural practices since the 1970s is a popular and accessible drug on the island. According to the Alcohol and Drug Foundation, ingesting this drug can lead to oral cancers, stomach ulcers and heart disease when used regularly.
  5. Estimates determined the infant mortality to be 14 deaths to 1,000 live births as of 2015 in Palau, which was a 55 percent decrease since 1990.  Palau’s National Health Profile explains that 75 percent of expecting mothers used betel nut and tobacco during their pregnancy between 2007 and 2013. These were the main causes of the high rate of preterm complications that resulted in deaths of newborns. Along with these two risks, the health profile also highlights that overweight and obese mothers had a higher risk of preterm delivery as well. Because health services have become more available, mothers are now receiving education and given prenatal care preventing the infant mortality rate from going up.
  6. Health care and health services are becoming accessible to more and more families and children which has caused the mortality rate to decrease on the islands. Obesity still remains a problem for 24 percent of children, though. Many children do not have any knowledge of good eating habits and do not participate in any physical activity. Humanium reports that only 10 percent of children are eating fruits and vegetables in Palau.
  7. Palau reportedly has approximately 300 children with special needs on the registry with the Health Department but only around 189 are receiving special education services. Most special needs kids will receive health care, education and social services up until the age of 21. Once they reach 21 years of age there are not many resources on the small country to assist them in adapting and transitioning into the adult life which leaves these families without any aid.
  8. Although crime rates are low in Palau, emergencies do happen and getting help from police officers or medical personnel can be very difficult. The ability for police officers and ambulances to respond to crimes and medical emergencies can sometimes be very limited because of the lack of essential equipment, response vehicles and roads on the island. Ambulances often do not have proper equipment or staff. In rural areas receiving ambulance services is much more limited.
  9. Pollution affects 25 percent of the available drinking water in Palau. Groundwater pollution is caused by poorly maintained septic tanks and saltwater intrusion while land-based pollution, gasoline and oil from motors and ships impact coastal waters. Due to the ongoing development of the country, further pollution from sewages, chemicals and oil spills will be unavoidable if people do not control them which could greatly affect the country’s population.
  10. Seventy-one percent of the population in Palau live in urban areas on the islands of Koror and Airai. People without land rights must lease houses from the government which are usually one or two-story homes made of wood or cement with tin roofs. Living conditions are improving, however, due to the work of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and the National Development Bank of Palau. They have been working together to create homes which will use less energy and reduce dependence on petroleum fuels that are imported to the island every year. Although this is an ongoing project having built only 60 homes, the improvement in living conditions will not only help the environment but also the people of this small country.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Palau show progress within its 340 islands. Government officials are putting many efforts into fixing the issues that Palau and its people are facing. By creating programs to help aid the disabled, providing education on health issues, passing laws to receive the funds necessary for treatments and starting new projects such as the building of energy-efficient homes, Palau is on the right track to bettering life on its islands.

– Jannette Aguirre
Photo: Flickr

single-use plastics

In December of 2018, Peru‘s Congress passed a national law to significantly discourage and limit the use of plastics. The law was discussed for nearly a year prior to a unanimous vote in support of it. Over the past several years, plastic accumulating in and contaminating water sources has become a global crisis. With 71 percent of the Earth’s surface quickly becoming polluted, Peru’s efforts to do their part in eliminating single-use plastics is a momentous stepping stone in cleaning up the planet.

Peru’s Response

The issue with single-use plastics is that they are virtually everywhere. Their easy accessibility has created nothing short of a man-made disaster. However, companies around the world are coming up with more sustainable options in hopes of remedying the issue and easing the country’s transition away from plastic.

Peru’s Environment Minister Fabiola Munoz explains that they intend to transition to “reusable, biodegradable plastic or others whose degradation does not generate contamination by microplastics.” Peru’s law regulates the consumption of single-use plastics by drastically reducing the production of disposables. Therefore, inevitably forcing consumers to seek out alternatives to plastic, which has an extremely detrimental effect on the environment.

The Devastating Affect on Wildlife

Fish consume an average of 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause intestinal damage and death. This means that larger marine mammals and human seafood eaters who consume the affected fish can become very ill. The South American country is home to 1,500 miles of Pacific coastline is known for its delicacy ceviche. The Environmental Ministry spearheaded the campaign “I don’t want this in my ceviche” in order to get more people on board with reusable bags.

This issue spreads far wider than the ocean; it affects each ecosystem that it comes into contact with. This is not limited to sealife. Birds often ingest or get caught in the plastic. Ingested plastic doesn’t break down in the birds’ stomachs and can lead to death. In addition to ingestion, marine mammals often become entangled large pieces of plastic. In fact, at least 700 species get entangled in plastic waste, some of which are already endangered.

Long-Term Plans

The Environment Ministry estimates that Peru uses 947,000 tons of plastic each year with 75 percent of it being discarded into landfills and only 0.3 percent being recycled properly. With this law, Peru is doing away with common disposable items, such as plastic straws, foam packaging and plastic tableware. It is anticipating getting rid of plastic bags entirely within three years by placing a tax on them. It will also ensure that plastic bottles are at least 15 percent recyclable within the next three years.

Additionally, the country plans to place a limit on the number of plastic products being distributed as well as imported and exported within the country. The Peruvian government also banned tourists from bringing single-use plastics into 76 of the country’s cultural sites, including the historic site and tourist destination, Machu Picchu.

This initiative is just the beginning of a larger movement to undo the damage that humans have done to the plant over generations. Hopefully, other nations across the globe will acknowledge Peru’s efforts and also be inspired to eliminate single-use plastics.

—Joanna Buoniconti
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria
The Republic of Austria is a nation wedged within Central Europe. Many consider its water quality as one of the highest in Europe and several NGOs are working towards bringing the nation’s economic and environmental sustainability up to par with the EU. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Austria

  1. Since 2000, life expectancy in Austria has increased by three years. Currently, the life expectancy average in Austria is 82-years-old which is more than the OECD average of 80-years-old. However, averages between women and men differ as the average for women is 84-years-old and the average for men is 79-years-old.
  2. Despite the World Health Organization’s guideline limit of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of PM2.5 air pollutants, Austria exceeds it by 6.3 micrograms. According to a 2017 WHO publication, the fact that Austrian residents often heat with wood and coal contribute to the nation’s pollution. As a result, affected Austrians experience respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer. Lower respiratory problems are the sixth highest cause of death in Austria.
  3. In order to improve the nation’s air quality, VCÖ-Mobilität mit Zukunft works to bring efficient mobility to the country. Founded in 1988, VCÖ develops projects with Austria’s decision-makers aimed at lowering emissions. Since its inception, VCÖ has produced publications arguing for climate-friendly transportation. Moreover, in 2018, VCÖ conducted a railroad test with 10,000 Austrians to exemplify that Austrian railroads need new offerings to improve the nation’s air quality.
  4. Adding to the 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria, about 92 percent of residents in Austria are satisfied with their water quality. In 1959, due to the nation’s high levels of wastewater, the Austrian federal government implemented the Austrian Water Act. The Act included initiatives that work to reduce wastewater. In order to achieve this mission, the Austrian government established monitoring programs to test the nation’s bodies of water for pollutants. As a result of running these tests and implementing wastewater purification plants and a larger sewage system, Austria reduced its waste-water and improved the nation’s water quality.
  5. When it comes to security, the majority of Austrians feel safe in their country. Around 81 percent of Austrians say they feel safe at night. Austria’s homicide rate of 0.5 ranks as one of the lowest rates in the OECD.
  6. A recent report from WHO states that the leading causes of death in Austria are cardiovascular disease and cancer. Diabetes and dementia rates have also increased and worked their way up into the top 10 causes of death. Despite the rise in various diseases, however, around 70 percent of Austrians believe the are in good health.
  7. Around 99.9 percent of Austrians receive health-care coverage. In 2012, the Federal government covered 29 percent of Austrians’ health expenditures while health insurance funds covered 44.8 percent. Given that the majority of Austrians’ have covered health care, Austrians have a strong access to health care that contributes to their health and life expectancy.
  8. Following a 2009 GDP fall, Austria’s household capacity plateaued while basic living costs increased. As a result, Austria’s impoverished population increased through 2015. Due to a lack of resources, impoverished Austrians are less likely to afford health care, and therefore, are at risk for poor health. In order to find solutions for impoverished Austrians, Austria ASAP launched in 2013 and worked toward enhancing academics’ impact on poverty. Since its inception, Austria ASAP has released publications debunking social presumptions about Austrians living in poverty.
  9. In comparison to other European countries, Austria’s public spending on health is low. In 2015, Germany and Sweden spent between 18 and 21 percent of total government spending on health care. Meanwhile, Austria only utilized 15.1 percent of its total government spending. Given the public spending is lower in Austria than in other nations, Austrians experience less financial security and are at a higher risk of impoverishment due to health care costs.
  10. Amongst the countries in the EU, Austria is below average in resource productivity. Austria produces EUR 1.79 per kilogram in comparison to the EU average of EUR 2.04 per kilogram. Therefore, in March 2018, several NGOs launched the Circular Futures Platform to transition Austria into a circular economy. The Circular Economy Action Plan mission intends to eventually put an end to lower residual waste and reduce the toxins polluting the environment and attributing to 3,000-4,000 Austrian deaths every year.

Through an analysis of increasing life expectancy and high health insurance coverage, these 10 facts about life expectancy in Austria demonstrate why the nation ranks high on the Better Life Index. With increased efforts to improve the economy and air quality, Austria can become a model nation for the world.

– Niyat Ogbazghi
Photo: Flickr

 

Life Expectancy in Kosovo
Kosovo is a newly and controversially independent Baltic state with its fair share of hardships. After only recently deescalating its conflict with Serbia, the war-torn country must continue to find how to establish itself in the world. These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo highlight Kosovo’s unstable internal conditions as well as the efforts that the country is putting forth to improve them.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Kosovo

  1. In 2002, the average life expectancy in Kosovo was 68 years. It has steadily improved since then with the average life expectancy in Kosovo now being 72 years according to the World Bank. Improvements in many sectors, such as increased health care accessibility, education reforms and de-escalation of the conflict in the region may be a cause of this. Compared to the average life expectancy of the European Union (E.U.) nations (81 years), Kosovo has a long way to go. However, many project the yearly improvement over the past two decades to continue.
  2. According to the Kosovo Agency of Statistics, in 2017, 18 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. High poverty levels likely stem from a prevalence of unemployment (31 percent in 2017) as well as exceedingly low wages (500 euros monthly). This makes Kosovo the third poorest country in Europe. However, increased foreign investment and urban development have caused major improvements from figures just five years prior that show the poverty level at 23.5 percent, reflected by a higher unemployment rate of 35 percent.

  3. There is a vast disparity in health care access between minority populations and the general populous of Kosovo. Children living in rural areas are less likely to have access to good health care, and this is even worse for ethnic minorities. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 60 percent of Roma, Ashkali and Egyptian children live in absolute poverty and over 30 percent live in extreme poverty (compared to the average statistics of 48.6 percent and 18.9 percent, respectively). A statistic that reflects this disparity is the infant mortality rate (IMR). The average IMR for the whole of Kosovo is 12 deaths per 1,000 live births. When looking at the IMR for minorities, that number jumps to 41 deaths per 1,000 live births.

  4. Kosovo has a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of $7.129 billion and spends 1.1 percent of it on health and social work, as well as 0.9 percent on public administration. While the amount the country spends on public health services is very low, Kosovars have seen improvements in basic health. The government has recently subsidized health care accessibility programs such as the Law on Health Insurance (2014) and the National Health Sector Strategy (2017-2021). The former gave all Kosovo citizens the right and obligation to have a basic, mandatory health insurance package that covers emergencies, pregnancies and childbirth and other health care essentials. The latter is a strategy the Ministry of Health adopted that focuses on better management of health care funds as well as improving the accessibility of basic health care to minorities and other marginalized communities. Ultimately, however, the outcomes of the new policies have been difficult to measure due to lacking administrative records and unclear implementation policies.

  5. The leading causes of death in Kosovo are circulatory system diseases, making up 62.7 percent of all deaths in 2015. Other prevalent causes of death are tumor diseases (14.7 percent) and respiratory diseases (5.4 percent). Kosovo also has one of the highest tuberculosis rates in Europe, according to the World Health Organization. Many of these diseases are due to the overwhelming amount of tobacco products consumed in Southeastern European countries, causing 80-90 percent of all lung cancer cases and increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases and tuberculosis.

  6. Starting in 1998, Serbia cast out over 800,000 people from Kosovo during the Kosovo Conflict. Thousands of people still live in refugee camps since they have no way to reclaim their homes. Other organizations or individuals have bought the properties, and Kosovo courts make it very difficult to evict the illegal tenants and allow refugees to return to their homes. However, efforts from UN Habitat, a branch of the United Nations that deals with sustainable human settlements and shelters, have recently pushed for reform in Kosovo’s court system to more adequately handle the illegal seizures of property. The Kosovo Municipal Spatial Planning Support Programme, which UN Habitat developed, has built capacities for sustainable and affordable development of urban areas and has established institutions like the Housing and Property Directorate and the Kosovo Cadastre Agency.

  7. The homicide rate in Kosovo is measured at about 2.1 intentional homicides per every 100,000 people in 2016. This is impressively low, considering the global average is 6.2 homicides per 100,000 people and the U.S. average is 4.9 per 100,000.

  8. The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) looks at three categories for fifteen-year-old students: math, reading and sciences. The test thereby evaluates teaching methods and education infrastructure and shows the government whether the improvement is necessary or not. In 2015, the PISA ranked Kosovo as one of the last three countries in all of the evaluated categories. The ranking is devastating, yet the Minister of Education Arsim Bajrami embraced the results with a promise of improvement. He stated, “[The decision to participate in the PISA] was a courageous act as well as a commitment to increase the quality of education in our country.” Since then, with the help of foreign aid, the government has worked to improve the technical training of teachers and the ability of Kosovo’s youngest generation to be financially viable.

  9. Kosovo air quality has been steadily decreasing over the past decade. In December 2018, Kosovo’s capital of Prishtina had an air quality measured as hazardous. Increased investment in coal and biofuel power plants have caused a sharp increase in air pollution. The Balkan Green Foundation and the Institute for Development Policy (INDEP) launched campaigns to raise awareness on the effects of excessive air pollution caused by fossil fuel. They have been pushing for transparency with energy expenditure and power plant output, but the government has been less than receptive. However, the green movement in Kosovo has gained traction very quickly within the past six months. There are now large pushes for the Kosovo government to be more accurate with air pollution reports as well as transportation reform to ensure car emissions are not unnecessarily high.

  10. The people of Kosovo consider corruption to be the most important problem facing them, after unemployment, according to the UNODC Corruption Report on Kosovo. Systemic bribery is endangering Kosovars by obstructing their access to law enforcement as well as health care. Thirty percent of all bribes went to police officers to overlook petty crimes, 26 percent went to nurses and a massive 42 percent of bribes went to doctors to either expedite or receive better treatment. The U.K.’s ambassador to Kosovo Ruairi O’Connell has pushed very strongly for a crackdown on governmental and private corruption, “The moment has come to remove officials whose integrity is contested. Politicians should not meddle in the work of police, courts, and prosecutor’s office.”As of yet, corruption continues to be widespread, and public opinion as well as the justice ministers in the Kosovo government call for immediate reform.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Kosovo reflect that the condition is gloomy, but improving. Corruption is still endemic and ethnic disparities are prevalent, but outside influencers, like the U.N. and non-governmental organizations like INDEP are helping the government improve. If the government carries out infrastructure, education and health care developments successfully, the country would see improvements across the board and become a more competitive piece of the world with a much higher life expectancy.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about Pollution in India
Experts around the world believe that pollution is killing millions of people. In fact, the Lancet Medical Journal believes that in 2015, pollution accounted for three times as many deaths as AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined. The report also said that it caused around nine million premature deaths. While pollution is an issue in almost every country, some nations deal with much higher levels than others. Year after year, India tops the list of the world’s most polluted countries. There are many important things to note about the problem, but here are the top 10 facts about pollution in India.

Top 10 Facts about Pollution in India:

  1. Eleven out of the top 12 cities with the highest levels of particulate pollution are located in India, according to a World Health Organization report. The report analyzed air monitoring stations across 4,300 cities worldwide in 2016. Kanpur, India tops the list, with a yearly average of 319 micrograms per cubic meter of the most harmful particle, PM2.5. Faridabad is next on the list, followed by Varanasi, Gaya, Patna and Delhi.
  2. Poverty and pollution are closely correlated. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the World Health Organization’s director general, says, “air pollution threatens us all, but the poorest and most marginalized people bear the brunt of the burden.” In developing countries, mechanisms like cookstoves, heating fuels and kerosene lighting contribute to pollution. Additionally, ineffective governmental standards for pollutants have exacerbated the issue.
  3. In India, children are most affected by pollution. India has one of the highest rates of child mortality, in part due to both toxic air and polluted waters.
  4. The country’s geographical distribution contributes to the problem. Agricultural practices like burning crop stubble are still commonly used. Its smoke wafts over big cities like Mumbai. Given that these regions are landlocked, it is difficult for the smoke to dissipate. Additionally, it often combines with traffic exhaust and factory emissions.
  5. Air pollution accounts for an estimated 12.5 percent of deaths in India. The State of India’s Environmental Report found that it also kills around 100,000 children less than five years old every year. The risk is also higher for girls than for boys in this age group.
  6. Eighty-six percent of Indian bodies of water are deemed “critically polluted.” A study conducted by the nonprofit group, Centre for Science and Environment, found that most polluted waters are in the Karnataka, Telangana and Kerala regions. This is likely due to an increase in highly polluting industrial presence.
  7. The country’s capital, Delhi, is looking for solutions. In 2018, the city created 52 teams to increase compliance and safety, as well as take quick action. Additionally, the Environmental Pollution Control Authority (EPCA) halted all construction in the area for 10 days in November when pollution seemed particularly bad. The EPCA is even looking at implementing more vehicle emission control in the near future.
  8. The state of Gujarat is implementing the first-ever “cap-and-trading” program to help reduce particulate air pollution. The state’s government will set a cap on industrial emissions and will allow companies to trade permits in order to meet requirements. It will be tested out in the industrial city of Surat first, as the city is home to high amounts of polluting industries.
  9. In January of 2019, India implemented the National Clean Air Program. Its goal was to cut pollution in 102 cities by 20-30 percent by 2024. Union Environment Minister, Harsh Vardhan, says: “Collaborative and participatory approach involving relevant central ministries, state governments, local bodies and other stakeholders with a focus on all sources of pollution forms the crux of the Program.”
  10. India’s political landscape could be making things worse. The existing anti-pollution laws are badly enforced. Dealing with a problem of this magnitude requires high levels of organization and crucial coordination across state lines. However, there is tension between urban and rural political leaders, making communication difficult.

– Natalie Malek
Photo: Flickr

Plastic in Exchange for EducationPlastic pollution is one of the worst global environmental issues to date. On average, around 300 million tons of plastic is produced each year and most of it is not recycled. This unrecycled plastic becomes waste on land, in rivers and oceans, and can be consumed by multiple breeds of animals. Scientists predict that if nothing is done about the production or lack of recycling plastic, the ocean will more than likely have more plastic in it than fish by the year 2050. Poverty-ridden countries are more susceptible to having plastic waste filling their streets and water sources, which is why many areas in these countries are turning to a new solution to both end plastic pollution in their country and decrease their poverty rates.

Many schools in poverty-ridden countries have begun to accept plastic in exchange for education by using the waste as payment for school tuitions. Nigeria is ranked 11th in the world for plastic pollution and it is estimated that nearly 450,000 megatons of plastic waste are discarded every year in the city of Lagos’ water sources alone. Because of this, a partnership with Africa Clean Up Initiative (ACI), RecyclesPay and Wecyclers has allowed parents to start paying their children’s tuition with the plastic waste they collect. How much tuition is covered depends on the amount of waste brought in each week; the more that is brought in, the more tuition is paid for. This helps parents relieve financial burdens and to be able to use what little money they have on school materials while the plastic waste they collect and turn in pays for their child’s tuition.

In 2016, Parmita Sarma and Mazin Mukhtar opened a school in India where parents could pay for school tuition by bringing in 25 pieces of plastic waste to school each week. Their plan was to help children receive an education while also cleaning up their town from plastic waste. At the time the school opened, most children were being sent to work rather than attending school because parents either could not afford the education or they could not afford to care for the entire family. This initiative has since been extremely well-liked by the community, and its popularity has grown. The curriculum focuses on generic education practices but also includes curriculum on environmental issues and the importance of keeping the community clean. Because of the positive impact and growth of using plastic in exchange for education, the couple plans to open 100 similar schools within the next five years to increase education in India.

Reducing plastic pollution while improving children’s education is one step closer to resolving plastic pollution and ending world poverty with increased educational opportunities.

– Chelsea Wolfe
Photo: Unsplash

severe smog
China has one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. With an annual GDP of over $12.34 trillion in 2017, China is the second-largest economy in the world behind the U.S., which has an annual 2017 GDP at over $19 trillion. While China’s economy may be growing rapidly, and possibly on the verge of passing the U.S. within the next decade or so, economic growth has come at a significant cost including severe smog.

China has relied extensively on fossil fuels for new manufacturing and power production facilities. The expansion of manufacturing facilities, combined with poor regulations, has led to serious smog problems in Chinese cities, especially in Beijing. Now, the Chinese government is acknowledging the negative health impacts of extreme smog production after ignoring it for years.

What is Smog?

Smog is severe air pollution that looks like a thick fog. The most common form of smog is photochemical smog. Photochemical smog forms when sunlight reacts with nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the atmosphere. Nitrous oxides commonly release into the atmosphere through burning fossil fuels and factory emissions. VOCs commonly release into the atmosphere by paints and cleaning products. The end product of this chemical reaction creates a thick, brownish fog that can be unhealthy for humans, plants and animals.

Background Behind Beijing Smog

Coal-burning facilities are the number one culprit behind Beijing’s severe smog. Since China opened up to the world for trade in the 1970s, the nation has become a manufacturing-based economy. This is because Chinese workers receive little pay to manufacture products compared to what companies would have to pay in other countries. On top of that, Chinese products tend to be much cheaper to produce.

Beijing has become a major example of poor air quality due to the significant increase of coal-burning facilities. It also has a large number of vehicles on roadways along with unique topography.

Negative Health Impacts of Smog

Besides severe smog being unaesthetic and producing a thick, brown fog, it also has serious health impacts for humans, plants and animals. Beijing’s smog can cause short-term health problems such as heart attacks, asthma attacks and bronchitis. Thick smog can even lead to increased traffic accidents from poor visibility. Over the long-term, smog contributes to serious conditions such as respiratory failure and even cancer. To make things even worse, nearly one million Chinese residents died in 2012 because of smog-related diseases, the most out of any country in the world.

Smog also disproportionally impacts poorer residents because unhealthy air quality conditions are typically worse in poorer communities. Poorer residents also have a harder time accessing high-quality health care, which makes it difficult to receive adequate medical treatment for smog-related health issues.

“These pollutants are understood to affect human health in several ways, but most importantly they have been observed to cause people to die prematurely,” said Jason West, a professor for the Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering at UNC-Chapel Hill. “When we breathe, pollutants in the air can react with our airways and the surfaces of our lungs, and some pollutants like PM2.5 can enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.”

Epidemiological studies have shown that people who live in places with high air pollution tend to die earlier than people who live in places with cleaner air, affecting causes of death that include heart attack, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and lung cancer.

How China is Alleviating Smog

Before China’s Academy for Environmental Planning pledged $277 billion to combat urban air pollution, smog conditions throughout Chinese cities were severe. There were concerns about the 2008 Summer Olympics, which were held in Beijing, over severe smog issues. In December 2016, Beijing had to close down schools and airports because of severe air quality problems.

Furthermore, most residents have to wear masks in efforts to reduce the amount of unhealthy particle matter being trapped in their lungs. However, since 2013, nearly four million homes in the northern parts of China have converted to natural gas, a cleaner alternative than burning coal.

The average amount of unhealthy air particles that can penetrate the lungs and cause health problems has fallen in urban areas. Between 2016 and 2017, the concentration of negative air particles fell to 43 micrograms per cubic meter, a 6 percent decrease but much higher than the World Health Organization’s maximum recommended concentration 25 micrograms per cubic meter over a 24 hour period. The Chinese government has also released a new Three-Year Action Plan in 2018. By 2020, the plan hopes to decrease sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxides by 15 percent.

Chinese NGOs

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) throughout China are also helping to combat severe smog issues. Most of China’s NGOs such as the Center for Legal Assistance to Pollution Victims (CLAPV) are concerned with legal actions against smog polluters. CLAPV has helped over 10,000 people via the phone and has pursued over 100 legal cases.

With negative health consequences such as respiratory problems developing because of smog, many residents have long-term health problems. Therefore, NGOs provide outlets for helping Chinese citizens sue polluters for damages, which in the long run, helps to alleviate severe smog issues.

Chinese smog is certainly a problem, and cities such as Beijing and Hong Kong feel the effects. Although smog may be a problem, there are solutions that will greatly reduce its negative health consequences. American companies such as Apple are investing millions of dollars in renewable energy projects in China, which reduces fossil fuel consumption, leading to reduced smog. The Chinese government’s Three-Year Action Plan shows promise, and the U.N. has already found that unhealthy particle matter has decreased throughout Chinese cities, although there is still work to do.

– Kyle Arendas
Photo: Flickr

Socioeconomic implications of air pollutionAir pollution is commonly understood as an environmental issue. In the U.S., pollution is most commonly tested using the Air Quality Index. The AQI measures air pollution based upon ground-level ozone, particle pollution, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide levels. Air pollution causes a number of health risks such as cancer and respiratory infections. In 2016, an estimated 4.2 million people died prematurely due to air pollution. Often, the effects of environmental issues have more consequences for the poor. Thus, concerns stemming from air pollution are not just environmental but also socioeconomic.

Who is affected?

About 90 percent of premature deaths by air pollution occur in low-middle income areas. This issue disproportionately affects lower-income households for many reasons. For one, impoverished homes are often dependent upon energy sources such as coal and wood. The burning of these fossil fuels contaminates the air with carbon dioxide emissions and creates indoor pollution. A lack of finances can also result in the absence of healthcare. Without early treatment, people dealing with infections related to air pollution are more likely to suffer fatal consequences.

Research shows that this disparity supports social discrimination. A study in 2016 reports: “The risk of dying early from long-term exposure to particle pollution was higher in communities with larger African-American populations, lower home values, and lower median income”. Minority groups often face prejudice in places such as employment. On average, a black woman makes 61 cents per dollar earned by a white male counterpart. In sum, minority groups ordinarily earn lower wages. This prohibits them from buying more expensive renewable resources.

The largest effects of air pollution take place in the World Health Organization’s South-East Asia and Western-Pacific regions. These regions are primarily occupied by developing nations. With a lack of financial resources, these countries resort to cheap and environmentally unsustainable practices. For example, the slash-and-burn technique is a method used by farmers and large corporations. This technique involves clearing land with intentional fires, which raises carbon dioxide levels.

What are the implications?

When considering the socioeconomic implications of air pollution, it is important to note all of the key facts. Here are a few things to consider:

  • The WHO has declared air pollution as the number one health hazard caused by environmental degradation. Air pollution can cause ischaemic heart disease, strokes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lung cancer.
  • Worldwide, 1 in 8 people dies due to the effects of air pollution. In 2018, 7 million people passed away because of infections relating to air quality.

Who is helping?

Air pollution should not be overlooked as a serious issue. Fortunately, in recent years there has been a significant movement to combat poor air quality. For example, China has a reputation for being heavily polluted. However, in 2015, the Chinese government was the world’s lead investor in renewable energy. The government invested $26.7 billion in renewable resources, which was twice the amount that the U.S. invested that same year. Furthermore, between the years 2010 and 2015, particle pollution levels in China decreased by 17 percent.

Organizations such as Greenpeace have advocated for better policies surrounding environmental degradation. In 2013, the Chinese government released the Clean Air Action Plan which set forth the initial progress in combating air pollution. Nevertheless, in 2017, Greenpeace recorded that while particle pollution levels continued to decrease, progress had significantly declined. Greenpeace is now urging the government to produce a new plan to further challenge air pollutants.

Air pollution is harmful to the global ecosystem but it also has a profound impact on society. In order to fully understand the consequences of this issue, one must consider the ways in which environmental degradation targets specific groups. The contamination of the environment, or more specifically the air, often affects minorities and the poorest people. Thus, air pollution should be a top priority not only for environmentalists but also for social activists. Luckily, governments are already seeking plans to prevent the outcome of air pollution. By contributing to organizations such as Greenpeace, everyone can advocate for better policies and regulations against the socioeconomic implications of air pollution.

– Anna Melnik
Photo: Flickr

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