Plastic Waste Action and Poverty in IndiaWithin the last year, more information has come out about the consumption of plastics and their mismanagement. The information has spread awareness of the dangers of single-use plastics and encouraged using paper or reusable straws along with a number of other initiatives. Few, however, have been as transformative as one undertaken in India by the NGO Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha (SSVAJKS). SSVAJKS has spearheaded a streamlined process of plastic waste collection and sell to recyclers. Though SSVAJKS may be the only organization connecting plastic waste action and poverty in India, others are joining the efforts to mitigate the problem.

Large Scale Support

At least 16.5 million tons of plastics are consumed annually, 43 percent of which are single-use, packaging material. Around 80 percent of these plastics are discarded. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Clean India Drive promises to address pollution in India. In March 2019, India banned imports of plastic waste. By September, it banned single-use and disposable plastic products. Headlined by Modi’s speech on August 15 calling for the elimination of such items by October 2, the Indian government aims to reduce disposable plastics to zero by 2022.

In alignment with this initiative, Amazon India and Walmart’s Flipkart announced actions to remove single-use plastics from their packaging. They will instead opt for entirely paper cushions and recycled plastic consumption by March 2021. In June 2018, PepsiCo India vowed to replace its plastic Lays and Kurkure bag with “100 percent compostable, plant-based” ones. This was countered by Coca-Cola’s goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one sold by 2030.

Sarthak Samudayik Vikas Avan Jan Kalyan Sanstha

While governments and corporations have addressed the future of plastic consumption, they neglect the areas where SSVAJKS helps the most. SSVAKLS is dealing with the existing plastic that has already been produced. SSVAKLS has the support of the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Program under the advisement and jurisdiction of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). These efforts have connected the campaigns against plastic overconsumption and mismanagement with SSVAJKS’ recycling initiative.

The NGO began linking plastic waste action and poverty in India in the city of Bhopal in 2008. It developed a sustainable integrated waste management system for the city’s five wards, a model that expanded to the state level in 2011. Replicated across India in all of its states, this model relies on ‘ragpickers’ to sift through the waste and pick out plastics returned to municipal collection centers. These collectors come from highly vulnerable, socially marginalized castes and are predominantly poor, illiterate women.

Since partaking in this initiative, the incomes of the ‘ragpickers’ have vastly improved, doubling in many cases. The plastic they collect and submit to the collection centers is recycled into roads and co-processing in cement kilns, benefitting upwards of two million people. The overwhelming success of the NGO led to another SGP grant that enlisted “2,000 unorganized waste pickers” across the Bhopal Municipal Corporation’s 70 wards.

The Endgame

SGP hopes to build a sustainable plastic waste management system and ensure the co-processing of plastic waste. It will also increase the standards of living for 2,000 ragpicker families. New initiatives are introducing vermicomposting along with paper bag and cotton making units. The results are phenomenal. Ragpickers have collected 4,200 megatons of plastic, saving plastic from burning and emitting 12,000 megatons of carbon. Additionally, the ragpickers themselves are able to open bank accounts to accumulate their savings, lifting them slowly but surely out of abject poverty. The success of the SSVAJKS in combining efforts to address plastic waste action and poverty in India demonstrates the NGO’s capacity to tackle multiple issues at once and incentivize the solving of one through the other.

Alex Myers
Photo: Flickr

Indoor Air Pollution in Rural CambodiaCambodia has seen a rapid decrease in poverty within the last decade. More than 45 percent of the population was impoverished in 2007 when compared to 13.5 percent in 2014. It has also sustained one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world at an average of 8 percent between 1998 and 2018. However, just because the majority of the country has achieved middle-income status does not mean that the country is without its issues. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is a growing problem.

Rural vs. Urban Areas

Many of those who have only recently overcome poverty have just barely done so. A large part of Cambodia’s population still lives on a very small amount of money per day and is at risk of slipping back into poverty. This risk is much higher in rural provinces. Eighty percent of Cambodia’s population lives in rural areas that had a poverty level of 20.8 percent in 2012. That is three times higher than the poverty rate in urban areas.

Rural Cambodians are subject as such to the hardships that many of the world’s rural poor must face. These include dilapidated electrical and internet infrastructure as well as limited access to healthcare and sanitation resources. Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is one such aspect of health that affects the rural poor disproportionately.

Indoor Air Pollution

The typical symptoms of being regularly exposed to indoor air pollution include nasal congestion, nose bleeds, difficulty breathing, a sore throat and asthma. These symptoms seem similar to a common cold, but long-term effects can include more serious respiratory diseases like respiratory disease and cancer.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), air pollution is the greatest environmental health risk in the Western Pacific Region. In 2012, air pollution caused at least 3.2 million deaths. Indoor air pollution accounted for about 1.62 million of these deaths. Indoor air pollution is usually caused by smoking tobacco inside and by cooking with wood, coal or dung without proper indoor ventilation. Many people who are poor in rural areas with limited access to gas or electricity use these methods to cook. In rural Cambodia, the prevalence of these cooking methods reached 95 percent of households by 2013.

Biogas Stoves

The main solution to reducing indoor air pollution is to introduce efficient stoves that use clean fuel. One source of clean stove fuel would simply be electricity. However, that is an issue for rural Cambodians since the electrical infrastructure is sparse in rural areas. A better, more applicable solution would be to introduce biogas stoves with proper ventilation.

One million Cambodian households have the proper livestock to supply themselves with biogas fuel. The fuel would need to be extracted by using a biodigester that anaerobically takes methane from natural resources such as dung stored underground and siphons it to the stove. The methane would, of course, need proper ventilation to ensure the air in the household did not become poisonous just like a natural gas stove. Cambodia’s Natural Biodigester Programme (NBP) is working to distribute biodigesters to its rural population in hopes of combatting indoor air pollution. As of 2016, the state-led program has installed about 23,000 biodigesters.

The ACE 1 Stove

Using solid biomass for cooking causes much of indoor air pollution. Another alternative to solid biomass would be to use cleaner biomass stovetops that produce negligible emissions indoors. African Clean Energy (ACE) has launched the ACE 1 stove. This stove uses biomass as fuel but burns nearly all particles inside the chamber to leave barely any emissions. In addition, the stove comes with solar panels that provide LED lighting and outlet ports for mobile phones.

ACE has launched a program in northern Cambodia, the poorest Cambodian region, to try and implement the product. The ACE 1 is auctioned from a local vendor where the buyer pays a $25 downpayment. Afterward, the buyer continues to pay off the stove in small monthly increments of about $7.

Indoor air pollution in Cambodia is still rampant in rural parts despite the overall increase in income. The solutions are there, but in order to ensure economic growth that benefits everybody, Cambodia needs to focus on the implementation of these solutions in an ethical and sustainable way. This would lessen the health risks that the Cambodian poor face from simply living in their houses. It will also help facilitate more stable, lasting economic growth and development for the poor of the countryside.

Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Pollution in Africa
Africa is a continent that is in a state of impoverishment; as of 2015, 413 million citizens of Africa live in poverty. Due to a lack of resources, Africa struggles with maintaining its environment and reducing its pollution levels. The pollution in Africa is becoming worse as the state of poverty worsens. Impoverished communities rely heavily on their environmental state, and people should place the issue of pollution at a higher importance. Here are 10 facts about pollution in Africa.

10 Facts About Pollution in Africa

  1. Water Pollution: The quality of the water accessible to those in Africa is essential; according to a study in 2009, “water is said to be a national asset… one on which [their] economic and social development” relies upon. A major cause of water pollution in Africa is the throwing of general waste into local bodies of water. Communities in poverty do not usually have the funding to create proper waste-management systems so they pollute their water supplies instead.
  2. Metal Pollution in Soil: Once a water source suffers pollution, the contaminants can spread into the soil that supplies food and economic activity. People have found metals from local waste in the soil of major agricultural plots of land. The metals found have now become a public health risk due to the already high levels of pollution in Africa. Areas could implement better filtration devices to reduce metals in soil.
  3. Air Pollution: Air pollution is Africa’s biggest environmental risk. Air pollution is a major problem throughout all of the world with over 90 percent of people living in a place that does not meet WHO air quality guidelines. In Africa, air pollution is becoming the most dangerous environmental risk that residents face. South Africa specifically faces higher air pollution because of a lack of governmental enforcement of laws preventing pollution. Local environmental groups are suing the South African government so that it may make a change.
  4. Emissions: Africa produces a high amount of emissions due to its lack of resources. Everyday life including cooking, waste-management and heating of items adds to the current state of air pollution because citizens have to make fires for their different needs. Emissions in impoverished communities cause a different kind of pollution that affects the direct community at high levels. Road vehicles and outdoor forms of heating are examples of low-level emissions that cause air pollution in Africa. The industrialization that could prevent outdoor pollution is in progress but still requires attention to prevent emissions.
  5. Acid Rain: Acid rain is becoming more prevalent due to pollution. Coal-burning in South Africa causes occurrences of acid rain. Coal-burning derived air pollution releases dangerous gases that can poison plants, contaminate communities and produce damaging acid rain. A factory in South Africa was responsible for the emission of 1.84 million tons of sulphuric acid and 0.84 million tons of nitric acid in 1987. Further enforcement of environmental laws could reduce the acid rain that large coal-burning companies cause.
  6. Children and Air Pollution: Children are at an especially high risk of death by air pollution and children that expose themselves to outdoor pollutants are more likely to suffer the effects than adults. The spread of diseases air pollution causes are negatively impacting the life expectancy of children. Around 7.8 million people will die prematurely from direct or indirect exposure from emissions specifically caused by cooking. Children require more medical attention and environmental education to reduce air pollution in Africa.
  7. Multination Companies: Multinational companies play a part in pollution. Environmental faults from multinational companies and trade activities are continuing to add to the pollution in Africa. Governmental enforcement for laws requiring business and trading activities to be more environmentally friendly is low. Companies and trading acts cause the release of gas, oil spills, waste accumulating on the ground or in water and the lack of higher technology, increasing air and water pollution.  Further development of resources will help reduce the pollution from multinational companies and trade activities.
  8. The United Nations Environment Programme: The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) reported that an estimate of  600,000 deaths every year relate to pollution in Africa. The UNEP is providing aid to the leading energy and global transport organizations, and some of the UNEP’s focuses are on fuel economy and development of infrastructure. Programs that the UNEP has implemented include the Global Fuel Efficiency Initiative, Share the Road, Partnerships for Clean Fuels and Vehicles, Africa Sustainable Transport Forum and Climate and Clean Air Coalition. The pollution in Africa will decrease if programs like the UNEP continue their hard work.
  9. Air Sensors: Air sensors are creating a cleaner way of life in Kenya. Air quality and pollution in Africa is an ever-evolving issue and demands ever-evolving solutions. Particles in the air small enough to enter the bloodstream are becoming more evident and Kenya is in dire need of change. According to the WHO, the fine particulate matter in Nairobi, Kenya is 70 percent above the maximum level. The WHO has implemented sensors that can read the particles in the air and determine the safety level.
  10. Africa’s Potential Green Revolution: Once Africa properly takes care of its plentiful resources, it has the potential to start a green revolution and save millions. In East Africa, residents have pioneered off-grid solar energy and created a model that other African regions could follow. These residents’ governments plan on investing in solar and wind power plants which would provide clean and affordable energy. Energy by solar and wind plants will reduce the amount of pollution in Africa because residents will no longer have to use low-level energy methods which destroy air quality.

Pollution in Africa is in a state of emergency. Air pollution is the biggest environmental danger to Africa currently; air pollution only increases due to a lack of higher-level infrastructure to reduce air emissions. Local enforcement of regulations on multinational companies and trade activity should benefit Africa’s environmental state.

Kat Fries
Photo: Flickr

Ro-Boats are Cleaning Water Pollution
The Ganges is sprinkled with human excrement, idol remnants, raw sewage, industrial waste, ceremonial flowers coated with arsenic and even dead bodies. The New Yorker said the Ganges absorbs more than one billion gallons of waste each day making it among the 10 most polluted rivers in the world. The magazine said three-quarters of the waste is raw sewage and the remaining waste is treated industrial wastewater. The Indian government has attempted to clean up the Ganges several times over the last 30 years. Recently, Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution instead of direct human intervention.

The Holy Water in Despair

The Ganges holds spiritual importance in Hinduism. The Ganges is considered the personification of the goddess Ganga – the goddess of purity and purification. Hindu men, women and children decorated in garlands and bright robes are common sights along the shores of the Ganges. They bathe, wash their clothes, defecate and dispose of the corpses of their loved ones. Hindus bathe in the Ganges for spiritual purification – releasing them from their sins and freeing them from the wheel of reincarnation. Bathing and drinking the waters of the Ganges pose a risk to its visitors’ health. The current sewage levels of the Ganges spread a variety of diseases among the population including typhoid, cholera and amoebic dysentery.

The Indian government believes an automated water device solution, a fleet of robotic boats (Ro-Boats), may aid the clean-up of the Ganges. Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by being self-propelled riveting river raider robots that churn through water and collect and dispose of sewage and other waste.

Omnipresent Tech

Omnipresent Tech is the creator of the Ro-Boats. The Indian government gave Omnipresent a $200,000 contract to build up a fleet of these Ro-Boat vessels to clean up the river. The Indian government’s investment in Omnipresent is part of its efforts to combat the waste level deposits of the Ganges. The Indian Government began the Ganges Action Plan in 2015. This plan is among the most recent of the decades-long efforts to clean up the river. Narenda Modi, the Prime Minister of India said, “The Ganges will be clean by 2019.”

Omnipresent’s official website claims the company is India’s leading robotics, industrial UAV/Drone and Video Analytics solutions provider. Omnipresent produces industrial inspection drones, river cleaning robots, logistical robots emergency response drones and defense drones

Omnipresent also produces the drone software, as well as 3D modeling machine learning surveillance and a variety of other industrial and consumer high-tech. A Ro-Boat device costs $21,057.75 to build. The bots run without human intervention – neither during the day nor at night. The Ro-Boat has a capable arsenal. Each riveting river raider has fog lights, a pan-tilt-zoom camera, a solar-powered battery and twin-propelled engines

GPS commands guide the Ro-Boats. A drone that flies above the bot gives commands to the machine. The drone flies ahead, scouts debris and pollutants in the water and gives a signal to the Ro-Boat to drive over, scoop up and dispose of the waste. The drone also serves as a spy to catch companies spewing pollutants into the Ganges.

Ro-Boats are cleaning water pollution by collecting sewage through robotic arms and depositing the waste. The riveting river raider is capable of cleaning 200 tons within a 24-hour period. This means that the device could remove 1,400 tons of waste material from the Ganges with a week. Overture estimated that the bot could remove 200 tons from the Ganges in a year.

A Ro-Boat looks like the offspring of a dump truck and a fighting robot from the television competition “Robot Wars.” Not only can Ro-Boats swim across the surface of the water and clean the waste floating on the river surface, but these self-propelled riveting river raiders can also submerge and dig out the river-bed lodged pollutants. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology declared the Ro-Boat to be among the top 20 innovations.

Currently, the Ganges remains filthy. Overture says that 1.3 billion gallons of untreated sewage continue to flood into the river each day. Finding vendors to create sewage treatment plants is also problematic. Land cost, bad management and bidding practices halt progress.

How the Ganges Can Get Help

One way to help is for the United States government and companies to invest money in Omnipresent Tech and the Indian government’s waste infrastructure building projects. With enough support, these projects may purify India’s Ganges river.

Purification will help India’s poor who bathe in and drink the water of the Ganges. If the Ganges is clean, this should decrease the level of diseases in the country and prevent their spread. Investment in companies, such as Omnipresent, should aid the growth of India and increase the production of Ro-Boats. The increased production of Ro-Boats will demand a workforce to keep up with increased production and contribute to hiring, increasing poverty reduction among the Indian population. If successful, these riveting river raiders may be a key contribution to India’s efforts to become a leader in the world economy.

Robert Forsyth
Photo: Flickr

10 Facts About Water Quality in AsiaAsia is a large continent with vastly different cultures and societies, but they seem to suffer from a lot of the same issues. Some common issues are rapid urbanization and lack of infrastructure in rural areas. The most common may be that the water quality in Asia is severely lacking. In fact, Asia’s rivers are three times more contaminated by bacteria from human waste. Here are 10 facts about water quality in Asia.

12 Facts about Water Quality in Asia

  1. The United Nations estimates more than 40 percent of the population in India could be living in megacities by 2030. The stunningly fast urbanization of India is taking a toll on the quality of its water. At least 40 million liters of wastewater enters the waters of India every day. This has made 70 percent of surface water in India unfit for consumption. A World Bank report suggests that this will severely stunt the growth of some areas, cutting its GDP growth by as much as one-third.
  2.  China is going through a water shortage. At least 28,000 Chinese rivers and waterways have dried up over the last 25 years. This issue exacerbates the growing issue of water pollution from industrialization. Government surveys found that 70 percent of China’s water table unfit for human consumption due to the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.
  3. Only 10 percent of Bangladesh homes have consumable water piped to their households. In order to aid Bangladesh in this crisis, The World Bank approved $100 million to be appropriated towards increasing access to improved water supplies. This project will help 600,000 people get water through piped systems.
  4. Groundwater is the Primary Source of Water in South East Asia. A study conducted in 2019 found that 79 percent of people in Southeast Asia use groundwater as their primary source of water. This amounts to a total of 346 million people who rely on that water to be fresh and clean.
  5. Only 30 percent of the population of Mongolia has access to clean piped water. Most Mongolians in the Gobi desert have to use underground water sources. However, rapid urbanization and mining have changed the water supply. Underground water is no longer a reliable source of healthy water.
  6. In Vietnam, 90 percent of urban wastewater is released back into the environment untreated. The Việt Nam Union of Science and Technology Organisations reported that environmental laws in Vietnam have too many loopholes and flaws to be adequate. There are only 29 water treatment stations in big cities, which is reportedly not enough.
  7. At least 80 percent of the Indonesian population lacks access to piped water. The people must rely on river water to meet their needs. Although the river water is not of adequate quality for any kind of healthy use due to many corporations do not comply with government pollution laws.
  8. The abysmal quality of water in Afganistan is due to years of war. The infrastructure of the country has been destroyed with little funds or time to rebuild. This has left only 27 percent of the population of Afganistan with access to high-quality water.
  9. There were at least 118,000 hospitalizations in Iraq’s 2018 crisis due to water contamination. It was reported that at least 40 percent of the sewage from the river Baswa was being dumped into the Shatt al-Arab. The government started posting weekly reports on the water quality online in February 2019.
  10. Nearly all of South Korea has drinkable tap water, but not many drink it. South Korea has impeccable water quality because the government requires yearly reports from all utility providers. However, a survey done in 2013 of 12,000 individuals showed that only about 10 percent drink water straight from the tap.

There is a global effort to improve the water quality of Asia. The South Asia Water Initiative (SAWI) is improving the management of the many river basins of Asia. SAWI has addressed issues such as riverbank flooding and the economic opportunities of hydroelectric power on the Brahmaputra Basin in India. It has also supported disaster management on the Sundarbans wetlands shared by Bangladesh and India.

These 10 facts about water quality in Asia demonstrate the many water crises that are happening all across the continent. While there are reforms in place, it will be many years until each country will have equal access to clean, safe water.

Nicholas Pirhalla
Photo: Flickr

Solutions to Pollution
The solution to pollution is not an easy fix and many industrializing countries in the Global South are facing the challenge of mitigating pollution while continuing to sustain economic growth. Because of this, environmental degradation and pollution are common in developing countries, both of which have adverse effects on health and the economy. Environmental degradation is near-inevitable for developing countries, due to industrialization, agricultural herbicides and groundwater dumping. This leaves developing countries with the challenge of finding solutions to all of this pollution. Finding solutions to pollution has brought sustainable industry and trade to developing countries. Here are 5 examples of innovative ideas that are creating jobs and reducing pollution in industrializing countries.

Five Solutions to Pollution and Poverty

  1. Ghana’s Climate Innovation Centre: Ghana’s Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC) holds an annual competition that rewards entrepreneurs who develop products that counteract pollution. Since its launch in 2015, GCIC has supported 53 businesses, had 12 partnerships with entrepreneurs, awarded $772,435 in grants and created 117 jobs. The products sponsored by the GCIC are available to 170,000 households. The 2019 recipient of the Launchpad Competition was Sabon Sake, whose team invented soil supplements that will counter mineral erosion from pollution and increase the fertility of the soil.
  2. Alternative Energy Sources in India: Indoor and outdoor air pollution are the largest environmental health risk in the world. In India alone, indoor and outdoor air pollution was responsible for the death of 1.24 million individuals. The World Health Organization is proposing solutions to minimize health problems caused by air pollution. These changes are not large scale economic changes, but rather small changes — the WHO proposed a switch to non-coal stoves, a reduction in diesel transportation and a limitation on the burning of biofuels. Professor Ramanathan stated that such changes have empirically created jobs and increased the number of individuals eligible to work, thus bolstering the economy.
  3. International Trade and Access to Global Markets: When developing countries prioritize environmental protection, developed nations often increase trade in order to encourage sustainable economic growth. The green industry in developing countries not only provides a solution to pollution by decreasing non-renewable energy but also by increasing efficiency. The adoption of greener markets in developing countries created 3.5 million new jobs, increased access for developing countries to global markets and decreased annual energy costs.
  4. Clean Water Drives Growth: Water pollution due to chemical dumping, feces and trash is responsible for the death of 3.2 million children in developing countries annually. Clean water is an investment that affects not only mortality rates but also the economy. UNESCO estimates that investment in cleaning and sanitizing water in Africa — even on a small scale — would increase the GDP of Africa by 5 percent. A 5 percent increase in GDP would create jobs, trading opportunities and create new markets. Additionally, the investment in clean water would increase the number of jobs by opening water treatment facilities.
  5. Solar Market in Tunisia: In 2018, Tunisia began to transition to solar energy through its Plan Solaire Tunisien (PST), which is funded by the National Agency for Energy Management through various global investors, including the German Investment Bank. This project, which has decreased the need for dirty forms of energy, will contribute 10,000 jobs to the Tunisian economy. There has been resistance to the development of solar alternative powers, however, increasing the time-frame of power outage occurrences.

Although the perfect balance between economic development and environmental protection is difficult to achieve, industrializing countries are successfully transitioning their economies to accommodate environmentally friendly business practices. This has increased job availability, prevented deaths and directly benefited the poor in the Global South. Private markets, Foreign Direct Investment and government initiatives have all alleviated pollution in developing countries and successfully created jobs. These solutions to pollution have the ability to drive the Global South to a cleaner and more economically viable model for industrialization while reducing poverty.

– Denise Sprimont
Photo: USAID

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