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India: Still The Most Insanitary Place on Earth?

India-Most-Unsanitary-PlaceHow exactly did the country of India suffer from extremities relating to insanitary conditions? Since the beginning of this year, controversy has erupted over data analysis of an air pollution crisis so drastic that life expectancy has been reduced by an average of 3.2 years.

According to the latest World Health Organization (WHO) data report, India is the number one country in terms of having the most catastrophic levels of outdoor air pollution. This is an issue that has not been met with proper treatment. What’s more, 13 out of the 20 most polluted cities in the world are located in India.

For decades, the issue has reportedly derived from a culmination of treacherous chemical particles; “smog” is included among them as the leading pollutant. However, a 2014 BBC News report by Shannti Dinnoo argues that the issue of unsanitary conditions probably stems from cultural causes.

As noted in Dinnoo’s findings, open defecation is a socially accepted daily ritual. When children learn how to walk and talk for the first time, their parents also teach them how to defecate out in the open, and that doing so is acceptable.

The normalized practice most frequently happens among financially-deprived families: toilets are luxuries usually only available to wealthy people. However, as was unearthed in an accompanying BBC News reading, it was found that these people fail to properly sanitize their toilets.

Last year, UNICEF used the phenomenon of public defecation to structure a theory in which the organization correlated the insanitary issue with the prevalence of malnutrition, which alters growth and immunity in children under the age of five.

Children are not the only sufferers of the extreme consequences caused by the horrendous air and hygiene issue.

As documented in Dinnoo’s BBC report, outdoor defecation places women at risk, because they are more likely to be in a susceptible state of sexual assault. This is especially concerning when one considers the rapid rate of rape crimes within the country.

Additionally, the lack of sanitation has potentially inflicted adverse effects among pregnant Indian women, where premature births and low birth weight are more likely to occur.

At the time, with minimal assistance in aiding India’s pollution issue, various individuals have spoken out to produce public awareness in encouraging Indian governmental powers to sustain quality air control. Mohammed Kamal Professor of Public Policy Rohini Pande, alongside University of Chicago collaborators, addressed the public a few months ago and strongly recommended the Indian government to enforce stricter regulations.

Other individuals stepping up to promote awareness include economist Michael Greenstone, who shared suggestions with Internet website vox.com on tactics India should follow, such as the proposal of an effective emission trading system alongside the idea of penalizing citizens who purposely pollute (a factor that is rarely enforced, let alone rarely considered).

On February 21, 2015, United States Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the launch of a program called AirNow. This would monitor foreign countries’s air quality, specifically that of India, to assist foreign service officers and U.S. military personnel by providing them with information about the air they’re breathing in efforts to “mitigate some of the harmful impacts,” according to The Indian Express.

Already, a small form of action has made a difference for children between the ages of 11 and 15. On July 7, 2015, The Indian Express revealed that UN efforts in alleviating India’s climatic disaster have reduced open defecation by 25 percent.

This reduction has been attributed to the enforcement of stricter regulations and federal emission standards. Overall, people hope to improve respiratory functions for adolescents and young teenagers because that general age is considered the “critical period” of vital lung development.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: The Indian Express 1, BBC News 1, The Indian Express 2, Harvard Kennedy School, VOX, The New York Times, BBC News 2
Photo: Global Press Journal