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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

Water Quality in Myanmar
Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, is a nation with 32.1 percent of the population living below the poverty line, according to 2015 data.

Accessing water in Myanmar has always been difficult, despite the country’s natural resources. It once was recognized to have the fourth-richest supply of groundwater in the world, holding more than 19,000 square meters per capita. This is 16 times the available levels of Myanmar’s neighboring country, Bangladesh.

A typical summer season in the last few years would introduce water shortages in only central Myanmar, but now, deforestation – as a result of urbanization – and hot temperatures contribute to water shortages in other additional areas of the country, leaving hundreds of thousands in danger.

However, recent changes to the water system have significantly improved water quality in Myanmar:

Fixing the Irrigation Systems

Myanmar’s agriculture industry provides jobs for 60 percent of workers, so it is crucial that irrigation systems are functional. In the past, Myanmar struggled with irrigation upkeep and water distribution, so The Pyawt Ywar Pump Irrigation Project stepped in to improve irrigation infrastructure, reform water management and provide education to farmers. Since its implementation, farmers and the government have worked together to make sure water distribution is fair and regulated, and farmers have learned how to use land efficiently to increase crop growth. The agriculture industry has improved as a result: the gross domestic product for agriculture increased from 12,316,081.8 MMK mn to 13,964,771.2 MMK mn in just five years.

Purifying Wastewater has Increased Access to Water

Proctor & Gamble’s Children Safe Drinking Water program and World Vision teamed up to give Myanmar residents a tool to clean non-potable water: a powder mixture invented by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The powder transforms 10 liters of contaminated water into clean, drinkable water in just half an hour, providing a day’s worth of resources for a five-member family. This means that poor families living in Myanmar can purify water from rivers and streams instead of spending a lot of money on bottled water. P&G has helped with improving Myanmar’s water since 2008, and the water purification tool has helped 200,000 people gain access to safer water.

Decreasing Illness

Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is a common occurrence in Myanmar because of people’s tendency to collect water in their homes. Stored water attracts mosquitoes and creates a large breeding ground for the disease. Myanmar is labeled as a high burden dengue country, and citizens take preventative measures by learning how to protect their water against mosquitoes and to keep their spaces dry and clean. In 2015, there were 42,913 cases of dengue, but after a year of water education and awareness, the number dropped to 10,770.

Looking Ahead

Access to clean water has increased in the last 15 years, but there is still more to be done. In 2000, 47.31 percent of citizens in rural areas had access to potable water, and that number has increased to 59.85 percent as of 2015, but it is still low. The Joint Monitoring Program for Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene plans for universal access to water by 2030, and improving water quality in Myanmar may be achieved with increased awareness and action.

Katherine Desrosiers
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

Water Quality in Ireland

Ireland is a developed country in Europe that has many luxuries such as electricity and gas. When it comes to basic necessities, Ireland is on par with the rest of Europe. Despite its status as a developed country, there has been an unwelcome decline in water quality in Ireland.

Ireland originally aimed for a 13 percent improvement in water quality within a six-year period, but it failed to meet its goal. Unfortunately, water quality in Ireland, even from their most pristine sources, has declined. This includes Ireland’s rivers, lakes, canals, ground waters and coastal waters.

These water sources were originally much cleaner and had a higher water quality, but the Environmental Protection Agency in Ireland has found that these water sources have deteriorated.

There are several different factors that can potentially affect the change in water quality. Some of these factors are soil or rock types, land use practices and pollution. Even heavy rainfall can influence whether or not the water quality will deteriorate or not.

These factors can change different parameters within the water that will affect the quality of water. Some of the parameters, such as bacteria and protozoa, chemicals, and metals, are tested in water. If any of these parameters are in excess, it can decrease the water quality and potentially make it dangerous to drink.

An aging infrastructure also contributed to the decrease in water quality in Ireland. If the pipes have not been changed out since installment or haven’t been maintained every few years, the pipes can begin to rust.

Rust contains iron oxide which can be potentially dangerous if consumed in excess.  Rust from the pipes can peel off into the water and be consumed via drinking water or by cooking with the water.

Although poor infrastructure can end up decreasing the water quality in Ireland, it is possible to fix it. The Irish government must commit to replacing the pipes that have not been maintained throughout its cities. Once the government does that, there will be a significant increase in the water quality and citizens would not have to worry whether or not the water is safe to drink.

Despite the current deterioration of Ireland’s water sources, in past, there have been improvements to water sources that had problems. Water sources that were considered “seriously polluted” have since been upgraded in status. Unfortunately, by neglecting the quality of their pristine water sources, the overall improvements to water quality appear stagnant.

Once Ireland begins changing their infrastructure, as well as cleaning and maintaining all of their water sources, they will be able to reach their 13 percent water quality improvement goal and make all of their water sources usable and pristine. In addition, the participation of citizens in Ireland is necessary to ensure sustainable water services in the future.

Daniel Borjas

Photo: Pixabay

Kenya's Plastic Bag Ban
On Monday, August 28th, Kenya’s plastic bag ban officially came into effect. The ban targets those who make, sell and import plastic bags. Anyone caught engaging in these activities could face up to four years in jail and up to $38,000 in fines.

While other African countries, like Botswana and Rwanda, have also instituted rules surrounding plastic bags, such as taxes and prohibited use, Kenya’s ban is the most rigid. Kenya’s plastic bag ban is so strict because of the extremely detrimental effects plastic bags have on the environment and Kenyans.

Plastic waste affects the globe as a whole, with eight million tons of plastic seeping into the ocean every year alone. The plastic debris in the ocean can injure or poison marine life. Plastic buried in landfills and littered across the land can also leak into groundwater, creating hazardous drinking water for human beings and wildlife.

In Kenya, plastic waste is a major pollutant, with piles of bags littering streets. Agricultural animals, such as cows, often end up grazing on these bags and are commonly found to have multiple plastic bags in their systems when being prepared for human consumption. Chemicals in the plastics contaminate the meat, potentially making it dangerous for those eating it.

Plastic bags littered over agricultural lands seep chemicals into the soil, reducing the fertility and productivity of the soil. Bad soil equates to lower agricultural production, which economically affects impoverished people the most. About 61 percent of the population works in agriculture, so lower soil fertility can equate to decreased income and even greater poverty.

With plastic bags taking over their streets and adversely affecting agricultural and human health and growth, the Kenyan government made the positive decision to clean up this pollutant. Some, however, who use plastic bags for basic daily needs, worry about the immediate effects upon their lives resulting from the ban.

Impoverished Kenyans, in particular, use plastic bags often. For example, plastic bags are used for basic daily functions, such as a place to put bodily waste due to the lack of a proper sewage system. Many also use plastic bags for transporting shopping goods, rather than investing in reusable bags.

In order to fully eliminate plastic bags and truly improve the lives of Kenyans, the Kenyan government must provide its people with basic needs, such as a proper sewage system. The government also encourages people to use paper and cloth bags, but it should provide these reusable alternatives to its poorest citizens, for whom purchasing reusable bags is not as accessible. Kenya’s plastic bag ban is an important step toward improving the environment and hopefully toward improving Kenya’s 43 percent poverty rate, but the Kenyan government can still act further to improve its infrastructure and services for its impoverished people.

Mary Kate Luft

Photo: Flickr


Pollution and development are inextricably linked. In the process of developing, nations often rely on the exploitation of natural resources in order to build up revenue. While such options present an economic advantage, considering that costs are restricted while the output is boosted, an environmental disadvantage often comes in the form of pollution.

For example, within the Niger Delta in Nigeria, the capitalization of oil by various companies has resulted in innumerable spills and leaks. Nigerian villagers have noted that these spills kill their fish, ruin their skin, and destroys their water supplies. Similar situations can be seen in other developing nations, such as Venezuela.

Even if developing nations do not exploit natural resources for profit, they may still contribute to pollution by consuming energy from fossil fuels. In comparison to renewable sources of energy such as solar power, fossil fuels provide cheaper energy to developing nations, helping to advance the economy by encouraging industrialization.

The building of mass infrastructure, another key part of development, often utilizes energy from fossil fuels as well, serving to further pollution. At a time when nations are mainly concerned with advancing their economies, the issue of the environment is unlikely to be on the political agenda.

Furthermore, energy use from fossil fuels is likely to increase in the future. As the United States Energy Information Administration reports, developing nations will collectively account for 65 percent of the world’s energy consumption by the year 2040, compared to 54 percent in 2010. Because these countries use mainly fossil fuels for energy, it follows that pollution will increase as well.

Inevitably, such an increase in pollution, in regard to that of air, water and soil, will lead to increased sickness and even death. Diseases caused by air pollution include asthma, pulmonary cancer and cardiovascular issues, among others. For water pollution, the list includes typhoid, diarrhea, cancer and liver damage. For soil pollution, adverse consequences include cancer, nerve and brain damage and liver and kidney disease.

Once the connection between pollution and development is known, the issue then comes in preventing pollution without hindering development. As Oluwasola Omoju of the organization Breaking Energy argues, compelling developing countries to pursue environmental goals will require compensation for the economic losses taken, probably including substantial economic, technological and financial support from the international community.

Regardless of which solutions are pursued, global leaders must soon rectify the adverse correlation between pollution and development in order to counter a worldwide spread of disease.

Genevieve DeLorenzo

Photo: Flickr

Pollution in India: The Switch to Electric Cars
Ranked last out of 132 countries in an air pollution survey, the Indian government is scrambling to find a solution to combat the pollution in India. Their answer may lie within the electric car industry.

The energy minister of India announced in May that by 2030 every car sold in India will be electrically powered. The government is assisting the renewable automobile industry for the next two to three years until the market stabilizes.

This solution comes at the right time as India’s air toxicity levels surpass China, making India one of the most toxic nations in the world.

One major factor contributing to the country’s horrible air quality is high levels of fine particulate matter, especially those particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers in diameter (PM2.5). The level of PM2.5 is five times the threshold of what is safe for human beings, 13 times greater than the World Health Organizations’ annual recommendation, and 3.5 times greater than India’s air quality standard.

High levels of PM2.5 is particularly concerning as it is the leading cause of Acute Lower Respiratory Infections (ALRI) and cancer, and children under five in India contribute to 13 percent of inpatient deaths from ALRI.

In New Delhi, the air pollution has been 45 percent worse than Beijing in the last two years. Additionally, the city’s pollution has increased citizens risk of lung cancer by 70 percent, chronic respiratory by 50 percent and ischemic heart disease by a little more than that. Also in India, the number of deaths caused by air pollution is only “a fraction less” than deaths from tobacco use.

With such high risks due to contaminated air, the overall promise is to lower pollution in India. This goal can be accomplished through introducing electric cars and requiring that every car sold in India be electrically powered.

Studies show that electric cars are drastically safer to the environment and public health. In fact, hybrid/electric cars will drastically reduce nitrogen oxide released by up to 99 percent and carbon dioxide by up to 71 percent.

Although the electric car industry will need between two to three years of government assistance until the public starts buying the vehicles, the pros of switching to electric cars have a positive effect that can help reduce pollution in India and help save lives.

Amira Wynn

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Water quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is in need of improvement. Only 46 percent of the population has access to clean and safe drinking water. Although the DRC has an abundance of freshwater sources, pollution and accessibility are major issues in the country.

According to the World Food Programme, the DRC is one of the poorest countries in the world. Therefore, the country has a lack of infrastructure and insufficient water storage and treatment facilities. Poorly maintained water systems can be dangerous because old and rusted pipes can possibly pollute water. Some towns, especially in rural regions, do not have any water systems.

For instance, the isolated town of Kasongo once had a working water system but it broke down and was not been repaired for several years. Without running water, residents had to walk three miles to get water from the nearest stream. This trip can take up to two hours. This is common for rural towns in the Congo.

People in the rural regions who depend on direct water sources are more likely to drink unsafe water. Approximately 37 million people in rural areas are at risk of contracting a disease from contaminated streams and rivers. One of the most common illnesses caused by unsafe drinking water is Cholera. Every year, 20,000 people die from cholera.

UNICEF representative, Pierette Vu Thi says, “A child living in a Congolese village is four times more likely to drink contaminated water than someone in town. Yet, all children have equal right to survival and development of which drinking water is a vital component.”

There are many solutions being explored to improve water access and quality in the Congo. The state water company REGIDESO is tapping groundwater in order to install pumps in remote rural areas. This method is much cheaper and less difficult than installing water systems. But, old water systems are also being restored. In Kasongo, REGIDESO replaced their defunct water system. The old storage tank, engine and pump were repaired with new models. A network of pipes and taps were extended to provide more people with running water.

The water quality in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is poor especially for the Congolese in rural areas. However, with new initiatives, many more people will gain access to clean water without having to travel miles.

Karla Umanzor

Photo: Flickr

Water Quality in Egypt
The Nile River, also known as the longest river in the world, passes through Egypt. Water quality in Egypt is of paramount importance. Many Egyptians rely on the Nile for drinking and bathing water because of the river’s size and location.

Unfortunately, many cases of water pollution in the Nile River have been reported, resulting in mass poisonings. The Egyptian Government blames the low water levels of the Nile, the presence of fish farms on the Rosetta Branch and the dumping of waste directly into agricultural banks.

Because of Egypt’s rapidly growing population, the abundance of clean water is more important than ever. Egypt is an arid country and therefore relies on rain from surrounding countries to aid in supplying them.

These factors alone are not enough. In response, Egypt’s Government has recently declared a state of extreme emergency in an attempt to find a solution for this crisis. Authorities have made this issue a priority in order to save and improve the lives of millions.

Regulations have been created to preserve and improve water quality. As a result, there have been conflicts between farmers and public officials relating to regulations on the amount of rice that can and should be grown. Farmers already have problems feeding their families and do not want to feel restricted with what they can grow.

Egypt also looks to develop awareness campaigns that will call for water-saving measures. The government hopes to team up with farmers in order to make Egypt a more water-conservative country.

USAID has been working with Egypt to address environmental issues leading to scarcity and pollution of water. USAID hopes to educate Egyptian residents on the dangers of water pollution as well as how to avoid it.

With the help of developing countries and cooperation between the government and farmers, the country hopes to improve the water quality in Egypt and avoid a deadly water crisis.

Casey Marx
Photo: Flickr

Water quality in china

From a poverty alleviation perspective, the rapid growth of the Chinese economy over the last several decades is an unprecedented success story. In 1984, the rate of extreme poverty in China was 84 percent, but by 2010 that number had fallen to 12 percent. At the same time, the rapid industrialization that has driven this growth has produced its own negative effects. Some of these effects are visible on an everyday basis, while others, like the poor water quality in China, are less obvious.

Under the Fog

Air quality is the face of China’s struggle with pollution. Images of China’s capital, Beijing, choked by smog have resonated with environmental movements around the world. While water quality in China may not have made as many headlines, it has come under severe strain as well. According to new statistics by the Chinese media, underground water pollution has become a full-on crisis, with 80 percent of the water samples taken from a wide range of wells across northern and central China being unsafe.

Across the North China Plain, which has been hit hard by deforestation and desertification over the last several decades, groundwater is a key water source for both rural and urban areas. Northern China is also the site of the vast majority of China’s coal reserves, a major problem as coal mining is highly damaging to groundwater, unless mitigating measures are taken.

However, cheap supplies of coal are so central to China’s model of economic growth that, thus far, these measures have not been taken, leading to a steady deterioration of water quality in China. According to official statistics, every metric ton of coal mined leads to 1 cubic meter to 2.5 cubic meters of groundwater being destroyed. That number is sobering, considering that in 2015, 3.65 billion metric tons of coal were mined in China.

Hope for Improvement

That same year, The State Council of the People’s Republic of China, the nation’s highest administrative body, issued the “Water Ten Plan.” This ambitious plan laid out a series of steps to improve water quality in China. It includes both broad goals and specific measures for improving groundwater quality. The plan calls for the percentage of groundwater of “very bad” quality to fall to 15 percent by 2020, a target that should be achievable, given that as of 2014, 16.1 percent of groundwater fell into this category.

The Chinese government’s response targets industries that are seen as being major contributors to groundwater pollution, in particular, the coal mining industry. The plan calls for the effective handling of water used during the coal mining process.

It also addresses groundwater depletion, stemming from industrial use of water by declaring a moratorium on further extraction of groundwater from threatened areas. The textile, paper and dyeing industries, significant sources of harmful run-off, are another major target of the plan’s strict controls.

Equal Access to Clean Water

One key aspect of water quality in China is the rural-urban divide that permeates so much of Chinese society. Cities in China benefit from access to deeper underground reservoirs, while those living in rural areas extract shallower water that is more likely to be polluted. Thus, just as industrialization led to the gap in incomes between rural and urban markets, it has also meant that access to safe water supplies has become more bifurcated. Alleviating this divide is vital in the years ahead.

Jonathan Hall-Eastman

Photo: Pixabay