Air pollution kills 100,000 children in India before age 5

Editor’s Note: This news report will be the first in a series of weekly stories, each one breaking down and analyzing specifics of “The State of India’s Environment 2019.” We kick off the series with a broad report of the study’s findings. Each week from hear on out we’ll dive deeper into specific findings. There are 12 major topics within the published report – and each week will focus on one of those topics.

NEW DELHI, India—Air pollution’s deadly toll on the Indian population and the imposing threat of climate change on the economy of the world’s second-most populous country were the chief points of a data-driven analysis issued by the Centre for Science and Environment in India, June 5.

            Water, land & agriculture, public health, urban growth, waste, energy, forests and wildlife were also part of the comprehensive report, titled “The State of India’s Environment 2019.”

            “Air pollution kills an average 8.5 out of every 10,000 children in India before they turn five. The risk is higher for girls as 9.6 out of 10,000 girls die before five,” a summary of the report stated.

            The report added 12.5 percent of ALL deaths in India are a direct result of air pollution. Much work needs to be done to address the state of the air in India.

            “While India was one of the first countries to pledge the phasing out of non-electric vehicles, its national scheme to promote the sale of e-vehicles is yet to pick up. Against the target of 15-16 million e-vehicles by 2020, the country had 0.28 million vehicles till May 2019,” authors of the report stated.

            India is also behind the eight ball on meeting its sustainable development goals, or SDGs, according to “The State of India’s Environment 2019.”

            “Climate change poses the biggest economic threat in the world today and features prominently in the UN Sustainable Development Goals 2030. With just 10 years to go, India is yet to identify indicators to track its climate change preparedness,” the report’s authors stated. “Of the 13 SDGs the country is tracking, indicators exist for only a handful of the targets.”

            Water pollution is also a major hinderance, with at least 86 water bodies within the country “critically polluted.” Most of those polluted water bodies are located within three states: Karnataka, Kerala and Telangana. An increase in “grossly polluting industries” between 2011 and 2018 – 136 percent, to be specific – is responsible for those waterways being labeled as “critically polluted.”

            The state of agriculture and land is not promising, either, according to the report.

            “India’s farm sector is under duress. While the input costs for major crops are rising, the average farmland size is shrinking. Even the share of the insured cropped area stands at a dismal 26 percent,” the Centre for Science and Environment’s study revealed.

Dominic Chavez/World Bank photo

Dominic Chavez/World Bank photo

            There are shortcomings in India’s rural health infrastructure, as well – “The State of India’s Environment 2019” specifically stated such infrastructure is “ailing.”

            “There is a 35 percent shortfall in the number of 24x7 public health centres, where 26 percent of the positions for medical officers are lying vacant. In fact, Kerala does not have a single 24x7 public health centre,” the published report stated. “Another worrying trend is that the number of new doctors qualifying every year in the country has decreased by 60 percent between 2013 and 2017.

            “The country also shares the world’s largest absolute burden of at least 11 major neglected tropical diseases, which includes diseases like dengue,” the report continued.

            Urbanization is also a major concern, with researchers expecting the exodus from rural to urban areas to continue growing at exponential rates during the next 30 years.

            “By 2050, India is projected to add 416 million urban dwellers to the world’s urban population and will be home to about 58 percent of the total global population,” researchers with the Center for Science and Environment reported. “Most urban cities have a sizable population living in slums, which are unfit for habitation. India has 2,613 towns with slums. Of them, 57 percent are in Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra.”

            The Centre for Science and Environment’s 2019 report added the burden of solid waste within India “is becoming unmanageable,” what with a 56 percent increase in hazardous-waste generating industries between 2009 and 2017.

            “Most of these industries are not properly maintaining their waste inventory, as mandated by the law,” researchers stated.

            Researchers held nothing back in describing the state of India’s natural gas and hydro-based power plants as “in shambles.”

            “Gas-based plants are running at 24 percent of their capacity due to the acute shortage of domestic natural gas. Hydropower projects, on the other hand, are running at just 19 percent of their capacity and their share in total installed capacity has consistently declined since 1962,” the published report stated.

            “The country’s progress in renewable energy in 2018-19 has also been dismal. In wind, the country met only 6.3 percent of the target this year. In solar, it met 5.86 percent,” researchers continued.

            Other findings reported within “The State of India’s Environment 2019” are:

-       India has experienced a 22 percent increase in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions between 2010 and 2014

-       11 states reportedly recorded extreme weather events in 2018, costing 1,425 lives

-       New technology recorded 69,523 forest fires in April 2019, 9.5 times the amount calculated by older technology

-       At least 27 species were poached or seized in 2018, including lion

-       Unemployment has nearly doubled in the past two years.

            The reporting series continues next week, as AH1 will review and analyze the report’s study on air pollution.