NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 30, 2008

Despite good laws and even better intentions, India causes as much pollution as any rapidly industrializing country, says the Economist. 

For example:

  • By official standards, water containing more than 500 faecal coliform bacteria per 100 milliliters is considered unsafe for bathing.
  • The upstream end of India's Ganges river contains 60,000 bacteria per ml.
  • Further downstream, where some 60,000 Indians perform daily ablutions in the river and 32 streams of raw sewage empty into it, the figure rises to 15 million.
  • Two cremation grounds along the river, which dispose of 30,000 corpses a year, do not help either; in fact, over 3000 corpses were reported bobbing in the river last year.

As India industrializes rapidly, the country's problems are expected to worsen, says the Economist.  The country currently faces a tremendous struggle to find solutions for its sewage:

  • India has facilities to treat a mere 18 percent of the 33,200 million liters of sewage its cities produce each day.
  • But India only treats 13 percent because of shortages of power water, and technical expertise in its sewage plants.

By 2020, according to the World Bank, India's water, air, soil and forest resources will be under more human pressure than those of any other country:

  • Since 1985, India has dedicated 51 billion rupees (about $1.2 billion) to cleaning its rivers, but less than half has been spent.
  • In Varanasi, the state government of Utar Pradesh has built three treatment plants with a total capacity of around 100 million liters of sewage a day.
  • But Varanasi produced 150 million liters when the plants were built, and may currently produce more than twice this amount.
  • An estimated 1,000 Indian children die of diarrheal sickness every day.

Source: "Up To Their Necks In It," The Economist, July 19, 2008.

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