Carcinogenic diesel that supplies three-quarters of Delhi's motor fuel, the dirty coal that supplies most of its power, the rice stalks that nearby farmers want to clear after the harvest, the rubbish dumps that perpetually smoulder, the 400,000 trees that feed the city’s crematoria each year and so on are some of the major reasons of pollution in the capital, The Economist reported citing a study by University of Chicago.
In the World Health Organisation’s rankings of air pollution, Indian cities claim 14 of the top 15 spots. In an index of countries’ environmental health from Yale and Columbia universities, India ranks a dismal 177th out of 180.
Consumption of dirty water directly causes 200,000 deaths a year, a government think-tank reckons, without measuring its contribution to slower killers such as kidney disease. Some 600m Indians, nearly half the country, live in areas where water is in short supply. As pollutants taint groundwater, and global warming makes the vital monsoon rains more erratic, the country is poisoning its own future.
Emissions of carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, grew by 6% a year between 2000 and 2016, compared with 1.3% a year for the world as a whole (and 3.2% for China). India now belches out as much as the whole of Africa and South America combined, the study revealed.
Narendra Modi, the prime minister, promised with admirable frankness when he took over to rid the country of open defecation. Four and a half years and some $9bn later, his Clean India campaign claims to have sponsored the building of an astonishing 90m toilets. This is impressive, but India is still not clean. Its skies, its streets, its rivers and coasts will remain dangerously dirty until they receive similar attention.