News / Health

    India's Surging Vehicle Count Creates Public Health Hazards

    Kurt Achin

    India's economy is growing at a blistering pace, and while that is increasing welfare for millions, it's also raising some alarming public health red flags.

    Respiratory pediatrician S.K. Kabra has busy Saturdays. His outpatient waiting area at this New Delhi hospital teems with parents whose children complain of breathing difficulties.

    Kabra says poor air quality is a key component in a grim U.N. statistic: 13 percent of Indian children under five years of age, who are hospitalized for respiratory infections, die.

    "Pollution increases the morbidity, increases the frequency, increases the severity. If a mother and a baby are exposed to some pollutant, that will increase respective morbidity," noted Kabra.

    A recent U.S. study using satellite data gave India the lowest air quality rating in the world, citing concentrations of particulates five times higher than those deemed safe for human health.

    For poor and rural Indians, a significant danger comes from cooking with wood and other biomass. But the fastest-growing source of dangerous pollution is actually related to India's increasing wealth.

    Anumita Roychowdhury is an executive director at the Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment. She speaks of a "toxic spiral" with the growing number of vehicles on India's streets.

    "Imagine a city with more than 5.6 million vehicles, adding nearly 1,200 to 1,300 vehicles a day," said Roychowdhury.  "The pace of the problem is growing faster than our ability to deal with it."

    Roychowdhury says diesel fuel subsidies for freight and agriculture are being misused by private car owners who buy diesel vehicles for savings at the fuel pump.

    "Now your diesel emissions, which are several times more carcinogenic, because of the subsidized fuel, their numbers are galloping today and adding to the toxic risk in our cities," Roychowdhury explained.

    Akshay Mani, a specialist in sustainable transportation with the consultancy Embarq India, calls for taxing vehicles more to reflect their environmental cost.

    "Then you can also find solutions of how you use that money," said Mani.  "You put it into a fund and use that fund to improve public transport and use it to create a more equitable system where you are taxing people who are driving while you're using that money to actually provide good public transport for other sections of society."

    While the subway system here in New Delhi has won praise for its efficiency, Mani says, a lingering problem is the so-called "last mile" to the traveler's door.

    "How do you provide with the right kind of coverage given that public transport can't reach all parts of the city?  How do you make sure all parts of city are accessible to public transport?  Because you have these feeder systems in place which can then make those stations accessible to all corners of the city," Mani added.

    Some hope a humble mainstay of Indian transportation may play a key role in reducing traffic and clearing the skies.  Newer autorickshaws run on low-emission natural gas. Entrepreneurs hope new dispatch networks will attract passengers to quickly summon rides with just a phone call or text message.

    You May Like

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora