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

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

Russia’s Prosecutor General to Review Legality of Baltics Independence

Move, announced Tuesday, has alarmed Baltic States and strained even further their increasingly tense ties with Moscow More

US Urged to Keep Up Pressure on Cuba Rights

Communist government continues to hold dozens of political prisoners, tightly restricts freedom of expression, uses threats, intimidation to discourage critics, according to activist groups More

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.
Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Interneti
X
Mike O'Sullivan
June 30, 2015 8:20 PM
Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Syrians Flee IS Advance in Hasaka

The Syrian government said Monday it has taken back one of several districts in Hasaka overrun by Islamic State militants. But continued fighting elsewhere in the northern city has forced thousands of civilians from their homes. In this report narrated by Bill Rodgers, VOA Kurdish Service reporter Zana Omer describes the scene in Amouda, where some of the displaced are taking refuge.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video S. Korea Christians Protest Gay Rights Festival

The U.S. Supreme Court decision mandating marriage equality nationwide has energized gay rights supporters around the world. Gay rights remain a highly contentious issue in a key U.S. ally, South Korea, where police did a deft job Sunday of preventing potential clashes between Christian protesters and gay activists. Kurt Achin reports from Seoul.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Nubians in Kenya Face Land Challenges

East Africa's ethnic Nubians have a rich cultural history that dates back thousands of years, but in Kenya they are facing hardships, including the loss of lands they have lived on for generations. They say the government has reneged on its pledge to award them title deeds for the plots. VOA's Lenny Ruvaga reports.
Video

Video Military Experts Question New Russian Tank Capabilities

Russia has been showing off its new tank design – the Armata T-14. Designers claim it is 20 years ahead of current Western designs - and driving it feels like playing a computer game. But military analysts question those assertions, and warn the cost could be too heavy a burden for Russia’s struggling economy. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.
Video

Video In Syrian Crisis, Social Media Offer Small Comforts

Za’atari, a makeshift city in Jordan, may be the only Syrian refugee camp to tweet its activities, in an effort to keep donors motivated as the war in Syria intensifies and the humanitarian crisis deepens. Inside the camp, families say mobile phone applications help hold together families that are physically torn apart. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.

VOA Blogs