Saturday, September 10, 2016

For a better world

A study conducted by a Dutch company, Arcadis. The Sustainable Cities Index 2015 judged 50 major world cities based on social, economic and environmental factors. The study considered aspects such as standard of living of citizens, income inequality, education, environmental pollution, energy efficiency, cost of living and ease of doing business in cities. New Delhi and Mumbai featured as two of the least sustainable cities in the world.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, 13 are in India, and New Delhi is at the top of the list. The number of vehicles in New Delhi has increased by 97 percent over the last decade leading to heavy congestion and increased travel time. But vehicles aren’t the primary cause of air pollution in the smog covered capital. Based on a study by IIT Kanpur, road dust like silt, soil or particles from broken and poorly maintained roads are the biggest contributors followed by industrial emissions. The city is also struggling with contaminated water supply owing to large-scale pollution of water bodies. The Yamuna River is dying because of the sewage water, garbage and industrial effluents that are released into it on a daily basis. New Delhi’s population is rising due to increased migration. Close to 50 percent of the residents live in slums and illegal colonies without proper sanitation, water supply or waste management. The city’s waste is mainly tossed into open dumping grounds where the garbage is (in some places) set on fire. Not only is that harmful to the natural environment, it greatly increases the risk of widespread diseases.

Mumbai, despite having an extensive rail and bus system, heavy traffic and congestion continue to afflict the city. It is estimated that the overcrowded Mumbai local trains are used by 80 lakh people every day. But it is not enough for the 1.24 crore strong population. Being the financial capital with an ever increasing population, industries and construction sites have grown in number. The combined presence of these factors is bound to take a toll on the air quality, which is fast declining. Coastal areas of the city have also deteriorated, mainly due to poor waste management and indiscriminate littering. Precious stretches of mangroves have declined over the years due to this pollution. As in the case of New Delhi, dumping grounds are a common method of garbage disposal in Mumbai as well. The Deonar dumping ground, one of many in the city, has been in the news many times for its frequent fires and toxicity. 41 percent of the population still live in slums. Besides Dharavi, one of the largest slums in the world, more have cropped up in Mankhurd, Govandi, Kurla and Ghatkopar. Unhygienic living conditions in these areas make the residents, especially children, susceptible to illnesses.

According to a study by Child Rights and You (CRY), 41 percent of Mumbai and 50 percent of Delhi slum children are undernourished, and less than 50 percent in both cities are enrolled in Anganwadis (pre-primary schools).

Dr Ramachandra, from Energy and Wetlands Research Group in Indian Institute of Science (IISC), says that because of the rapid and “senseless” urbanisation, Bengaluru  has lost 88 percent of vegetation and 79 percent of water bodies, both of which act as a heat sink and moderate temperature. “By 2020, 94 percent of our landscape will be under concrete. That is an unrealistic and tragic growth. Our children will not have clean air, clean water, and clean environment, all of which go against Article 21 of the Constitution,” he declares.

According to “Unequal Portions”, by Save the Children, Nepal will not be able to eliminate malnutrition until 2112. The report also reveals that malnutrition in Nepal is closely related to poverty and more within socially excluded castes, ethnic, or religious groups. “Our children face grave issues of losing out on a physically and mentally healthy future due to the lack of sufficient and balanced nutrition,” said Delailah Borja, country director of Save the Children.

In Nepal, stunting is highest for the ethnic group ‘others’ at 62%, and second highest for Hill Dalits at 51%, while stunting is the lowest for Tarai Brahmins and Chhetris at 13%.

In Bangladesh, poor people from far-flung areas like Panchagarh and Kurigram are making a bee-line to reach Dhaka, the capital and other cities in search of fortunes. And most of them land in slums for shelter.  Dhaka city was first designed to accommodate one million people at best in the '60s but now it is teeming with over 120 million people -- with a population density of 15,000 persons per sq km, according to a survey. Over half a million mechanised vehicles ply on the capital's roads and streets, belching out black noxious fumes that are highly hazardous to health. The capital has only 220 km primary roads, but automobiles in the capital lined up bumper to bumper in single file would stretch longer than this. There is hardly any decent sidewalk or pavement for people to walk on.     The new arrivals of people in cities and towns have been estimated at 500,000 a year. According to the Bangladesh Sample Vital Statistics (BSVS) 2015, published by the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS), some 90 out of every 1,000 persons moved to urban areas in 2015, up 17 per cent year-on-year. AKM Ashraful Haque of the BBS said, "It appears that increased number of people have moved from small towns to big towns or cities, particularly for economic factors, education and healthcare".

A research study said, "The internal migration has been spurred not so much by rural restlessness as by catastrophes like droughts, untimely floods, cyclones and loss of farm land and houses by river erosion and, last of all, scarcity conditions in rural areas because of absence of a jobs in those areas. With a quarter of a million pavement dwellers and the quota of the poor, Dhaka city today epitomises the country's urban nightmare and bitter poverty. Tourists may marvel at the city's gleaming glass skyscrapers or admire the modern high-rise apartments in certain locations of the city, but the horrific traffic jams belie the glare of prosperity."

The Earth Policy Institute predicted that 1.0 m rise in sea level will lead to landlessness of 14.8 million people, 29,846 sq. km. area of land will be lost and 40 million people will be displaced. Inundation of low land and delta will reduce agricultural production of the country severely. Along with loss of livelihood opportunities thousands of educational and health infrastructure will be lost.

If you seek to create a better world, contact:
The World Socialist Party (India): 257 Baghajatin ‘E’ Block (East), Kolkata – 700086,
Tel: 2425-0208,

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