Why India stinks, and what’s to be done

Why India stinks, and what’s to be done, by The Economist.

India stinks. If at this misty time of year its capital, Delhi, smells as if something is burning, that is because many things are: the carcinogenic diesel that supplies three-quarters of the city’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.

All this combustion makes Delhi’s air the most noxious of any big city. It chokes on roughly twice as much pm 2.5, fine dust that penetrates deep into lungs, as Beijing.

Smog in Dehli

This does not just make life unpleasant for Indians. It kills them. Recent estimates put the death toll from breathing pm 2.5 alone at 1.2 million to 2.2 million a year. The lifespan of Delhi-dwellers is shortened by more than 10 years, says the University of Chicago. …

Indian pollution is a danger to the rest of the world too.

Widespread dumping of antibiotics in rivers has made the country a hotspot for anti-­microbial resistance. …

In the past India has explained its failure to clean up its act by pleading poverty, noting that richer countries were once just as dirty and that its output of filth per person still lags far behind theirs. But India is notably grubby not just in absolute terms, but also relative to its level of development. And it is becoming grub­bier. …

Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised with admirable frankness when he took over to rid India of open defecation; 4½ years and some $US9 billion later, his Clean India campaign claims to have sponsored the building of an astonishing 90 million toilets.