Archive for October, 2009

Water and Sanitation in India

October 12, 2009 8 comments

Water and Sanitation in India – by Pravin Nair

India faces a turbulent water future. The current water development and management system is not sustainable: unless dramatic changes are made – and made soon – in the way in which government manages water, India will have neither the cash to maintain and build new infrastructure, nor the water required for the economy and for people.

None of the 35 Indian cities with a population of more than one million distribute water for more than a few hours per day, despite generally sufficient infrastructure. Owing to inadequate pressure people struggle to collect water even when it is available. According to the World Bank, none have performance indicators that compare with average international standards. A 2007 study by the Asian Development Bank showed that in 20 cities the average duration of supply was only 4.3 hours per day. No city had continuous supply. The longest duration of supply was 12 hours per day in Chandigarh, and the lowest was 0.3 hours per day in Rajkot.

There are regions of India that can benefit greatly from increased investment in water infrastructure, of all scales. India can still store only relatively small quantities of its fickle rainfall. Whereas arid rich countries (such as the United States and Australia) have built over 5000 cubic meters of water storage per capita, and middle-income countries like South Africa, Mexico, Morocco and China can store about 1000 cubic meters per capita, India’s dams can store only 200 cubic meters per person. India can store only about 30 days of rainfall, compared to 900 days in major river basins in arid areas of developed countries. A compounding factor is that there is every indication that the need for storage will grow because global climate change is going to have major impacts in India – there is likely to be rapid glacial melting in coming decades in the western Himalayas, and increased variability of rainfall in large parts of the subcontinent.

The problems of a developing India, however, are not limited to providing adequate quantities of water. Growing populations, cities and industries are putting great stress on the aquatic environment. Many rivers – even very large ones – have turned into fetid sewers. India’s cities and industries need to use water more effectively, and there will have to be massive investments in sewers and wastewater treatment plants.

The lack of adequate sanitation and safe water has significant negative health impacts.The World Bank estimates 21% of communicable diseases in India are water related. Of these diseases, diarrhoea alone killed over 700,000 Indians in 1999 (estimated) – over 1,600 deaths each day. The highest mortality from diarrhoea is in children under the age of five.

A recent joint monitoring report prepared by the World Health Organisation and Unicef found that out of the 1.2 billion people around the world who are forced to defecate in the open, half live in India. An estimated 665 million Indians, one in every two, lack access to a toilet. That is not a pleasant statistic. Yet, few Indians would challenge it, as the embarrassing evidence is before our eyes everywhere we look.

1. India’s Water Economy: Bracing for a Turbulent Future
2. The toilet test: India urgently needs a Sanitation Act
3. Water supply and sanitation in India.
4. Is the water pure? Punjab villages need filtration plants

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“A Billion is Enough: India’s Population Problem – A WAY OUT”

October 12, 2009 10 comments

“A Billion is Enough: India’s Population Problem – A WAY OUT” – by Ashok Gupta
Poverty, deprivation, illiteracy, disease and distress are all an outcome of population growth that is disproportionate to the growth of productive resources in India.

Number of people below the poverty line in 1997 was equal to the total population of India in 1947.

Our population problem remains as it was 50 years ago. Rather, it has gone worse both in quantitative and qualitative terms. Qualitative in the sense that those families, which can afford to provide good education and health, are controlling the births and those with no or poor wherewithal are producing children without any check, thoughtlessly, Therefore, the problem needs to be addressed in some innovative and meaningful manner.

There is plethora of projects and programmes in the form of centrally sponsored schemes and state schemes directed at poverty alleviation, education, health provision, housing and food nutrition etc., which have not delivered the benifits as desired or expected. Investment on these programmes has yieled results much below the potential.

India is not only over-populated, but over-population is concentrated in poor/illiterate sections of society, who primarily reside in rural areas. The Total Fertility Rate (TFR) of poor classes is 3.70 against 2.31 of the rich classes. The analysis also discloses that high TFR amongst the poor/illiterate persons does not flow from their own volition. These classes desire 2.90 children per couple. But due to lack of facilities and motivation, their actual TFR stands at 3.70, almost one child per couple more than their desire.

Capabilities of the poorer classes could have also been developed by intergrating family planning programme with removal of poverty and illiteracy. Population explosion and poverty are inter-dependent problems.

The population is increasing and concentrating in poor/illiterate families, who primarily reside in rural India. This phenomenon has adverse implications in social, economic and political areas in many different ways. For example, while the literate and informed electorate will help in deepening and widening of the democracy, the same cannot be expected from the poor/illiterate constituents. They cannot be expected to return mature, honest and visionary political leadership, which determines the fate of the country. In demoracy heads are counted, not weighed as Aristotle puts it. Therefore, the challenge before us is not only that of quantity but also of the quality of the population.

Poor and illiterate population is primarily concentrated in four major states
Madhya Pradesh – Poor 37.43%, literacy 64.11%
Orissa – Poor 47.15%, literacy 63.61%
Uttar Pradesh – Poor 31.15%, literacy 57.36%
Bihar – Poor 42.60%, literacy 47.53%

Lack of employment opportunities in UP, Bihar, Rajasthan, MP and many other states has led to large-scale migration of people within the country itself. This unending race of unfed, unclothed and illitrate people to other areas of relative prosperity, especially the metropolitan cities, has not only altered the demographic pattern but has also severely strained infrastructural facilities. Migration of the cream of our society to greener pastures in developed countries, leading to large-scale brain drain, is also required to be seen in this context.

Rapidly growing population has adversely affected the Indian political and social scene and led to the abandoning of values in the public as well as the private sphere. When survival becomes the primary goal, all other values are subordinated to this instinct. Passage to the soul, they say, is through stomach. In the wake of limited and finite resources and opportunities, people who wield the power to distribute limited economic resources are being chased by too many seeks, tempting the former to indulge in nepotism, favoritism and corruption. The seekers, in orders to outsmart and outmanoeuvre one another, resort to sycophancy and graft. In the process both the distributors and the seekers get dehumaized and adopt negative social values.

Thus, India, if it opts for indifference towards its population problem will do so at its own risk & responsibility.

The surge in population combined with increase of consumerism has pushed the exploitation of natural resources beyond permissible limits. Fast increasing population demands more infrastructure, more hours, food, clothing, fuel wood and water etc. To meet this ever-rising demand, pressure is increasing on forests, water and land resources. In the process, we are triggering the extinction of plant and animal species, irreversibly harming the bio-diversity. The disastrous consequence of the demands made by our growing population on our natural resources, habitat and bio-sphere is also evident from the rapidly increasing pollution and other forms of deterioration that we notice all around.

There is extreme pressure on land, forests, and rivers as they are mercilessly exploited to cater to the ever-increasing needs of growing population. All systems for the maintenance of law and order, imparting justice and providing civic amenities, are buckling under the pressure.

Forest are worst hit. It is regrettable that India has only 23% of its area covered by forests against 50% a centuary ago and against the minimum of 33% prescribed by the National Forest Policy 1952.

Our land, water, mineral and technological resources are in no way equal to the level of our population. India has 16.8% of world’s population but only 2.42% of the land area, 4% of water resources, 1.4% of world coal reserves, less than 1% of world oil reserves.

The analysis reveals that the burgeoning population in India, without increase in resources, is against the fundamental law of nature and has potential of catastrophe. It demonstrates that if population growth continues unhindered, food and water supply would be affected adversely. Poverty and inequality are bound to increase. Environment would get further degraded, leading to droughts, floods and famines. It convincingly reveals that we could end up relapsing into stage-I of the demographic transition, instead of moving forward to stage-III of demographic transition. This will mean a step into a dark era rather than moving forward into the bright new millennium. The analysis depicts that in such a scenario, social fabric could crumble and the nation could disintegrate. We could even lose political sovereignty.

Basic cause of over-population.
The examination reveals that before 1921 there was almost free play between the creative and destructive powers of Nature, without any significant human intervention. Till this period, both birth and death rates were very high, keeping population growth rate rather low. India at that time was in the first stage of demogrphic transition. The scenario changed after 1921. The invention of new and curative medicines and their mass application, expansion of medical and education facilities, and improvement in the supply of clean drinking water helped to bring down the death rate from 48.6 in 1911-1920 to 8.7 in 1999. A high order of political commitment was shown to reduce the death rate. Unfortunately, on the other hand, our political leaders did not control the creative powers of ‘Nature’ with the same commitment due to fear of losing votes. Therefore, the birth rate did not come down in equal measure.

Implementation ideas for India Redefined

October 3, 2009 1 comment

Ashish Mohan (an IT Professional ) shared his views:

The Social Ills Plaguing Our Cities – Indifference towards society and its people

How many times have we lived in an apartment but not paid any attention to its cleanliness? How many times have we read in newspapers about the plight of ‘Senior Citizens’? How good a citizen are we?
The only way to prove this is not by taking to the streets or harping about it on talkshows. The way to do it is the following:-

1. Every day in the evening, people who come back from work, can take 15 minutes of time to take a round of their apartment. During this time, they should try to pick all the pieces of waste or paper and collect it in a garbage bag and dump it in the nearest garbage bin.
2. Those people not living in apartments, can do the same in their nearby streets so instead of having to depend on the civic agencies to do the cleaning, we can keep streets clean.
3. Each person can check the nearest dumping bins and inform the civic agencies of the same in case garbage is not collected on that day.
4. Each person should go and check in their apartment offices whether the phone number of the civic agencies are listed in the office records or not. If not, it is the duty of each person to file their complaint in the apartment office about it and ask them to get the required numbers listed.
5. Each person should make it a point to go and meet at least one ‘Senior Citizen’ of the society and talk to them on a regular basis – even if it is for 5 minutes each day. Regular interaction shall keep them very much integrated with the social fabric of our apartments.
6. Each person should host a simple tea get together on a specific day for a group of 5-10 ‘Senior Citizen’ once a month. The idea should be to get to know them and their whereabouts regularly.

These simple points do not take more than a half-hour on a regular basis. Needless to mention what these steps would help us achieve!! Remember those ancient mythological tales which propagate the importance of a well-knit society.

Nike might be known for its shoes, however we should remember it for its slogan – JUST DO IT!

Categories: Viewer Speaks