India pays a high economic price for pollution: study

July 18, 2013 at 1:33 PM
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NEW DELHI, July 18 (UPI) -- The annual cost of environmental degradation in India is about $80 billion, or 5.7 percent of the country's gross domestic product, says a new report by the World Bank.

The report, "Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges in India," released Wednesday, analyses the trade offs between economic growth and environmental sustainability.

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development last month said that India "has probably recently" surpassed Japan to be world's third largest economy, after the United States and China.

But the World Bank in its report says that India cannot continue on a path of "grow now and clean up later" and warns that failure to address environmental challenges could constrain the country's long-term productivity.

"India has performed remarkably economically, but that's not reflected in its environmental outcomes," said Muthukumara Mani, the World Bank's senior environmental economist and author of the report, the Financial Times reports. "'Grow now, clean up later' really doesn't work."

The study focuses on PM10, which refers to air pollution particles up to 10 micrometers in size, mostly from the burning of fossil fuels.

The study includes scenarios showing the economic effects of reducing the PM10 particulates. If India were to reduce its particulate emissions 10 percent by 2030, for example, it would represent a loss of 0.3 percent to the GDP. Reducing particulate emissions by 30 percent would lower GDP by about $97 billion, or 0.7 percent, the study says.

Yet the study points out that the health benefits under both scenarios compensate, to a large extent, for the projected GDP loss. Savings from reduced health costs range from $105 billion under the 30 percent emission reduction model to $24 billion under the 10 percent reduction model.

"The productive part of the population that gets impacted from air pollution in the city, if you can save them, it is going to add up in terms of productivity, in terms of GDP. That is something, that I would say, is a major finding of the study," Mani said.

The study says that nearly 25 percent of child mortality cases in India can be attributed to environmental degradation as well as an inadequate availability of clean water and sanitation.

Separately, a study published last week in the journal of Environmental Research Letters revealed that India is the second most deadly place for air pollution after East Asia, with nearly 400,000 deaths blamed on the inhalation of particulates and more than 100,000 deaths each year due to ozone pollution, The Diplomat reports.

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