- Cover Story: Polio on the comeback trail in UP, Bihar
- Editorial: Economics of congestion
- News: Public sector banks score over private ones
- News: Tsunami-hit farmers of Nagapattinam against prawn industry
- News: Public hearings on Tipaimukh project a farce
- Reporter's diary: Asia's dirtiest rivers in Chhattisgarh?
- Science: Formation of stars linked to evolution of life on earth
- Short-term course: Urban rainwater harvesting
Cover Story: Polio on the comeback trail in UP, Bihar
India's health ministry will not be celebrating the new year. 2007
is India's deadline for eradicating polio. While most countries have
eradicated the disease, polio hit India with a vengeance in 2006.
Its problem states, Uttar Pradesh (UP) and Bihar, have seen a sharp
rise in the number of polio cases. However funds for the anti-polio
programme are also drying up. Experts are now divided over what course
of action to take: some say that the oral polio vaccine should be
made available to more children, while others canvass for a change
in vaccine. Another set believes that since the disease cannot be
eradicated, the anti-polio campaign should be stopped.
Read online >>
Editorial: Economics of congestion
By Sunita Narain
The Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers (SIAM) says India
produced over 10 million vehicles in 2006. The number of cars was
more than one million. As the manufacture and sale of vehicles are
important parameters of the national economy, this millionth-vehicle
yardstick says the economy's fundamentals are buoyant.
I have no quarrel with this. But I do find this economic assessment
rather incomplete and simplistic. Because vehicles require resources
to operate, maintain and even park. Where will these resources come
from? Who pays? Who does not? These assessments are critical to learn
the economics that really matters: what is the cost of this growth,
and how should we pay for it?
At the very least, five costs have to be added to the price of each
vehicle. One, the cost of building a road. Two, the cost of maintaining
roads, the cost of policing on the road, the cost of powering the
millions of traffic lights. Three, the crippling cost of local air
pollution and bad health which requires monitoring, control and regulation.
Added to this, is evidence that vehicles are key contributors to pollution,
which is feeding climate change and will result in even bigger costs.
Four, the cost of congestion, which every motorist on a busy road
imposes on fellow travellers - from delays that cost time, to increased
fuel consumption that costs money. Five, the cost of space for parking
vehicles, at home and at work.
We need to ask why economists - the ones who normally rant about
markets, the need for full cost pricing and removal of subsidies -
never account for these costs in their calculations of growth. After
all, the cold logic of the market, repeatedly cited when it comes
to the meagre support given to farmers, should apply here as well.
Could it be that our economists are so vertically integrated to the
market - with mind and matter - that these distortions fail to catch
Take roads. We know that cars on roads are like the proverbial cup
that always fills up. Cities invest in roads, but fight the losing
battle of the bulge: congestion. The us provides up to four times
more road space per capita than most European cities, and up to eight
times more road space per capita as compared to the crowded cities
of Asia. When more roads fail to solve the problem, governments invest
in flyovers and elevated highways. These roads occupy space - real
estate - and are costly to build and maintain. It has been estimated
that in Western cities dependent on automobiles, it could cost as
much as us $260 per capita per year to operate these facilities.
But this investment is also not paying off as ever increasing cars
fill the ever increasing space. This is why experts say building roads
to fit cars is like trying to put out a fire with petrol. Britain's
orbital motorway, something akin to Delhi's Ring Road that 'bypasses'
the city, was built 20 years ago. Since then, it has been expanded
at huge costs to 12 lanes. But bumper-to-bumper traffic on it has
dubbed it the nation's biggest car park.
Congestion costs the earth, in terms of lost hours spent in traffic;
in terms of fuel and in terms of pollution. In the us, the congestion
bill for 85 cities totalled to a staggering us $63 billion in 2003.
This calculated only the cost of hours lost - some 3.7 billion - and
extra fuel consumed, not the loss of opportunity because of missed
meetings and other such factors. In the UK, the industry has pegged
the figure at us $30 billion. Our part of the world is similarly blessed:
Bangkok estimates that it loses 6 per cent of its economic production
due to traffic congestion. These costs do not even begin to account
for pollution: emissions of hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide are linked
with speed and frequent stop and start.
The logic of the market tells us that people overuse goods and services
that come free. Why, then, should this dictum not be applied to roads?
Why should fiscal policy not be designed to reflect the real cost
of this public asset? Why not charge for it?
The question of who should pay is simple: the user. But what is
often not understood is the nature - colour and class - of the 'real'
user of the public largess in our economies. While in the Western
world, the car has replaced the bus or bicycle, in our world it has
only marginalised its space. Therefore, even in a rich city like Delhi,
cars and two-wheelers carry less than 20 per cent of the city's commuting
passengers. The rest are transported by buses, bicycles or other means.
But the operational fact is that these cars and two-wheelers occupy
over 90 per cent of the city's road space. Therefore, it is evident
that the user of the public space and the beneficiary of public largess
- the road, the flyover or the elevated highway - is the person in
the car or the two-wheeler.
Cars do not only cost on the road. They also cost when they are
parked. Personal vehicles stay parked roughly 90 per cent of the time;
the land they occupy costs real estate. Cars occupy more space for
parking than what we need to work in our office: 23 sq metres to park
a car, against 15 sq metres to park a desk. My colleagues have estimated
that the one million-odd cars in Delhi would take up roughly 11 per
cent of the city's urban area. Green spaces in the city take up roughly
Ultimately, the issue is not even what it costs. The issue is why
we are not computing the costs or estimating its losses.
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More in Down To Earth magazine
News: Public sector banks score over private ones
A report by the Reserve Bank of India shows that public sector banks
are more efficient and customer-friendly compared to private ones.
It says that even though private banks are acquiring more customers,
they are doing so by compromising the quality of their services. The
difference lies in approach towards customers: while public sector
banks like to solve customer problems on a personal basis, human contact
is anathema for private ones.
Read complete article >>
News: Tsunami-hit farmers of Nagapattinam against prawn industry
Even as they recover from the trauma of the tsunami of 2004, farmers
in Nagapattinam, Tamil Nadu, are facing another problem: the region's
prawn industry is stifling their only livelihood -- agriculture. Post-tsunami,
shrimp farms have sprung up across the town. Most of these violate
the Coastal Regulation Zone Act, block drainage canals and prevent
rainwater from reaching the sea. But their biggest effect has been
on farmers, whose land and livelihoods have been snatched away in
the pursuit of quick profits.
Read online >>
News: Public hearings on Tipaimukh project a farce
For months, residents of Manipur's Tamenglong and Churachandpur
towns awaited public hearings on the "proposed" Tipaimukh Multipurpose
Hydel Project. The state government finally scheduled them for November
after it had floated a global tender for works on the project, and
the Centre had promised a Rs 400 crore security cover for it. The
farcical nature of these meetings angered the residents. To add to
their woes, many people were not even allowed to enter the gatherings.
Read online >>
Reporter's Diary: Asia's dirtiest rivers in Chhattisgarh?
The mess in rivers Shankhini and Dankini in Bilabial, Chhattisgarh,
can even shock those who believe that the Yamuna is the country's
most polluted water body. The Bilabial range is known for its high
quality iron deposits. Sludge produced from the mining process carried
out here is released into the two perennial rivers, making the water
unfit for drinking or bathing. However, people from 65 villages along
the Shankhini and Dankini use the same dirty water for their daily
use. They do not have much of a choice: the wells, which were dug
by the government to help them, are too shallow and thus, of no use.
Science: Formation of stars linked to evolution of life on earth
Researchers at the Danish National Space Centre have found that
the bacterial count of seas on earth (indicating formation of life)
soared 2,400 million years ago, when there was frenzied star-making
in the Milky Way. Such productivity was neither seen before nor ever
Read online (subscription required) >>
Short-term course: Urban rainwater harvesting
CSE is accepting applications for its short-term training programme
on urban rainwater harvesting (RWH) to be held on the following dates:
- February 12-15, 2007
- March 19-22, 2007
The programme will discuss the following:
- Urban water scenario in India with detailed case studies
- Groundwater status, demand side management and supply
- Planning: hydrogeological, geomorphological and metrological conditions
- Design and components: rainfall, terrain, water table, soil conditions
- Maintenance, monitoring and impact assessment
- Policies on RWH: legal and fiscal initiatives
- Primer on urban wastewater management
- Field visit to active project sites, workshops on RWH design
Register online >>
For more information, contact:
Salahuddin Saiphy >>
- NGOs, researchers, RWAs, engineers, architects, urban planners,
industry consultants, and concerned citizens are invited to apply
- As this is a popular course, we advise you to register at the earliest
- A certificate of participation will be awarded at the end of the
CSE is an independent, public interest organisation that was established
in 1982 by Anil Agarwal, a pioneer of India's environmental movement.
CSE's mandate is to research, communicate and promote sustainable
development with equity, participation and democracy.
Contact CSE: http://www.cseindia.org/aboutus/feedback.htm
E-mail: < email@example.com>
Address: 41 Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110062
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