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Latest Message:

January 4, 2007 CSE Newsletter

Previous Messages:

November 30, 2006 CSE Newsletter

November 16, 2006 CSE Newsletter

October 25, 2006 CSE Newsletter

October 12, 2006 CSE Newsletter

September 27, 2006 CSE Newsletter

September 12, 2006 CSE Newsletter

August 3, 2006 CSE Newsletter

June 1, 2006 CSE Newsletter

May 16, 2006 CSE Newsletter

November 24, 2005 CSE Newsletter

September 22, 2005 Newsletter

March 15, 2003 Newsletter

You can find CSE archives of past newsletters on their website.



January 4, 2006 CSE Newsletter

CSE wishes all readers a very Happy New Year!

An e-bulletin from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India, to our network of friends and professionals interested in environmental issues.


- 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.


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 their attention?

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 the same.

Ultimately, the issue is not even what it costs. The issue is why we are not computing the costs or estimating its losses.


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.


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.


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 since.


Short-term course: Urban rainwater harvesting
New Delhi


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

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 programme


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.
E-mail: < cse@cseindia.org>
Address: 41 Tughlakabad Institutional Area, New Delhi - 110062

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Front Page, Week Of:

4/16/05: Spectre to Introduce U.S. Asbestos Bill This Week

5/22/05: Individuals Injured by Asbestos Exposure Oppose Specter's Trust Fund Legislation

10/16/05: Victim's Organizations Form Asbestos Victims Coalition in Opposition to Asbestos Trust Fund Legislation

11/17/05: White Lung Mourns Jose Jesus Pessora

12/04/06: Asbestos Watch Newsletter: Help Celebrate the 27th Anniversary of the WHITE LUNG ASSOCIATION

Jim Fite's Alerts:

Asbestos Victim's Superfund Compensation Program

Asbestos Watch March 14, 2005 (Maryland chapter of the White Lung Association meetings)

Directorate of Safety, Health, and Environment (open letter)


Joe Oliver's Alerts:

Joe Oliver, National Board Member and former President of the White Lung Association, has issued a call to all persons to help gather evidence on the conspiracy by asbestos trade organizations to suppress the knowledge about the hazards of asbestos exposure.

If you know anything about this horrific history or have documents which can be used to further prove their heinous crimes, please contact Joe Oliver, WLA, POB 1483, Balt. MD 21203.

Leonard Makowski's Alerts:

The White Lung Association stands in opposition to The Specter Bill (S.852)

WLA Alerts & News

S.1115: Bill to amend the Toxic Substances Control Act to reduce the health risks posed by asbestos-containing products - This bill is supported by the WLA.

Meet Mr. Asbestos

Proceedings of the Asbestos Symposium for the Asian Countries - now available for purchase.

Australia Bans Asbestos!



Senator Specter Breaks Promise to Mesothelioma Patient and Research Community

Senate Judiciary Committee returns to Mark-Up on May 11th: Proposed asbestos trust fund legislation will further penalize victims of asbestos-caused diseases


World Trade Center Health:

In May 2003, the Global Environment & Technology Foundation developed the "Asbestos Strategies" report.

British Asbestos Newsletter:

The latest issue is Spring 2005


News from India:

The latest issue is January 4, 2007



December 17, 2000 is Asbestos Hazard Awareness Day


Current Projects:

Asbestos Museum


Articles & Publications:

Occupational Respiratory Diseases: Asbestos Associated Disease -- Reprinted from: Maxcy-Rosenau Public Health and Preventative Medicine 11th ed. (John M. Last, Ed.) 1980, Appleton-Century-Crofts

Asbestos Victims Deserve Compensation Not Betrayal: position release by the Board of Directors, White Lung Association



In Memoria:

Paul Safchuck May 21, 2003

Dr. William Nicholson Dies at 70

Ray Sentes Brave Fighter For Asbestos Victims

For more information please contact info whitelung org.