[op-ed snap] The cost of pollution: Impact on the economy and our health

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Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

Prelims level: The EKC hypothesis

Mains level: India’s developmental activities are affecting the environment to a considerable extent, through over-exploitation of natural resources and indiscriminate discharge of waste. The newscard discusses some of the important issues related to it.


News

Context

  1. Pollution is a challenge to developing countries which try to achieve rapid economic development without adequately managing the environment

India’s developmental activities are affecting the environment to a considerable extent: Environmental Kuznets curve (EKC) hypothesis

  1. This has been interpreted by the EKC hypothesis
  2. The hypothesis suggests that as per capita income grows, the increase in environmental impact hits the maximum and thereafter declines

More about the EKC

  1. According to the hypothesis, in the initial stages of economic growth, when more resources are used, there is greater waste generation and more emissions
  2. But when a country has achieved a certain level of development, pollution reduces with
    (1) greater protection of the environment,
    (2) technological improvements,
    (3) diversification of the economy from manufacturing to services, and
    (4) increasing scarcity and prices of environmental resources,
    leading to lower consumption

The EKC for India

  1. India is on the upward part of the EKC
  2. For achieving sustainable development, it must move to the second stage
  3. However, it is not wise to wait for that stage. India can’t ignore the environmental consequences of its rapid growth

Why is pollution increasing in developing countries?

  1. Over the last few decades, water-intensive and polluting industries such as textiles, leather, sugar and paper have shifted from developed to developing countries
  2. For example, Before 1980, countries like the U.K. and the U.S. played a vital role in textile production and export
  3. But by 2000, their dominance had substantially reduced and the share of developing countries like India and China had increased
  4. One of the factors attributed to this shift is that there are relatively less stringent environmental policies in developing nations

What are the major issues?

  1. For instance, in developing countries, water pollution has not been a major topic of political debate,
  2. but political instruments including Environmental Quality Objectives and Uniform Standards are in the political agendas of Western countries
  3. Emission-based standards have not been very effective so far, since they are rarely monitored and only occasionally enforced
  4. The ‘polluters pay’ principle is not in force
  5. For the most part, polluters are not willing to internalise the external and social costs
  6. Pollution is also neglected by funding agencies worldwide and by governments in budgets

What should be done?

  1. To tackle pollution, there should be
    (1) public awareness about its consequences,
    (2) adequate pollution-linked databases,
    (3) integration of pollution prevention policies into the development sector,
    (4) strict enforcement of pollution control policies,
    (5) reliance on renewable energy, and increase in ecosystem resilience through the conservation of biodiversity
  2. Experiences from the U.S. and Europe reveal that pollution mitigation can yield large gains to human health and the economy
Air Pollution
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