10 Of The Most Polluted Cities In The World Are In India — But The Indians Do Not Care The Indians appear indifferent to thir catastrophic air pollution crisis. Pollution not even mentioned in major national elections

WASHINGTON – Environmental degradation (air, water and soil pollution) has become so bad in China that it is now considered one of the main political problems facing the ruling Communist Party.

Major problem in China

On a daily basis there are protests around the country focusing on local pollution issues. Grass roots organization demand clean water, the closing of chemical plants that release dangerous emissions, and a lot more.

In the past, the Chinese authorities tried to protect themselves by treating most pollution data as “state secrets”, literally. As critical information was withheld, the general public simply could not know how bad things were.

New openness

Now it is different. Finally there is open admission that there is “an environmental problem” in China. That said, however, we cannot be sure that the authorities are totally transparent in producing real-time data on what is going on. And, even assuming they did, it is not at all clear that they have a workable strategy to reverse the incalculable damage caused by more than three decades of fast development pursued with complete disregard for environmental protection.

Authoritarian rulers hide information

Analysts may conclude that this sorry state of affairs is to be expected in an authoritarian society in which the state controls and hides unpleasant information. The bad news is kept out of the public reach. And it is only when the damage gets to catastrophic proportions that the truth finally comes out.

In a democracy, with free media, independent regulators and active opposition parties, this could not happen. The public would be informed. There would be massive protests, and the authorities would have to intervene early on to stop and reverse dangerous environmental degradation, as well as all other threats to public health.

India is a democracy, but the environmental crisis is worse than in China

This may be so. But then, if lack of transparency in a one party state is the real issue regarding China, how do we explain the fact that in India, a democracy with open debates and a free media, environmental degradation rivals China’s, while air pollution in major cities is actually much, much worse?

Yes, India has the dubious distinction of being home of the majority of most polluted large cities in the world, outclassing China –actually by a wide margin. This is an established fact, now underscored by a recently released World Health Organization list of the most polluted cities.

New Delhi most polluted city, but the Indians do not care

New Delhi, not Beijing, is the most polluted city in the world. In fact, China’s large cities, while in seriously bad shape when it comes to air quality, do not even make it among the 20 worst offenders, while India tops the list with 10. That’s a lot.

In all this –and this is most astonishing– In India most people,  including experts and scientists, seem uninterested in what amounts to life threatening pollution levels. Even though a bad air quality day in Beijing is actually almost average in New Delhi, there is no public outrage. No debates on what needs to be done. No media coverage.

Is this a good democracy?

Where are the public health authorities?  Who is issuing warnings? Nobody seems to care. And, even now, while India has just gone through a major national political debate leading to just held critical elections, environmental concerns did not feature on anybody’s agenda.

India may be indeed a democracy, with freedom of the press and contested elections. But its people and its leaders are remarkably uninterested in the public welfare.

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