Millennium Post

23% child mortality due to environmental degradation: World Bank

About 23 per cent of child mortality in the country is caused by environmental degradation and diseases caused by poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene, a World Bank study has found.

The World Bank report, titled ‘Diagnostic Assessment of Select Environmental Challenges in India’, also states that environmental degradation costs the country 5.7 per cent of its GDP but maintains that this can be reduced significantly.

‘A significant portion of diseases caused by poor water supply, sanitation and hygiene is borne by children under 5. About 23 per cent of child mortality in the country could be attributed to environmental degradation,’ the report said.

The study was conducted by World Bank from its own resources at the behest of the Environment Ministry and covers the period from 2010.

The report states that the annual cost of environemental degradation in India amounts to about Rs 3.75 Trillion (USD 80 billion) which is equivalent to 5.7 per cent of the country’s GDP.

Muthukumara S Mani, lead author of the report, said this figure is reasonable in comparison to other developing countries. The report claims that India can make green growth by putting strategies to reduce environmental degradation at the ‘minimal cost of 0.02-0.04 per cent of the average annual GDP growth rate.

Mani said a developing country like India cannot afford to grow now and clean up later as this will not be environmentally sustainable in the long run. ‘You have to clean up as you grow,’ he said.

The study focussed on particle pollution from burning of fossil fuels and says this has serious health consequences amounting to up to 3 per cent of India’s GDP, along with losses due to lack of access to clean water supply, sanitation, hygiene and natural resource depletion.

‘Of this, the impact of outdoor air pollution accounts for the highest share of 1.7 per cent followed by cost of indoor air pollution at 1.3 per cent,’ the report said. This leads to heart diseases and deaths among the youth and productive adult population living in urban areas.

The study insists that low-cost options could significantly reduce environmental damage without compromising on long-term growth objectives.

‘We believe that a low-emission, resource-efficient greening of the economy is possible at a very low cost in terms of GDP growth,’ Mani said, adding that it is imperative to calculate green GDP as an index of economic growth.

The study, which used the Computable General Equilibrium (CGE) model, often used by economists to assess trade between two countries, will be submitted by the World Bank to Madras School of Economics for further research.

The report states that the co-benefits of a environment friendly growth includes savings from reduced health damages. A 10 per cent reduction in particle pollution can save between USD 24-54 million.

Improving efficiency of power plants and use of washing coal are some ways of reducing pollution.
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