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World Population Day: Is it time to control population explosion in India?

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By Dr Rajat Arora

To gauge the mammoth rise of the Indian population, the most ideal places to visit are Metro stations, airports, malls, railway stations and bus stands. As we prepare to observe the World Population Day, a road-map to expand healthcare access across the nation has become a critical priority for the policymakers.

As per the Indian census carried out in 2011, the population figure was 1,210,193,422 – well above the one-billion mark. India, the second most populous country in the world, is projected to surpass China by 2025.

The poignant fact is that the figures are rising by the day despite the population-control policies, family planning and welfare programs undertaken by the government.

The mortality rate is on a decline thanks to the advancement in the field of medicine, but there has been no significant success in terms of bringing down the birth rate.

Image from blog.oureducation.in
Image from blog.oureducation.in

Much of population increase is among the poorest socio-economic strata. Relatively, socio-economically advanced Indian states displayed a fertility rate of less than 2.1 in 2009, which is less than the level needed to maintain a stable population following the infant mortality standards in developed nations.

Though the one-child policy in China was criticised as against human dignity and rights, it has helped China to control its population by a possible 400 million people.

There is a distinct possibility of irreversible and unsustainable population growth and big question marks remain over how India will provide nearly 1.7 billion people with their basic minimum needs.

As of 2013 statistics, the number of private hospitals and private doctors had shown a multiple-fold increase at 7,500+ and 300,000, respectively. Similarly, the private sector has enabled an increased availability of medicines by setting up pharmacies/chemist shops. There are more than 105,000 chemists who are providing medicines in 120 cities in the country.

Nevertheless, a disproportionate increase in the population has raised fears of an alarming shortfall in terms of the doctor-patient ratio and the corresponding accessibility to quality healthcare.

Increasing the welfare and status of women and girls; imparting education; enhancing awareness for the use of contraceptives and family planning methods; sex education; encouraging male sterilisation and spacing births can be some of the ways to curtail the escalating population.

It would be ideal for a country like India to be more progressive in outlook and shed inhibitions when it comes to free distribution of contraceptives and condoms among the poor.

As the government seeks to expand its expenditure on healthcare, it must select a strategy that provides significant healthcare access benefit to the Indian population. Sustainable policy solutions to healthcare financing, infrastructure and human resource challenges are critically needed.

Overall, while there are pockets of improvements, significant healthcare access challenges continue to exist for the Indian population. The longer India delays acknowledging the severity of these problems and dealing with them head on, the graver the consequences are likely to be.

(IANS)

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Diesel Exhaust Converted Into Ink by Indian Innovators To Battle Air Pollution

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

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representational image. VOA

Supervised by young engineers, workers at the start-up company Chakr Innovation in New Delhi cut and weld sheets of metal to make devices that will capture black plumes of smoke from diesel generators and convert it into ink.

In a cabin, young engineers pore over drawings and hunch over computers as they explore more applications of the technology that they hope will aid progress in cleaning up the Indian capital’s toxic air – among the world’s dirtiest.

While the millions of cars that ply Delhi’s streets are usually blamed for the city’s deadly air pollution, another big culprit is the massive diesel generators used by industries and buildings to light up homes and offices during outages when power from the grid switches off – a frequent occurrence in summer. Installed in backyards and basements, they stay away from the public eye.

“Although vehicular emissions are the show stoppers, they are the ones which get the media attention, the silent polluters are the diesel generators,” says Arpit Dhupar, one of the three engineers who co-founded the start up.

The idea that this polluting smoke needs attention struck Dhupar three years ago as he sipped a glass of sugarcane juice at a roadside vendor and saw a wall blackened with the fumes of a diesel generator he was using.

It jolted him into joining with two others who co-founded the start-up to find a solution. Dhupar had experienced first hand the deadly impact of this pollution as he developed respiratory problems growing up in Delhi.

An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.
An Indian girls holds a banner during a protest against air pollution in New Delhi, India, Nov. 6, 2016.

A new business

As the city’s dirty air becomes a serious health hazard for many citizens, it has turned into both a calling and a business opportunity for entrepreneurs looking at ways to improve air quality.

According to estimates, vehicles contribute 22 percent of the deadly PM 2.5 emissions in Delhi, while the share of diesel generators is about 15 percent. These emissions settle deep into the lungs, causing a host of respiratory problems.

After over two years of research and development, Chakr has begun selling devices to tap the diesel exhaust. They have been installed in 50 places, include public sector and private companies.

The technology involves cooling the exhaust in a “heat exchanger” where the tiny soot particles come together. These are then funneled into another chamber that captures 70 to 90 percent of the particulate matter. The carbon is isolated and converted into ink.

Among their first clients was one of the city’s top law firms, Jyoti Sagar Associates, which is housed in a building in Delhi’s business hub Gurgaon.

Making a contribution to minimizing the carbon footprint is a subject that is close to Sagar’s heart – his 32-year-old daughter has long suffered from the harmful effects of Delhi’s toxic air.

Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.
Motorists drive surrounded by smog, in New Delhi, India, Nov. 8, 2017.

“This appealed to us straightaway, the technology is very impactful but is beautifully simple,” says Sagar. Since it could be retrofitted, it did not disrupt the day-to-day activities at the buzzing office. “Let’s be responsible. Let’s at least not leave behind a larger footprint of carbon. And if we can afford to control it, why not, it’s good for all,” he says.

At Chakr Innovation, cups, diaries and paper bags printed with the ink made from the exhaust serve as constant reminders of the amount of carbon emissions that would have escaped into the atmosphere.

There has been a lot of focus on improving Delhi’s air by reducing vehicular pollution and making more stringent norms for manufacturers, but the same has not happened for diesel generators. Although there are efforts to penalize businesses that dirty the atmosphere, this often prompts them to find ways to get around the norms.

Also Read: Exposure to Traffic-Related Pollution Poses Threat of Asthma in Kids

Tushar Mathur who joined the start up after working for ten years in the corporate sector feels converting smoke into ink is a viable solution. “Here is a technology which is completely sustainable, a win-win between businesses and environment,” says Mathur. (VOA)