Synergistic Impact of Air Pollution and Heat on Health and Economy in India

Abstract

In recent years, developing countries have been grappling with two significant environmental challenges—air pollution and increasing temperature. The impact of these issues on health and the economy has been extensively studied, leading to a growing body of literature highlighting their individual consequences. Understanding the synergistic effect of air pollution and increasing temperature on human well-being is a new topic of research that has received little attention in developing nations.

This chapter, published in the book The Climate-Health-Sustainability Nexus: Understanding the Interconnected Impact on Populations and the Environment (Springer), aims to address this gap in knowledge by thoroughly examining the existing literature to understand the combined influence of these environmental stressors and their implications for global health and the economy. We look into the trends of global exposure to air pollution and temperature and explore the pathophysiological pathways through which air pollution and increasing temperature affect human health. Our findings point to a severe lack of evidence on the synergistic impact of the two on human health in India. In the face of increasing climate vulnerability, the Indian economy is exposed to large degrees of risk through direct and indirect costs. It is crucial that the interplay between air pollution and heat be studied in depth. By dissecting these pathways, policymakers and healthcare professionals can develop more targeted strategies to mitigate the combined impacts of both on public health.

Finally, we focus on the health and economic co- benefits of implementing interventions to reduce air pollution and combat heat waves. By addressing these challenges in tandem, there is an opportunity to achieve greater overall benefits for both human well-being and economic prosperity. Through a deeper understanding of these interconnected challenges, we can strive for a healthier and more sustainable future for all, especially for those most vulnerable to poor environmental quality.

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Uneven and Combined Development and the Politics of Labour in an Eastern Indian Coalfield: Shifts and Changes from Late Colonialism to Neoliberalism

Introduction

Trotsky’s notion of uneven and combined development has been discussed extensively in the literature on extractive industries in the Global South. The debates originated in studies on Latin America but they are equally relevant for any other country of the Global South. In the Indian context, the development of extractive industries such as coal mining rests on, reproduces and constantly re-combines unevenness between India and other countries as well as within the country. This was the case when large-scale industrial mining began in India during the colonial period, primarily for railways, such as the East Indian Railway, and for local industries and export trade (Ghosh 1977). Mining continued to set the trajectory after the country gained Independence in 1947, when the state expanded the extraction of coal to feed its ambitious project of rapid industrialization in the name of ‘development’. Both, the ‘temples of modern India’ – as the first Prime Minister Nehru called the large integrated steel mills – and the large coal mines were concentrated in the subnational states in central and eastern India, such as Odisha, Jharkhand (formerly part of Bihar) and Chhattisgarh formerly part of Madhya Pradesh) (Das 1992; Adduci 2012; Adhikari and Chhotray 2020). As is well known, the expansion of open-cast coal mines entailed a plethora of environmental degradation as well as the large-scale dispossession and displacement of usually marginal agriculture-based communities and the dismantling of their agrarian structure (Nayak 2020; Noy 2020). The changing industrial policies since Independence also re-created and re-combined unevenness in the labour regimes, first by expanding the formalization of the erstwhile almost exclusively casual mining labour forces and later on by re-informalizing them.

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Media, Politics and Environment: Analyzing Experiences from Europe and Asia

Introduction

Environmental protection has not equally established itself as a permanent fixture in the political systems of all countries: to date, governments and entire societies have responded to environmental challenges in a variety of ways, and concrete environmental policy is still a highly national matter. Moreover, the perception of environmental problems varies considerably on a global scale. The reasons normally cited for these differences largely stem from the environmental policy debates themselves, e.g. poverty, ignorance, capital interests, etc. In contrast, this book shows that concrete environmental policy emerges from a complex interplay of mass media and political conflicts: first, the mass media provide the framework for national environmental policy through agenda-setting, framing and scandalization; second, the mass media thereby change values in the political and social discourse, e.g. by altering the perception of global commons and expanding the possibilities of interest articulation; and third, this can lead to political decision-making processes in which legal and other measures for environmental protection are enforced. The book systematically compares industrialized countries such as Germany and Japan with several rapidly emerging countries in South and Southeast Asia.

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State’s Commitment to Environmental Governance in India: Struggle Between Developmental Pressure and Sustainability Challenges

Summary

Over the last 50 years since environmentalism first exploded onto the world political agenda, the environment has been one of the most controversial and rapidly growing areas of public policy. The green movements in North and local grass-root movements in the South countries have elevated the debate for environmental policymaking and governance. Countries in both North and South have enacted several policies and regulations for environmental protection. However, these policies have been criticized due to their superficial protective coverage, absence of concrete measures and poor execution.

Taking these contexts in the background, this chapter has tried to examine the concept and practice of environmental governance in India. It has provided a historical overview of the environmental governance and also highlighted the challenges and opportunities in the different spheres of environmental decision making by taking some examples. Methodologically, the paper would be based on a path-dependent analysis of the environmental governance in India. This chapter argues that balance in the environment-development trade-off is necessary to meet growth objectives and the enforcement measures do not necessarily obstruct the growth. Further, more public engagement as well as creative politics are required for better environmental decision making.

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Climate Governance and Federalism in India

Summary

The chapter puts forward a synthetic account of the forces shaping climate governance in India’s federal architecture, building on descriptions of environmental federalism (Arora and Srivastava 2019; Chakrabarti and Srivastava 2015; Huang and Gupta 2014); state actions in climate policy (Dubash and Jogesh 2014; Jorgensen et al. 2015; Kumar 2018); and several recent policy moves by both the Centre and states. It describes India’s federal architecture and environmental governance processes before showing how the federal system is adapting to the climate challenge. The chapter also reflects on the inherent vulnerabilities of this form of climate governance.

The volume (Climate Governance and Federalism: A Forum of Federations Comparative Policy Analysis Cambridge University Press) brings together leading experts to explore whether federal or decentralised systems help or hinder efforts to mitigate and adapt to climate change. It reviews the opportunities and challenges federalism offers for the development and implementation of climate mitigation and adaptation policies and identifies the conditions that influence the outcomes of climate governance. Including in-depth case studies of 14 different jurisdictions, this is an essential resource for academics, policymakers and practitioners interested in climate governance, and the best practices for enhancing climate action.

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International Environmental Law in the Courts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan

Summary

This chapter, published in The Oxford Handbook of International Environmental Law, focuses on international environmental law (IEL) in the courts of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Review of the case law reveals that Indian courts have led the adoption of the IEL principles in this region, with occasional references to IEL by Bangladeshi and Pakistani courts. This appears to follow the trend of non environmental cases, where also the Bangladeshi and Pakistani judiciary is more reluctant than the Indian courts to turn to international law. Although courts in the three countries have engaged with IEL, it has mostly been at a superficial level. Their reliance on IEL is not always accompanied by strong judicial reasoning, making it difficult to determine their content and scope, and even their relevance in particular scenarios. Given development imperatives in these countries, courts are often faced with the ‘economy/development versus environment’ question. In such situations, the courts rely on IEL in an instrumental fashion in support of the final outcome of the case, rather than engaging with the substantive content of the IEL principles.

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Climate Litigation in India

Summary

India is one of the countries most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. It is also one of the highest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world, although its per capita GHG emissions are very low. An active participant in international climate negotiations, India’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) is considered 2 °C compatible, and its current policy framework is likely to support two of the three targets set out in its NDC.

While the success of the policy framework will be determined by various social, environmental, economic and political factors, it will also depend on the ability of individuals to hold public and private actors accountable for their actions (and inactions), which aggravate the causes and impacts of climate change.

A review of the legal and regulatory landscape in India reveals that the main environment and energy related laws, policies and regulatory processes offer several hooks to bring climate claims to courts. While there have been cases where courts have referred to climate concerns, there is yet to be a judicial decision on the justiciability of climate claims, or one that directs measures specifically for mitigation or adaptation. The jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of India and the High Courts as well as that of the National Green Tribunal is quite broad, and they could potentially decide various types of climate claims. However, one should not be overly optimistic as Indian courts often refrain from interfering in government decisions and policies on infrastructure development and Indian courts are notorious for their overflowing dockets and massive judicial delays.

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The Environment (Regulation in India: Design, Capacity, Performance, Hart Publishing)

Summary

Environmental health across indicators in India is rapidly declining, and the state’s failure to regulate sources of, and causes for, environmental degradation has never been more apparent. The reasons for this failure are numerous and complex: conflicting interests in limited resources; inadequate regulatory capacity to design and enforce the law effectively; lack of interagency coordination; and environmental issues not being politically salient enough to trump competing policy interests and priorities. As the country grapples with an increasing array of environmental problems, it is an important moment in time to reflect on the nature and quality of the environmental regulation that is in place.

 

This chapter analyses the design, implementation, and enforcement of two environmental laws passed by the Parliament – the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 – with a view to understanding the factors that contribute to the failure of pollution regulation in India. Section I analyses the regulatory landscape of pollution control in India, and examines the role of the main statutory environmental regulators, the Pollution Control Boards, in implementing and enforcing the Water Act and the Air Act. Section II explores the administrative and judicial tools available for the enforcement of pollution regulation. Section III outlines critical issues affecting the efficacy of pollution regulation in India. Finally the chapter proposes the way forward through incremental changes in the regulatory landscape which could lead to significant gains.

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The Ecological Costs of Doing Business: Environment, Energy and Climate Change

Summary

What perspective did the BJP government bring to the link between environment, energy and climate change on the one hand and development on the other, and what consequent actions has it taken? In this essay published in ‘Re-forming India: The Nation Today’, Penguin India, the authors assess the government’s actions in areas of environment, energy and climate change with a view to interpreting its track record.

Focusing less on environmental outcomes and more on the changes in direction introduced by the government, Dubash and Ghosh explore four themes. First, they examine the government’s focus on the ‘cost of doing business’ and ask whether reducing this cost has come at an environmental price. Second, they analyse cases in which an environment and energy agenda was driven by political imperatives, such as around energy access or Ganga rejuvenation. Third, they explore whether and how the government has addressed the emergent big picture environment and energy questions that will shape India’s future, beyond immediate regulatory changes. Finally, they examine its diplomacy in the areas of climate change and energy, and reflect on what the accumulated record implies in terms of India’s environmental governance.

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India in a Warming World: Integrating Climate Change and Development

Introduction

As science is increasingly making clear, the problem of climate change poses an existential challenge for humanity. For India, this challenge is compounded by immediate concerns of eradicating poverty and accelerating development, and complicated by its relatively limited role thus far in causing the problem. India in a Warming World explores this complex context for India’s engagement with climate change. But, in addition, it argues that India, like other countries, can no longer ignore the problem, because a pathway to development innocent of climate change is no longer available. Bringing together leading researchers, activists, and policymakers, this volume lays out the emergent debate on climate change in India. Collectively, these chapters deepen clarity on why India should engage with climate change and how it can best do so.

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