The American Interest
Analysis by Walter Russell Mead & Staff
Environmental Costs Catch Up to India

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The World Bank has released a report estimating that India’s environmental problems are costing the country $80 billion every year. The report blames pollution and land degradation for the country’s limited food and water supply, child deaths, expensive medical problems, and even environmental disasters such as last month’s flooding. India has largely ignored the environmental damage wrought by the pursuit of its economic ambitions, but reducing it could save the country billions of dollars, the Financial Times reports:

Reducing so-called PM10 particulates (large dust particles) by 30 per cent would cut average annual GDP growth by 0.04 per cent, but would save a total of $47bn-$105bn from reduced damage to human health and cut CO2 emissions by 30-60 per cent, the study shows.

‘India has performed remarkably economically, but that’s not reflected in its environmental outcomes,’ said Muthukumara Mani, the World Bank’s senior environmental economist. ‘Grow now, clean up later’ really doesn’t work.”

Typically, developing economies like India have been forced to rely on heavy industry because they lack skilled workers and access to capital. This makes it extremely difficult to pursue environmental policies without constricting economic growth. But India, like China, already possesses a technologically adept workforce well suited to the information economy. So it doesn’t need to slow down its economy in order to save its environment. To the contrary, a healthier environmental policy is not only well within reach; it also makes good economic sense.

 

[Polluted Taj Mahal image courtesy of Shutterstock]

Published on July 18, 2013 5:00 pm