Continuing my India trip observations, the next set of observations relates to environmental aspects of society. Parameters surrounding my observations are documented in this initial posting.
Before the trip, I was warned about the pollution in Hyderabad and that I should try to stay inside during the day. Furthermore, you often read today about the level of consumption increases in places like India and China and the corresponding impact to the environment related to that consumption. Given this, I tried to keep heightened awareness of the environmental and energy practices around me during my trip.
- I found the pollution in Hyderabad not to be as bad as I had expected. Of course, during the day, I was primarily inside a car or indoors, but the times I was walking around during the day, I was expecting that I may cough or be noticeably bothered by the air. Fortunately, I didn’t find that to be the case, but I suspect if I was out walking for extended periods of time daily, my experience may have been different.
- I did, however, notice a few, but not many, motorcycle drivers or passengers wearing a scarf or handkerchief over their mouth and nose due to what I assume was the pollution. Given, their exposure to the open air and the growth in vehicles on the road all around them, the motorcycle drivers seem to be taking the brunt of the pollution. Again, those wearing scarves were clearly the minority, but I suspect this trend will increase over time.
- At my in laws flat, I noticed that there were no organized recycling for plastic and papers which we typically see in the US.
- I did notice that the plastic bottles for bottled water did have conspicuous instructions to crush the bottle after the use. Initially I thought this was for recycling purposes, but I believe it’s in fact to ensure that the bottles were not reused and filled with tap water and resold as bottled water. Especially in tourist areas, that was a practice I noticed in the nineties but seems to be much less of a problem now.
- New construction is still quite active throughout Hyderabad. One practice I noticed was that dirt mounds to be used on the sites, common at construction sites anywhere in the world, were always open and never covered, even when no one was working at the sites. In the US, those mounds will often be covered with tarp to limit the blowing of dust into the air.
- A common site is burning garbage, particularly in lower income housing areas. This is consistent with prior trips – there doesn’t seem to be a significant change in this practice over the last six years, even with the greater awareness of environmental issues.
- In India, there appears to be a relatively even distribution of diesel vehicles vs petrol vehicles, clearly more diesel vehicles than in the US. From what I understand, diesel vehicles are expected to be nearly 50% of new vehicle sales in India by 2010. I haven’t studied the environmental differences that closely, but there seems to be pluses and minuses for diesel towards the environment. Diesel vehicles generally have better fuel economy than petrol vehicles. Diesel vehicles actually emit higher greenhouse gas emissions per litre compared to gasoline, but the 20-40% better fuel economy achieved by modern diesel-engined automobiles offsets the higher-per-litre emissions of greenhouse gases and consequently may produce less greenhouse gas emissions than comparable gasoline vehicles. The flip side to the improved fuel efficiency is that particular matter (PM) emitted by diesel vehicles is thought to be a major concern and worse than gasoline petrol vehicles. Question becomes how to balance both environmental aspects along with economics and other lifestyle factors. Alternatively, India has been aggressive in using Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) as an alternative to both diesel and petrol, which produces less greenhouse gases than both petrol and diesel.
Here are links to other observations from my trip: