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Extensive urbanization in India has led to a dire situation concerning the near-fatal levels

of pollution present. This essay focuses on problems created as a result of air and water
pollution, analyzes solutions which are in place to combat these issues and puts forth
recommendations on the basis of findings, backed by academic sources.
The term urbanization refers to the phenomenon of formation of cities and/or the
increasing population in cities (Todaro & Smith, 2014). Traditionally, urbanization is
accompanied by a rise in per capita income and generally the more developed a country is, the
greater is the share of population living in urban centers. However, in the context of developing
countries, this process takes a markedly disadvantageous role. Stress on already scarce resources
(such as urban infrastructure and employment opportunities) caused by population increase and
internal migration gives rise to many evils such as extreme poverty, inequality, social disorder
and pollution etcetera (Todaro & Smith, 2014).
India is home to 4 megacities, with the largest (Delhi) being home to an astounding 25
million; and this situation is only expected to worsen (Demographia, 2015). By the year 2019,
Indias total urban population will have grown by 25%, causing more stress on scarce resources
and exacerbate problems of urbanization (Euromoniter International, 2015).
Urbanization has a direct impact on polluting water bodies which surround towns and
cities (Khan, et al., 1998). Urban settlements extract water for domestic and industrial purposes
from wells, lakes and rivers etc. Almost all this water is either converted into domestic sewage or
industrial wastewater (Sudha, et al., 2013). The sewage and wastewater is then returned, almost
untreated, into both fresh water bodies and rivers due to lack of proper treatment systems. A
report by the Centre for Science and Environment of India, released in 2013, estimated that
nearly 80% of Indias sewage goes untreated back into its rivers, degrading the quality of this

precious resource immensely (Agence France Presse, 2013). The wastewater then damages
surface water as well as groundwater. In Bangalore, Indias third most populous city, the
reservoir which provides the city with its domestic water is named Byramangala. The quality of
the fresh water of this reservoir has been damaged by the untreated fecal waste which flows into
it. The water in the reservoir was found to contain significant quantities of drug resistant bacteria
such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, Enterobacter and Klebsiella (Skariyachan, et al., 2013). All
these bacteria are life threatening if ingested. Also, industrial effluence from factories (copper
industries, sea food industries, fertilizer industry, alkali chemical industry and thermal power
plant) in cities leads to large deposits of heavy metals in the groundwater (Selvam, et al., 2015).
Groundwater in Mumbai and Chennai city contains high concentrations of heavy metals, such as
copper, which are significantly above the safe drinking levels recommended by the World Health
Organization in their Drinking Water Guidelines (Shimizu, et al., 2013) since they can potentially
cause heavy metal poisoning and corrosion of pipes. Apart from microbiological and heavy metal
contamination, groundwater in all four major metropolis in India have an accelerated level of
chlorine, bicarbonate and nitrate; making it extremely unsafe to be used as drinking water
(Adhikary & Chandrasekharan, 2011).
The Government of India has introduced many initiatives to combat the water pollution
problem. Many policies have been introduced over the years, with the National River
Conservation Plan, which was created in 1985 being the first one which showed the Government
acknowledged the issue (IiCorp, 2015). The plan was to create sewerage treatment plants along
the river banks to target the problem of domestic and industrial waste. It got an update in 1995,
and since then 20 Indian states have benefitted from over 500 STPs established. Since the plans
inception, over 3500 MLD (Million Liters per day) of domestic waste and industrial effluent has

been treated. In the coming years, similar conservation initiatives such as the NLCP and NWCP
were launched. Currently, the National Plan for Conservation of Aquatic Ecosystems is the
largest programme geared towards establishing STPs across Indian waterfronts such as the
Ganga and Namai Basin (IiCorp, 2015). Also recently the Government announced the funding of
USD$1.3 billion for construction of STPs along the Ganges river which will ultimately result in
the total treatment capacity allowing for 4 BLD (Billion liters per day). (Chahduary, 2015)
Even though the creation of STPs along the banks of rivers, lakes and other waterfronts
was touted to be effective, they have failed to deliver on their promise. An MIT study concluded
that in the year 2010, out of the nearly 200 towns sanctioned for the establishment of STPs, only
a quarter of them were operational by the project deadline (Greenstone & Hanna, 2011).
Additionally, in areas where the capacity exists, it is not fully utilized. This is due to insufficient
infratrcutre which can actually transport the sewage and wastewater to these treatment plants; i.e
proper drainage systems do not exist. This failure can be attributed to lack of strategic planning,
trained workers and the deficiency of funds (required for maintenance) faced by provincial
bodies (IiCorp, 2015). Moreover, multiple studies have conclusively stated that the technology
being employed by these STPs are not considerably successful in removing microbiological
bacteria and other pollutants (especially nitrate) from the sewage (Gautam, et al., 2013).
According to the 2014 World Health Organization report on air quality of megacities of
the world, Indian cities constitute over half the top 20 Worlds most polluted cities list, with
Delhi ranking the highest (Park, 2015). Air pollution levels in Indian cities are, on average, a
multiple of 6 of the safe limit levels. Pollution level is measured by the circumference of harmful
micro-pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, zinc, lead, carbon monoxide etc.) which can
be absorbed into the blood stream through respiration and leads to fatalities such as cancer, of

which lung cancer is the most common (WHO, 2014). They also lead to eye irritation, bronchitis
and chronic diseases like heart disease, high blood pressure and tuberculosis etcetera (Gupta,
2004). Various factors, which are a result of rapid urbanization, contribute to this deadly Indian
air, as research proves increased population density in cities leads to increased air pollution
(Chaudhari & Gupta, 2012). Urbanization has led to pollutants coming from stationary sources
(such as factories) and mobile ones such as vehicles. Factories and vehicles release heavy metals
into the atmosphere but other side effects of urbanization are also a significant supplier of heavy
metals. Garbage incineration, road dust and metallurgical processes also release toxins into their
air (Firdaus & Ahmad, 2012). Vehicular emissions are one of the foremost causes of such lethal
air pollution in India, as it constitutes roughly 70 percent of the total sources of air pollution
(Goyal, et al., 2008). The next leading source is industrial emissions from factories which
produce harmful greenhouse gases.
While prevention of industrial emissions is being practiced through Air Quality controls
and laws implemented on private and public industries (Kumar, et al., 2014), the strategy to
prevent air pollution arising from high incidence of vehicles on the roads of Indian cities is
proving to be more fruitful. Under this strategy, public transport systems have been implemented
which aim to reduce the consumption of private vehicles. The first step came with the launching
of the Delhi Metro in 2002, an electric mass rail transit system which provided residents with a
clean, fast, and cheap form of travelling. By 2010, the Delhi Metro had expanded to provide
coverage to the entire city, with its population of more than one million (CNN, 2010). Since then,
other regions have introduced the mass transit rail system. India currently has four rail systems;
in Kolkata, Bengal, Delhi and Bangalore (UNEP, 2015).

The Delhi Metro and other such initiatives seem to be highly effective. According to Mrs.
Roychowdhury from India's CSE (Center for Science and Environment) the Delhi Metro has
prevented roughly 300,000 tonnes of fuel from experiencing combustion and releasing
greenhouse gases (CNN, 2010), Goel and Gupta (2015) conducted a research into whether the
Delhi Metro indeed lowered the incidence on air pollution in its surrounding areas. Their data
was collected over the timespan of two years, 2004-2006 and studied the contaminant levels of a
traffic intersection before and after a new DM extension was installed nearby. Their findings
effectively showed that the rail led to a thirty-five percent reduction in carbon monoxide levels in
localized areas (Goel & Gupta, 2015). So this particular solution appears to be quite successful.
However, reduction in air pollution as a consequence of rapid transit system is only effective as
long as the energy produced to drive the system is considerably less than the reduction provided.
If not, this solution just dissolves into a capital extensive, resource-draining and polluting source
of air contamination; since the metro itself does not incorporate the latest Green technology and
the electricity required to sustain it is produced through the burning of fossil fuels.
Indias megacities are indeed suffering from extreme damage to the ecosystem as a result
of accelerated rates of urbanization. The funding of Sewage Treatment Plants is a short term
necessity to reduce water pollution, but along with it, focus should be given to the
implementation of a first-rate drainage system to facilitate the treatment process and make it
effective. Once the treatment process is perfected, the treated water can not only prevent diseases
but also be employed for industrial and agricultural use. Similarly, while the mass transit systems
retains the potential for lowering air pollution in Indian cities significantly, this potential will
remain latent until a long term solution to the chronic problem of fossil fuel based energy
production is sought. Maybe the answer lies in investing extensively in generating energy from

thermal or hydro power, both of which India is abundant in. Strategic urban planning for city
expansion is a necessary long term goal for the provincial governments.

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