Most FDI has gone to south India, Gujrat and Maharashtra. In the north, FDI is located around Delhi, Haryana and Punjab.

FDI, Delhi, GDP, growth, environment, quality of life, air quality, Foreign Direct Investment, waste, infrastructure
PTI

For most people today, the ‘quality of life’ is very important. It includes environmental purity of air, water and the city’s sanitation. If the air quality is so poor that people have to wear masks and children cannot play outdoors, then no matter how rich the country is, people, especially foreign investors, will leave. Some years ago, a correspondent from The New York Times wrote an article on Delhi’s pollution and why he was so glad to be leaving Delhi. His son was suffering from bronchial problems and he was not able to live the life he wanted. At that time, Delhi’s pollution level was not as bad as it is today.

Despite the ban on crackers, the air quality has become ‘very poor’ in Delhi and nearby areas. Policemen have been given masks to prevent them from having lung diseases. Most elderly people are suffering from some chronic respiratory ailment. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is the second biggest killer in India after cardio-vascular diseases. Air pollution has reached very dangerous levels and the government’s tardy response is not going to contain it. This Diwali, the ban on the sale of crackers did not help when people could buy crackers from the vicinity of the national capital region. Even a ban on Gensets is too late. The burning of agricultural stubble continues unabated in Haryana and the vehicular traffic is increasing at a mad pace every day. Diesel fumes from old vehicles are supposed to be deadly, but such vehicles are still plying on the roads. What can save us from breathing foul air 24x7 is the moot question because air pollution is sending us running to doctors and hospitals.


What can save us from breathing foul air 24x7 is the moot question because air pollution is sending us running to doctors and hospitals.


On the other hand, the Modi government is focused on GDP growth as it considers it to be the main indicator of success. Niti Ayog wants GDP growth to rise to 10 per cent. Lifting it from the low of 5.7 per cent as soon as possible seems to be their endeavour. There is nothing as jarring as ministers constantly go abroad and try to attract Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), promising great returns. The UPA ministers did it and the NDA ministers are doing the same. This year, India has crossed the $100 billion mark in FDI flows since 2000. But when interested investors come to negotiate deals from now on, they will breathe the toxic air and drink water from bottles even in their luxury five star hotels and they will begin to think twice about investing in India. They will be put off by the traffic snarls and the open garbage within a few miles of all the major airports of Indian cities. Even if they gloss over these problems and may not notice them in their short sojourn, the personnel coming to India to set up plants will experience the foul air as their children will have constant health problems and they will have to live in isolated enclaves with air purifiers.

We of course do need FDI for increasing the growth potential of the country. We need it to upgrade infrastructure and create jobs. But there is no guarantee that the foreign investors will employ more labour in their factories. Their track record is poor on this count as most have gone for capital intensive production in the past. While to attract FDI the government is mainly focusing on Ease of Doing Business ranking for India in which India fares pretty badly at 130th out of 189 countries, it should also think of factors not taken into account in the index but very important today such as environmental pollution. It could become the main factor deterring FDI from coming to India.


India is generating 1,00,000 metric tons of garbage every day — a huge amount of solid waste.


Most FDI has gone to south India, Gujrat and Maharashtra. In the north, FDI is located around Delhi, Haryana and Punjab. Koreans have taken a shine to Tamil Nadu. They are one of the big investors for making cars, household gadgets and phones. They have found Tamil Nadu to be somewhat an ideal location. But it is northern India, specially the poorer states, that need foreign investors more. Tamil Nadu has better infrastructure and labour force but environmentally it is as poor as other states. All over India there is problem of environmental degradation and garbage disposal problems.

India is generating 1,00,000 metric tons of garbage every day — a huge amount of solid waste. One can see mountains of garbage near Delhi in Gazipur which recently collapsed due to gas implosion, killing few people. Solid waste management will be a monumental problem in the future. Stink from rotting garbage is a very off putting factor for tourists and potential foreign investors. In the capital city every day, photographs of uncollected garbage lying on the streets appear in newspapers. These depots of solid waste breed diseases which we are all subject to; we are living with the threat of dengue, viral fever and stomach ailments on a daily basis. This is not the case of people living in other Emerging Economies where people live by and large healthy lives. Also like in the advanced countries, we are experiencing stress in big dozes living in India.

Where is all the solid waste being dumped? Often in the water bodies and the result is that our seas, lakes and rivers are so polluted that it has crossed danger levels, killing fish and other aquatic creatures. Water pollution is really serious. It is such a contrast to developed countries where you can see clean rivers and lakes and drink water from the tap. The culprits are the cash strapped urban local bodies which dump raw sewage into rivers and factories are dumping industrial waste into rivers with abandon. It is awful to see the Yamuna being reduced to a drain which stinks to high heavens in the summer. Same is the case with the Ganges. Huge amounts of money poured into the cleaning of the Ganges have not yielded significant results in improving the quality of water. China with much faster economic growth in the past is facing more or less the same problems but is combatting environmental pollution on a war footing. It has chosen to slow down its GDP growth and clean its environment. Shouldn’t we do the same?

The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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Jayshree Sengupta