India has some of the worst infrastructure we’ve ever seen.  Below is a brief summary of key elements.

Transport – Rail
Rail – India Railways’ network stretches 40,000 miles, moves 7B pax per year and 830 million tons of cargo (6-7-10 IHT).  Yet it’s creaking and lightweight tracks, old cars, slow speeds and overburdened carriages mean each Indian locomotive can only haul 5,000 tons of cargo (vs. 20 for US, China or Russia). To subsidize passengers, India charges 4 times US and 2x China’s cost.  Japan is providing $5B low-cost loans to help India buy Japanese equipment for the western corridor between Mumbai and Delhi.  The World Bank is considering $2.4B loans for the eastern corridor, Punjab to Calcutta, which is projected to be completed by 2017.

Transport – Roads
Our on-site analysis:  India’s 2 million miles of roads are totally degraded, crowded, rutted, and slow.  Cattle stop in the middle of the road and driving is hazardous and largely uncontrolled by signals.  It’s “every man for himself”.  Diesel fumes, constant honking of horns mean a miserable experience getting from point A to point B.  India’s Golden Quadrilateral Project linking Delhi, Calcutta, Madras and Mumbai is the only relief.  But the $1.33 toll is more than most Indians earn in a day (12-6-10 IHT)  India has the world’s highest accident rate, which rose from 80,000 in 2005 to 118,000 last year (6-8-10 IHT)

5-21-10 IHT:  Only 60% of municipal waste is collected in India.  Just 30% of urban sewage is treated.  Only 269 of 5,161 of India’s towns and cities have modern sewage systems, while roughly 33% of the country’s 1.2 B people have no access to a toilet, according to B. Pathak, founder of Sulabh International Social Service Organization.  The rural areas are riddled with roadside trash in heaps or dumped in the countryside.

4-23-10 IHT:  “India is drowning in garbage.  The cities alone generate over 100 million tons of solid waste per year.  Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh has said that if there were a Nobel Prize for filth, India would win it!”  According to citizen watch groups, waste-energy schemes are riddled with corruption thus it is important to instill civic consciousness for everyone to clean up their space.

India relies on coal for over 50% of electric generation.  It imports over 70% of its oil needs.  400 million Indians lack reliable electricity.  India was among the largest producers of greenhouse gases according to a 2007 government report.  India is constructing nuclear plants.  It enjoys 250-300 sunny days/year but coal costs 4 rupees/kwh vs. 17 ru for photovoltaics.

Health and Poverty
The Indian government spends 5% of its $1.2T GDP on health care, focusing on primary care like immunizations.  Its per capita expenditure is $34.  Less than 33% of China (7-6-10 IHT).  Private sector accounts for 80% of total spending.  India only has .7 hospital beds/1000 people vs. world average of 4/1000.  But it’s becoming an emerging medical tourism destination.

According to Harvard School of Public Health study of 54 low and middle income countries, only 15% of Indian women 15-49 are obese.  Obesity is primarily a problem of the rich (Times of India 11-27-10).  Average body mass index is only 21, comparable to other 3rd world nations such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Nepal and Cameroon.  The study found an association between BMI and wealth.

India’s poverty and hunger indexes remain dismal, with 42% of Indian children under 5 being underweight.  The 8 poorest of 28 states and 7 territories (421 million people) have more in poverty than 26 of the poorest nations in Africa. (8-10-10 IHT).

Cities and Environmental Degradation
As April 2010 study by McKinsey indicates between 2010 and 2030, 250 million Indians will migrate to the cities, a figure that exceeds the current total population of all but 3 countries (China, India and US).  India will have 68 cities with a population over 1 million vs. 35 cities in all Europe (5-21-10 IHT)  Delhi currently stands at 14 million, with 7.5 million cars and is polluted with grey smoke of wood fires and exhaust.  According to a recent government study of 127 cities, 80% had over 1 pollutant exceeding air quality standards.

Around 25% of India’s people live along the coast.  According to Asian Development Bank, 26% of India’s shoreline suffers from serious erosion (8-27-10 IHT).  Livelihoods of fishermen, farmers and houses are threatened by rising seas and agriculture is already in crisis.  Population growth and degradation are going to make India a very polluted place in the 21st century.

CNN’s headlines last night indicated “India requires quantum leap in investment.” (12/3/10)

India most of all needs investment in water supply, sewage, roads, airports, and highways to take its rightful place in the world.  From the levels of disorganization we witnessed, we’re not sure this is going to go well.

Claudia and Gail

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