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Ashok Kotwal
On demonetisation
Posted on: 23 Dec 2016
On the evening of 8 November, the Prime Minister announced on national television that Rs. ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The GDP conundrum
Posted on: 16 Nov 2016
Ever since India’s Central Statistical Organisation came out with the new GDP series with ... read on »
Introduction to e-Symposium: The idea of a universal basic income in the Indian context
Posted on: 26 Sep 2016
The idea of an unconditional basic income given to all citizens by the State, has caught o ... read on »
Debate: The Aadhaar Bill
Posted on: 02 May 2016
In a debate on the Aadhaar Bill, commentators from academia and civil society will ... read on »

Topic: Environment

Off-grid solar power and the future of rural electrification in India
Michaёl Aklin , Patrick Bayer , S.P. Harish , Johannes Urpelainen
Posted on: 17/07/2017 10:11:38
Topics:   Environment


Off-grid solar power is a potential alternative to grid extension in rural electrification. This column reports results from a recent experiment with an off-grid lighting intervention in Uttar Pradesh. While little evidence of broader socioeconomic changes was found, the study suggests that kerosene subsidies likely hold back the expansion of off-grid solar markets, and that there are many ways in which benefits of off-grid solar power can be enhanced.
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Climate change: The potential impact on global agricultural markets
Arnaud Costinot , Dave Donaldson , Cory Smith
Posted on: 07/07/2017 09:58:49

Many fear that climate change will have severe effects on the global economy, particularly through the threat to food production and farmers’ earnings. This column suggests that much of the potential harm could be avoided if farmers can switch their crops in response to changing relative yields. But it is ‘intra-national trade’ – trade among farmers and between farmers and consumers within countries – rather than international trade that will be crucial in alleviating the consequences of climate change.
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Sacrificing consumption to mitigate catastrophic risks
Timothy Besley , Avinash Dixit
Posted on: 26/05/2017 09:29:32
Topics:   Environment


Many scientists agree that the probability of a rare environmental disaster increases as the stock of greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. This column asks how much consumption current generations should be willing to sacrifice to reduce the risk of such a future catastrophe. If there were a way of immediately eliminating the risk of all future catastrophes, society should be willing to sacrifice 16% of its consumption in perpetuity to achieve this. A sacrifice of 5.8% of annual consumption could bring about a 30% reduction in emissions, in line with the reductions contemplated in agreements such as the Kyoto Protocol.
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Clearing the air
Naini Jayaseelan
Posted on: 23/02/2017 09:43:47
Topics:   Environment
Tags:   pollution


In this article, Naini Jayaseelan, former Secretary, Environment, Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi, discusses the pitfalls of basing policies to curb air pollution on comparisons of air quality indices across countries or cities.
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Demand for environmental quality information and household response to information: Evidence from Bihar
Prabhat Barnwal , Chander Kumar Singh , Alexander van Geen , Jan von der Goltz
Posted on: 20/02/2017 09:59:45
Topics:   Environment , Health


Groundwater contaminated with arsenic is a serious public health threat in rural India. This column presents results from a field experiment conducted in Bihar to assess the demand for fee-based testing of wells for arsenic, and to study the behavioural responses of households to well-specific arsenic information.
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Happy Seeder: A solution to agricultural fires in north India
Ridhima Gupta , E. Somanathan
Posted on: 12/11/2016 09:20:56

It is believed that much of the pollution in Delhi in November every year originates in the neighbouring states of Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn their fields to dispose of crop residue. This column discusses a simple, practical and cost-effective solution to deal with the problem.
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Solar micro-grids in India: A reality check
Anant Sudarshan
Posted on: 01/11/2016 09:44:03

Much of India’s strategy to reduce the use of fossil fuels relies on a transition to solar energy. Based on a survey of potential solar micro-grid customers in Bihar, this column highlights the challenges associated with solar electricity becoming a sustainable and scalable solution, and the need for a new approach.
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Banning commercial surrogacy in India
Ajit Karnik
Posted on: 05/10/2016 09:54:08
Tags:  


In an attempt to protect the welfare of surrogate mothers, the Indian government has proposed to introduce legislation that will ban commercial surrogacy in the country. In this article, Ajit Karnik, Professor of Economics, Middlesex University, Dubai, discusses the threats that are associated with the welfare of surrogate mothers and argues that a ban would compromise their interests further as it would inevitably lead to the emergence of an illegal market for such transactions.
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The hidden productivity benefits of energy-saving technology: Evidence from LEDs in Indian factories
Achyuta Adhvaryu , Namrata Kala , Anant Nyshadham
Posted on: 03/10/2016 09:40:47

Energy-efficient technologies are an increasingly relevant policy priority, given growing consensus on the need to tackle climate change. This column examines the productivity benefits of adopting one such technology – LED lighting – for manufacturing firms in India. It finds that improved productivity resulting from LED lighting’s lower heat emissions makes adopting such technology far less costly than previous anticipated, particularly for labour-intensive firms in hot climates.
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How much will people pay for clean air? Evidence from China
Koichiro Ito
Posted on: 12/08/2016 10:12:16
Topics:   Environment


Policymakers in emerging economies such as India and China are ramping up efforts to confront pollution. A new study of the air purifiers market in China finds that people are willing to pay a lot to get rid of pollution, but the amount varies widely depending on a person’s income. This sort of metric can enable policymakers to assign values to their policies and guide their decisions.
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Improved cooking stoves in India: Evaluating long-run impacts
Esther Duflo , Michael Greenstone , Rema Hanna , Claire Walsh
Posted on: 13/07/2016 09:29:25
Topics:   Environment , Health


Improved cooking stoves are increasingly seen as an important technology to address indoor air pollution. While laboratory experiments have shown that they could have big effects on smoke exposure and emissions, this column finds limited long-run health and environmental impacts of an improved cooking stove programme in Odisha. This indicates the importance of testing interventions in real-world conditions taking into account willingness to pay, usage, and changes over time.
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Driving restrictions in Delhi: Real benefits and warning signs
Gabriel Kreindler
Posted on: 15/06/2016 09:16:42

The driving restrictions policy that Delhi experimented with in January was implemented for a second time in April for a fortnight. This column finds that the policy lowered traffic congestion; the impact was notable in size and consistent over the two rounds. However, drivers managed to partly circumvent the policy legally, and the policy caused some disruption to economic activity.
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Case for electric vehicles through cleaner grid supply
Mudit Chordia
Posted on: 18/05/2016 09:33:37

The Indian government recently announced its plan to make India a 100% electric vehicle nation by 2030. In this article, Mudit Chordia, a Consultant at the University of Chicago Urban Labs, discusses the viability of such a plan in the Indian context.
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Cheaper, cleaner, more reliable: Why invest in cross-border power-trading
Deb Chattopadhyay , P. N. Fernando , Priyantha DC Wijayatunga
Posted on: 07/03/2016 03:19:27

Despite improvements to energy supply over the years, many Indian states still face frequent power shortages. Meanwhile, neighbouring countries such as Nepal and Bhutan have large reserves of untapped hydropower with the potential to meet unserved demand for energy in major load centres. Investing in interconnections could also contribute to significant reductions in carbon emissions. This column quantifies potential gains from an integrated South Asian power.
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Ganga pollution cases: Impact on infant mortality
Shareen Joshi
Posted on: 26/02/2016 09:54:53
Topics:   Environment , Health


In response to a writ petition against pollution of the river Ganga due to industrial waste, the Supreme Court of India in 1987 mandated the tanneries in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh to either clean up or shut down. This column finds that the ruling resulted in a significant drop in river pollution, which in turn reduced infant mortality in the city.
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What is causing Delhi’s air pollution?
Eric Dodge , Rohini Pande
Posted on: 15/02/2016 09:37:28
Topics:   Environment


Several policies aimed at reducing Delhi’s air pollution have been implemented this winter, but what remains unclear is where the pollution comes from. This column takes stock of what we know about pollution sources and the portion contributed by each. It contends that good information systems are required to turn the critical convergence of public concern, policymaker attention, and academic contribution into a smart policy response.
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Driving Delhi: The impact of driving restrictions on driver behaviour
Gabriel Kreindler , Jasmine Shah
Posted on: 08/02/2016 09:46:31

In an attempt to address Delhi’s grave pollution problem, the state government experimented with a driving restrictions policy for a fortnight in January. Based on a phone survey of a sample of 614 drivers in the city, this column describes how the policy changed drivers’ behaviour in terms of labour supply, number of daily trips, travel modes, and satisfaction, between restricted and unrestricted days while the policy was in effect.
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The Paris Agreement: No more chances to fail
Milind Kandlikar
Posted on: 18/12/2015 09:19:02
Topics:   Environment


The Paris Agreement is being viewed with cautious optimism by most observers. In this article, Milind Kandlikar, Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, argues that although the Agreement is not legally binding and largely silent on equity matters, it is in India’s interest to make a credible contribution to global emissions reduction. The twin problems of providing energy for all and growth in emissions may be less coupled than suggested by the Indian government’s position.
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Coal and the climate change debate
Milind Kandlikar , E. Somanathan , Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 03/12/2015 10:14:20
Topics:   Environment


In the run-up to the Paris Climate Summit, there has been a growing call among advanced nations to phase out fossil fuels. In this article, Arvind Subramanian, Chief Economic Adviser, Government of India, argues that shunning coal is not viable for India. Instead, the world should come together to find effective techniques to ‘clean and green’ coal.

E. Somanathan, Executive Director, South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, contends that it makes no economic sense to make further investments in coal, and that public policy should now be focused on renewable sources of energy.

Milind Kandlikar, Professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia, says that he is also not in favour of investing in coal, but is less optimistic about solar power in India in the medium term due to issues of grid integration and land requirements.

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India’s energy efficiency
Ejaz Ghani , Arti Grover Goswami , William Kerr
Posted on: 10/11/2015 04:11:25

India is the fourth largest energy consumer in the world but is not well endowed with energy resources, making efficiency in energy use very important. This column analyses the spatial dynamics of electricity usage in India’s manufacturing sector. Such an understanding can help in defining a more focused and targeted energy policy.
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Using science to improve Indian agriculture
Robert S. Zeigler
Posted on: 26/06/2015 00:00:00

Five years ago, the Indian government imposed a ‘temporary’ moratorium on the commercial release of Bt brinjal – a genetically modified crop - even after it had passed through the due regulatory processes. In this article, Robert S Zeigler, a plant pathology expert, outlines the benefits of transgenic crops and emphasises the need to expedite their adoption in India.
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How development affects climate sensitivity of electricity demand in India
Eshita Gupta
Posted on: 20/05/2015 00:00:00

The annual average temperature in India in 2009 was about 0.91°C above the average temperature recorded during the 1961-1990 period. This column analyses the impact of daily weather as well as long-term climate change on electricity demand in India, and how income growth influences this relationship. It shows that the marginal effect of hotter climate on electricity demand is greater when incomes are higher.
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Incentivising states to conserve forests
Jonah Busch
Posted on: 11/05/2015 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


Central tax revenues will now be shared among states not just on the basis of population, area, and income, but also forest cover. In this article, Jonah Busch, an environmental economist at the Center for Global Development, contends that the fiscal reform has the potential to become quite a potent climate instrument. It can serve as an example for other countries with similar tax revenue distribution systems and high rates of deforestation.
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Making the best out of waste
Sourabh Bhattacharjee , Ujjwal Kumar Sinha
Posted on: 24/04/2015 00:00:00

Given rapid urbanisation and the increasing amounts of solid waste generated in India cities, there is a pressing need for effective waste management processes. In this article, Sourabh Bhattacharjee and Ujjwal Sinha, who have been associated with a successful waste management project in Saharanpur, provide an outline of the project and highlight lessons for other Indian cities.
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Can solar micro-grids deliver basic electricity access in Indian villages?
Michaёl Aklin , Patrick Bayer , S.P. Harish , Johannes Urpelainen
Posted on: 17/04/2015 00:00:00

About one-third of India´s population remains without access to basic electricity services. This column discusses preliminary lessons from an experiment in rural Uttar Pradesh that seeks to set up solar micro-grids in unelectrified habitations. It finds that while the cost of solar power is a potential obstacle to its adoption, the technology does generate substantial benefits in the form of improved lighting and reduced kerosene expenditures.
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Harnessing India’s wind power potential
Deepthi Swamy
Posted on: 09/03/2015 00:00:00

While India’s wind power sector has progressed significantly in the past decade, only about 22% of its potential has been harnessed so far. In this article, Deepthi Swamy - who was part of a team that worked with the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy to develop a framework for the National Wind Energy Mission - discusses the issues faced by the sector, need for a mission-mode approach, and the proposed contours for such a mission.
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Solar power for street vendors? Lessons from an experiment in Bihar
David Szakonyi , Johannes Urpelainen
Posted on: 06/02/2015 00:00:00

Rapid urbanisation in developing countries is aggravating the issue of insufficient access to energy for basic needs such as lighting. This column discusses lessons from an experiment in Bihar wherein street vendors were provided solar-powered lights, the batteries of which were charged at centralised stations installed in urban marketplaces. Based on problems encountered in terms of the mode and cost of operation, it suggests that the provision of electric grid connections, with stand-alone solar lights as backup, may be a better approach.
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Creating the climate for India’s low-carbon growth story
Varad Pande
Posted on: 28/07/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


The ‘Expert Group on Low Carbon Strategies for Inclusive Growth’ recently laid out a detailed roadmap for India to take on climate change mitigation proactively. In this note, Varad Pande – a member of the Expert Group – outlines the key strengths of the roadmap, and contends that India must now create the political and administrative climate to implement it.
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Can a clean energy agenda take off in Delhi?
Marie-Hélène Zérah
Posted on: 19/03/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


Energy transition in cities, through energy conservation measures and increased reliance on renewable energy, has become a key focus of climate change policies. This column outlines the clean energy agenda of the power sector in Delhi, and discusses the endorsement of or resistance to the agenda by public institutions, power distribution companies and users of electricity.
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Deforestation in the Himalayas: Myths and reality
Jean-Marie Baland , Dilip Mookherjee
Posted on: 10/03/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


It is widely believed that the extent of deforestation in developing countries is large and growing over time, and that this has significant adverse effects on local livelihoods. This column presents findings of a study of the mid-Himalayan region, and contends that forest degradation, not deforestation is the key problem. It discusses the determinants of degradation and what can be done to limit it.
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Proposing a solution for Indo-US ‘solar wars’
Saptak Ghosh
Posted on: 28/02/2014 00:00:00

India’s national solar programme mandates the use of domestically manufactured components in solar power installations in the country. The US has filed a WTO case against India, alleging that the policy discriminates against US exports. This column proposes a solution that would address the concerns of US as well as create a domestic market for solar products produced in India.
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Four Changes to trade rules to facilitate climate change action
Aaditya Mattoo , Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 24/01/2014 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment , Trade


Global climate cooperation has collapsed but the need for action has not disappeared. This column argues that only radical technological progress can reconcile climate-change goals with development. It argues that four changes in WTO trade rules could facilitate climate-change action and technological advances without unduly damaging trade.
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Running out of water, walking away from farming
Ram Fishman
Posted on: 18/12/2013 00:00:00

Groundwater tables are falling in India. What will happen when water actually runs out? This column analyses the impact of water scarcity on farmers in Gujarat. It finds that farmers are failing to or choosing not to adapt to the availability of less water. They are forced to shrink cultivation, leave farming or migrate to cities - thereby, reducing food production.
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JNNURM and environmental sustainability
Kavita Wankhade
Posted on: 30/09/2013 00:00:00

The Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission was launched in 2005 as India’s urban flagship programme to close investment gaps in urban infrastructure, and to implement reforms for better urban management. This column assesses the extent to which sustainability concerns are addressed by the programme, and makes recommendations in this regard.
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Economists on the wrong foot
Ashish Kothari , Aseem Shrivastava
Posted on: 11/09/2013 00:00:00

This article asserts that the Sen-Bhagwati debate misses out two crucial elements – communities as agents of development, and ecological sustainability. It emphasises the importance of community empowerment, and backing community initiatives through state policies.
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In pursuit of low-carbon electricity
Ashwini Kumar Swain
Posted on: 06/09/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


The policy debate on low-carbon energy often tends to focus solely on setting targets. This column argues that the State’s capacity to meet targets and the strategies followed to build the required capacity are equally important. Meeting the targets requires creative manoeuvres such as involving and incentivising market players to participate.
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Getting India wrong
Partha Dasgupta
Posted on: 12/08/2013 00:00:00

In this article, Partha Dasgupta argues that deliberations on economic development, as in the recently published books by Bhagwati-Panagariya and Dreze-Sen respectively, are of little instrumental use if they ignore the role that high population growth and environmental destruction play in the persistence of poverty.
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Did the metro help reduce air pollution in Delhi?
Deepti Goel , Sonam Gupta
Posted on: 17/05/2013 00:00:00

The Delhi metro has been operational for over a decade now. Has it helped reduce the high levels of air pollution? This column presents initial findings from research that suggests that the metro has encouraged people to switch from private to public mode of travel, resulting in positive effects on air quality in the city.
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Renewable energy and India’s future
Ramprasad Sengupta
Posted on: 13/05/2013 00:00:00
Tags:   energy


In the world’s second-most populous country, it is unsurprising that the topic of energy supply should be a key issue – and, in particular, its sustainability. This column completes a series on India’s energy challenges. It argues that sustainable energy supply and continued rapid economic growth of India can be compatible.
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Getting to a greener picture of India’s growth story
Varad Pande
Posted on: 08/05/2013 00:00:00

The Expert Group on Green National Accounting calls for including natural as well as human capital in our national accounts, and defining economic growth in terms of ‘wealth per capita’ instead of ‘GDP per capita’. In this Note from the Field, Varad Pande argues that this is a step in the right direction, discusses implementation issues and calls for a new robust cost-benefit rubric for new projects.
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The unsustainability of fossil fuel use in India
Ramprasad Sengupta
Posted on: 17/04/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment
Tags:   energy


India’s dependence on fossil fuel is widely regarded as unsustainable. This column highlights that this unsustainability is not just environmental in character, but is emerging as a macroeconomic one as well, leading to challenges for India on multiple fronts – discovering new sources of hydrocarbon deposits, developing new renewables and strengthening the macroeconomic fundamentals by making India a more attractive destination for FDI.
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Low-carbon development in Indian agriculture: A missed opportunity?
Olivier Charnoz , Ashwini Kumar Swain
Posted on: 12/04/2013 00:00:00

The agricultural sector is the largest contributor of Greenhouse Gases in India. Yet, it has not received due importance in India’s climate change mitigation strategy. This column says that India must prioritise the agriculture sector for domestic climate change mitigation if it is serious about its voluntary commitment to reduce the carbon intensity of its GDP by 20-25% of the 2005 level by 2020.
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Reducing poisoning by arsenic in tubewell water
Chander Kumar Singh , Alexander van Geen
Posted on: 11/03/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Health , Environment


Millions of tubewells across the Indo-Gangetic plain supply drinking water that is relatively free of microbial contaminants. However, many of these tubewells tap groundwater that is high in arsenic and should be used only for washing. This column explores a new approach to field testing in order to distinguish safe from unsafe wells, and suggests that people are willing to pay for tubewell testing.
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India’s energy consumption: The next 20 years
Ramprasad Sengupta
Posted on: 08/03/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment
Tags:   energy


The environment is a concern the world over – and India is no exception. This column plots India’s energy consumption through to 2032, asking where the challenges lie and where policy reform might make a difference.
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US-China relations: Role reversal will slow climate change
Aaditya Mattoo , Arvind Subramanian
Posted on: 23/01/2013 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


This column proposes a new approach to climate change that involves China, and eventually other developing countries, offering inducements to the West to take steps to foster a private-sector led green technology revolution.
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Eliminating Delhi’s November smog
Ridhima Gupta , E. Somanathan
Posted on: 14/12/2012 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment , Health


Around this time every year, the air in Delhi becomes almost unbearable. As politicians and the press point fingers, this column offers up a happy solution.
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The Clean Development Mechanism in India – is it working?
Johannes Urpelainen
Posted on: 01/10/2012 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


The Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol allows developing countries to profit from climate friendly projects, and India is second only to China in using the mechanism to help reduce its carbon emissions. But, unlike China, India does not have a national policy. This column argues that as a result the profits are not going to the states that need them most.
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Has environmental regulation been successful in India?
Michael Greenstone , Rema Hanna
Posted on: 16/07/2012 00:00:00
Topics:   Environment


India has an impressive number of environmental regulations – but have they been a success? This column presents evidence that while initiatives such as catalytic converters for cars have reduced air pollution, there has been far less success in tackling water pollution. It argues that regulators will only be effective when they are given enough power and legitimacy.
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