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The city of Dhaka, Bangladesh

Air pollution is a problem in many parts of the world, but especially India, China, Bangladesh and a number of other countries in Asia.  During the World Economic Forum it was announced that India has the world’s worst air quality.  Is the air pollution experienced in these countries primarily due to human activities such as heavy industry? Likely. A combination of emissions from vehicles, coal power plants and other sources is enough to make populations vulnerable to diseases caused by breathing in polluted air.  But it’s not like this is a new problem, many of the more developed countries have had similar if not the same problems with poor air quality and in many cases still do.  For example, London’s air decreases the life expectancy of its residents. Read more

Dr Alexander Densmore reports from northwestern India on a new project funded by the NERC Changing Water Cycle programme that investigates the effects of past, present and future climate on groundwater systems in this part of the world.

Northwestern India is the country’s breadbasket.  The plains of Punjab and Haryana now produce most of the nation’s wheat and rice due to a focused programme of agricultural growth over the last few decades.  The semi-arid climate and highly seasonal monsoon precipitation, however, mean that this lush productivity comes at a cost.  Northwestern India is also one of the world’s worst ‘hotspots’ of groundwater depletion –- in other words, groundwater is being extracted from the subsurface at a far higher rate than it is being recharged by precipitation and river flow.  A key regional-scale study using GRACE satellite data, published by Rodell et al. in Nature in 2009 (‘Satellite-based estimates of groundwater depletion in India‘), showed that across the states of Punjab, Haryana, and Rajasthan, groundwater was lost at a rate of more than 50 km3 per year from 2002 to 2008.  This unsustainable deficit poses a grave threat to the continued development of the region, home to more than 100 million people.  What’s more, there are indications from regional-scale climate modelling that climate change over the next 30-50 years is likely to decrease summer monsoon precipitation and delay its onset, in precisely the regions that are worst affected by groundwater depletion.

To begin to understand this issue, we are starting a new research project on the aquifer systems of northwestern India, funded by the UK National Environmental Research Council and the Indian Ministry of Earth Sciences.  I am working with researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur, Delhi University, the National Institute of Hydrology in Roorkee and Imperial College London. Read more

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This presentation was given by Prof Durgesh Rai from the Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur at the ‘When the Shaking Stops‘ workshop on secondary hazards in Durham University.   The workshop brought together researchers from China, Iran, India and the UK to share experiences and best practice in assessing, and dealing with, both the primary and secondary effects of large earthquakes.  Prof Durgesh Rai’s presentation focuses on the impacts of secondary hazards on infrastructure.  He reviews damage caused by earthquakes in India since the late 1800s and addresses the need for developing earthquake-resistant buildings in India, especially the use of high quality building materials.

This is one of a series of screencasts from the workshop, more will be available soon.

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