At both CVM Supply World Chicago and the Infosys BPO conference that I attended last last week, I spoke to a number of folks who had been to China recently (including one lucky individual who is planning on taking his entire family to the Olympics). These chats all had a common thread. In nearly every conversation about the region, everyone complained about the poor air quality in the region -- and in some cases how it appears to be getting worse. One anecdote in particular reminded me about how bad it can get in Beijing. A person suggested that when he was there in recent months during a particular dangerous pollution day, he swore that he could visually make up the individual particulates in front of his eyes causing a dense smoke fog across the capital. The thought of it makes me want to cough.
But for those who've spent time in China and think that's as bad as the air can get, India can be much worse from an air quality perspective. According to the above-linked Financial Times article, Mumbai and New Delhi came out even worse off than many cities in China. Perhaps this is not surprising considering that "over the past five years, China has invested about 15 times more than India in transport, sewage and other infrastructure that contribute to improving living standards in urban centres" according to a source close to the study. Still, investment alone in local infrastructure and pollution controls is not yet enough to stop the chronic hack that many city dwellers and business travelers to both regions quickly develop.
- Jason Busch