Can road building help India’s economy develop?

As anyone who has travelled on them can attest, travelling on India’s roads can be an interesting experience. India is beginning to emerge as a powerful economy, but for a long time, poor infrastructure has held back progress. At the beginning of 2010, the Indian government announced the expansion of investment in infrastructure, to $1 trillion.

This includes an ambitious road building plan:

How is solar power changing lives in India’s rural communities?

Relatively simple and affordable technology often provides the most telling change in terms of developing rural areas in the Less Economically Developed World. This example explains how simple solar technology is providing electric lighting to a small settlement in India and explains the positive impact it is having on people’s lives:

How are glaciers in the Himalayas changing?

It’s no surprise that glaciers in the Himalayas are being monitored closely, their seasonal melting provides hundreds of millions of people with water throughout northern India and beyond. If the glaciers melt the supply of water they generate could become unstable, threatening the livelihoods of those who rely on it.

Beyond water supply issues, there are other problems. Lakes are now building up behind the natural moraine dams left by the retreating glaciers. The growth of these proglacial lakes is putting increasing pressure on the dams, sometimes leading to potentially catastrophic collapses, known as Glacial Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs for short).

Recent research has tried to identify the scale of the problem:

The UN is also involved in the monitoring of potential GLOFs:

A bit more background here:

Here is the UNDP’s assessment of the risk in Nepal:

Flooding in Bihar, India September 2008. How serious is it and can it be prevented?

Millions of people have been affected by flooding across South Asia. The worst affected area has been the state of Bihar in India:

This NASA image shows how one river has changed it’s course due to the flooding:

The floods have been caused by extra rain from the South Asian monsoon, which is essential for the crops which feed the people of the region. The rains can, however, also case devastating flooding:

When such large areas and numbers of people are affected, providing effective relief can be a logistical nightmare and many feel that the Indian authorities have not been able to cope:

As is often the case, the poorest people are affected the most and have least capacity to respond. In India, the entrenched caste system has prevented some people from getting the aid they need:

In 2000 parts of India were suffering severe drought. Can these changes in water availability be expected more frequently in the future?

People are still suffering, a year after the floods hit:

How is society in India changing?

Indian society has traditionally been arranged according to the Hindu caste system, which allocates people to different classes at birth. movement between castes is incredibly hard and many people are discriminated against because of their caste. More recently, people have been challenging this system, resulting in big changes in the way Indians see themselves and each other:

Some stories deomnstrate that the caste system is still a major factor in controlling the lives of Indian people:

What happened at Bhopal?

The Bhopal disaster is one of the most shocking examples of the negative impact that large Trans National Corporations (TNCs) can have in Less Economically Developed Countries (LEDCs).

The incident concerns a poisonous gas leak at a chemical works run by US-based TNC Union Carbide in Bhopal, India, in the early hours of December the 3rd 1984. The initial event is thought to have killed around 10,000 people, with tens of thousands more suffering long term injuries. Serious birth defects are still common in the Bhopal area as a result. There is widespread feeling that Union Carbide was not running the plant as safely as it would have done in an MEDC and was slow to react. There is still widespread resentment at the perceived inaction of Unioin Carbide to admit responsibilty and pay for cleaning Bhopal up, including compensating the victims.

Bhopal arouses strong opinions on those on different sides of the divide over whose responsibility it was and this should be borne in mind when investigating resources and opinion pieces about the event and its aftermath.

The BBC has a relatively well-balanced Bhopal webpage with lots of information and eyewitness reports here: 

There is also a news report from the time of the inciedent:

An overview of the details of the event can be found here:

There is a great little thinking exercise to help you understand what happened here:

There is a useful video explaining the disaster here:


25 years later, there are still people suffering the effects of the leak:

The Bhopal Medical Appeal website can be found here:

What is the future for the slums of Mumbai?

There are plans to improve the slums of Mumbai in India, but how will they affect the thriving small scale recycling plants that operate there?