photo by Bruce Thomson (Flickr CC)

India’s capital region is choking on smog and dust, and overburdened with raw sewage.

I recently posted on Asian Correspondent about Delhi’s – and particularly New Delhi’s –– environmental problems, which include a polluted Yamuna river, industrial emissions road dust and smog from vehicles, contributing to serious health problems in the metro region’s 16 million strong population (the federal district is home to around 11 million).

Despite the ill health effects of factories in Delhi, the Indian government is worried about a slowing economic growth rate and is pushing manufacturing. It is addressing environmental concerns with the formation of a Green Manufacturing Committee. There is also some evidence of growing environmental concern in the Indian media as well as in the words of President Partibha Patil, who has a national program aimed at instilling green values in the country’s youth.

But when a city’s air is just plain bad and its infrastructure can’t handle sewage problems, even the mega-rich can’t fully escape the toxic environment that surrounds them, though a high rise in Gurgaon with its own generator, private parks and markets is a pretty good try.

Gurgaon, a Delhi satellite city built for India’s growing middle class, is full of private, walled communities, but bereft of public space. Similar to the Alphavilles in Brazil, gated communities in the US and private condominiums inside megamalls in the Philippines, Gurgaon is in fact more haphazard and was built with little, if any, planning.

A report from Delhi’s Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE), the groundwater in Gurgaon is at risk of being depleted and contaminated by untreated human waste. Cholera and other water-borne diseases are also a major worry.

From the Guardian:

Gurgaon’s inhabitants may live in glass towers and luxury residences but they have the same problems as the slum dwellers. The roads are potholed, electricity is intermittent, and there are no pavements or parks, only vast shopping centres surrounded by parking lots.

It’s understandable that those with a bit of money would like to avoid things like crime, dirt and blackouts, but sometimes – without democratic, structural change – it just can’t fully be done.