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The Colonial Roots of India's Air Pollution Crisis

A fascinating interrogation of the air pollution crisis in India in EPW by Asher Ghertner. The full article is behind a paywall, unfortunately; Rutgers has a good summary:

Drawing on the "fact" of small Indian lungs, key Indian government ministries have argued something quite different, suggesting that Indian lungs are not uniquely vulnerable to air pollution but rather uniquely "adapted" to tropical air/dust. Small lungs, in other words, are somehow less affected by pollution - they claim. These ministries have used the anatomical difference in Indian lung size to challenge the applicability of World Health Organization and Global Burden of Disease (GBD) integrated exposure-response (IER) functions for air pollution--which define the expected increase in death and illness caused by levels of pollution exposure within a population. Ghertner uses these ministries' arguments and testimonies from judicial records to show how the same argument used in the colonial era to submit Indian workers to unshielded "miasmas" now subjects all citizens to a process of slow death by breath. This also normalizes what he calls a "sequestration" model of atmospheric conduct that maintains that the solution to pollution is enclosure - escape into private cars and townships or self-defense through air pollution masks and personal purification systems - not pollution abatement.