Many may not have heard the names but Vapi in Gujarat and Sukinda in Orissa have been listed among the world's 10 most polluted places by the Forbes magazine, based on the findings of a non-profit institute. <b1>
"In some towns, life expectancy approaches medieval rates, and birth defects are the norm, not the exception," Forbes says, quoting the Blacksmith Institute, based on a study this fall.
"In others, children's asthma rates are measured above 90 per cent and mental retardation is endemic," said the study, done by researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) in New Delhi, among others.
"Sukinda is home to 97 per cent of India's chromite ore deposits and one of the largest open-cast chromite ore mines in the world," says the magazine.
"Seventy per cent of the area's surface water and 60 per cent of the drinking water contain covalent chromium at more than double national and international standards," it adds.
While the main types of pollutants are covalent chromium and other metals, the potentially affected people number 2.6 million.
Vapi, on the other hand, has pollutants because of the production of dyes, petrochemicals, pesticides, pharma, textiles, fertilizers, leather products, paint, chlor-alkali and mercury, Forbes says.
"Vapi's groundwater is reported to be polluted 96 times higher than the World Health Organization's health standards," says Forbes.
"In addition, local produce can contain up to 60 times more heavy metals - copper, chromium, cadmium, zinc, nickel, lead, iron - than non-contaminated produce in control groups."
The number of potentially affected people there is estimated at 71,000.
"Chock-a-block with heavy metals, chemical waste, air pollutants and, in the case of infamous Chernobyl, Ukraine, deadly radiation, these are the worst industrial cesspools on earth," the magazine says about the 20 locations.
"China, India and Russia have landed six cities on this list of 10. Fast-track economic growth and years of unregulated mining and chemical production have laid waste to the homes of millions."
The other eight cities on the list are Linfen and Tianying, China, Norilsk and Dzerzhinsk in Russia, Sumgayit in Azerbaijan, Chernobyl in Ukraine, Summit in Azerbaijan and La Oroya in Peru.
Speaking about the solutions to correct pollution in these hellholes, Blacksmith founder and director Richard Fuller says for less than $1 billion one could largely mitigate the unhealthy effects of all worst places across the globe.
"If you spend 10 per cent of the money, you deal with 90 per cent of the problem," he says. "The fact of the matter is that children are sick and dying in these polluted places. And it's not rocket science to fix them."