Tag: india

Indian firms push down global vaccine prices – Lessons for Canada

Cheaper vaccines from India are forcing global giants to slash prices. GSK announced its rotavirus vaccines at $2.50 per dose — or $5 to fully immunise a child — in response to a current tender administered by UNICEF.The offer is a 67% reduction in the current lowest available public price.

Hindustan Times

This is good news for many reasons. Preventable diseases kill over a million people every year, and one of the biggest factors in getting vaccinated is cost. India’s healthcare spending was estimated at US$ 40 billion in 2008, going up to 300+ billion in 2023. Forty billion is less than $40 per person, so saving 7-8 dollars on vaccinations alone for every one of the 26 million children born every year is a huge deal.

Development costs of vaccines and drugs are high and success is often uncertain. Pharmaceutical companies have used this to justify government enforced monopolies and per dose prices that are sometimes a 1000 times higher than the incremental cost of production. While this makes for good profits, it means severe lack of access in India, many African countries, and many excess deaths that could have been prevented. For years, India had what was called a process patent, not a product patent, which meant that if you could make a drug with a slightly different process, it would not get patent protection any more. How did this help India?

  1. Affordable drugs – Indian companies could make and sell drugs at a fraction of the cost without paying for drug development.
  2. Pharmaceutical Industry – This enabled the industry to grow and mature.

Of course, this also meant that India was considered an outlaw, and Indian pharmaceutical industry came under great pressure from the WTO to tighten patent laws, which it did. At the time, the concern (rightly) was that tightening patent restrictions would harm India’s pharmaceutical industry and reduce access to drugs. Has this come to pass? In some ways, yes. But the Indian pharmaceutical industry has also matured, and with government help, has been able to do its own development, clinical trials and production (which it was always good at). The focus on tropical diseases like rotavirus also means that US, European Companies, which have since moved away to treating chronic conditions like high cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, etc., have much more competition in the tropical diseases area and cannot charge premium prices to poor people any more.

So dear Canada, while you are negotiating with Europe about “free trade”, and trying to give European companies much greater patent protection for their drugs, know that this will very surely raise costs in the short term. Two important questions:

  1. Will Canada’s drug companies benefit?
  2. Will Canada’s consumers benefit?

Um, let’s take a look at Canada’s top 10 in 2009:

 

Rank Leading Companies Country Market Share (%)
1 Pfizer US 13.4
2 Apotex Canada 7
3 AstraZeneca UK 6.6
9 Merck US 6
4 Johnson & Johnson US 5.3
6 Novopharm (Teva) Israel 4.2
7 Novartis Switzerland 4
5 GlaxoSmithKline UK 4
8 Abbott US 3.9
10 Roche Switzerland 3.1
Source: IMS Health

There is one Canadian company in the top 10, and four European companies. Our pharmaceutical industry is not well positioned to be independent, or work to reduce Canadian drug prices, especially if laws strengthening patent protections for European companies come into effect. This will serve to weaken Apotex, and Canada does not have a big independent pharmaceutical company network born out of years of “isolation” to take advantage of any competition, or competitive advantages. So, while patent “reform” seems to not have hurt Indian industry as much as feared, it sure will hurt Canadian consumers.

 

Green Building in India: NOT

There is a buzz about green buildings. But the question is: what does one mean by building green? And how does one design policies to make the green homes of our dreams?Green is not about first building structures using lots of material and energy, and then fixing them so that they become a little more efficient. Building green is about optimizing on the local ecology, using local material as far as possible and, most importantly, building to cut the power, water and material requirements.

via Green buildings: how to redesign | Centre for Science and Environment.

Sunita Narain makes some excellent points about building in India, and how western architecture influenced glass facades, closed buildings, etc. make little sense in India, and how traditional building concepts, optimised for local conditions would make more sense.

Two points:

  1. Traditional buildings are not necessarily optimised for density. To fit a lot of people in a little space, you need to build up. No, not 100s of stories, but fives and tens? It would be interesting to figure out that contradiction. But I’m no architect and I don’t know the answer
  2. The glass facade concrete skyscraper jungle look is associated with aspirational prosperity, ask any affluent Indian what they like about Hong Kong, or New York, or Singapore, and the shiny buildings will figure pretty high on the list after cleanliness and shopping. This is the kind of building associated with modernity and “class”. Making a sealed glass and concrete hell hole work in regions of high heat and humidity without large amounts of energy use for air conditioning is difficult.

It appears, though, that at least some people are thinking about this, as this book, helpfully titled Tropical Sustainable Architecture, would attest to.

BTW,
Sunita Narain’s editorials for the Down to Earth magazine are always thoughtful, and required reading for anyone interested in India’s development and environmental issues.

The glacier melts away in Ladakh

Ladakh

The enormity of climate change and its impact is on everyone’s lips in this cold desert where over 80 per cent of the farmers depend on the snow melt for their needs. Water is almost a luxury now. There is no authoritative study done so far to estimate the impact of receding glaciers in Ladakh, points out Ms Nisa Khatoon, project officer, of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in Leh. Scarcity of water has led to people digging bore wells in Leh, which is likely to have an impact on the underwater springs. Ms Khatoon also notes a reduction in pasture lands affecting the migration routes of the Changpas, a nomadic tribe that lives near the lakes in the upper reaches of Ladakh.

The Hindu : Opinion / Op-Ed : The glacier melt.

I seem to remember a certain Environment minister claiming that climate change mitigation policies were irresponsible because they would lead to a small drop in GDP growth in his country. If only the people of Ladakh had this luxury. Believers in reincarnation may wish that Mr Prentice be reborn as a farmer in Ladakh circa 2060, but there may not be any farmers in Ladakh come 2050, nor any glaciers, so I guess that would make him a lonely man!

Picture courtesy Rich Drogpa’s Flickr Photostream, used under a creative commons license

US, India and China Talk Climate

The Obama administration is hoping to win new commitments to fight global warming from China and India in back-to-back summits next month, the Guardian has learned, including the first Indian emissions trading scheme.

The US hopes the new commitments will breathe life into the moribund negotiations to seal a global treaty on climate change in Copenhagen in December, by setting out what action each country will take. But many observers say such bilateral deals also risk seriously weakening any Copenhagen agreement by allowing the idea of a global limit on greenhouse gas emissions to be abandoned.

The Guardian

So, as part of Blog Action Day 2009, which is focusing on climate change, I bring you news that the US administration is back, taking some kind of a leadership role in climate change by talking to India and China. The notion that somehow what the US, Europe and Canada do in response to climate change is pointless because China and India are not going to participate is misleadingly inaccurate, sometimes deliberately so. I had written in June about India’s very ambitious solar policy, and China has similar, fairly comprehensive programs on climate change.

The concern that bilateral talks will somehow sabotage the multilateral Copenhagen negotiations is, I think, overstated. More talk is always better, and good things happen when the world’s most high profile polluter signals its willingness to talk, and even initiate talks with countries whose development paths are at a critical stage.

I have not been super hopeful about how things are going to turn out in the next few years. But things have changed quite a bit in the past year. The US appear to have their own climate bill brewing. Europe makes the right noises and has a head start,making the mistakes early. Unfortunately, Canada has given up the ghost thanks to our troglodyte oil man administration. Our main hope now is that the US passes a strong enough bill to affect Canada. Or there is an election leading to a change in administration and Mr Michael Ignatieff and the “liberals” are true to their word on a new, sustainable energy policy.

Canada is now the worst laggard, having extremely high per capita emissions and policy to increase these emissions while actively sabotaging climate talks. We emit a full 2% of all global warming contributors while accounting for about 0.5% of the world’s population. It is understandable given our development path how we got there, but not trying to fix it is criminally negligent and morally bankrupt.

Apparently, the Canadian people could care less, polls indicate that the business as usual administration is increasing its support among Canadians. What is the average Canadian’s responsibility if he/she knowingly supports policy that could lead to mass homelessness, flooding, starvation, wars, species extinction, etc?

On Climate blog action day, I am sad to report that my adoptive country will do nothing but soldier on in its destructive behaviour. No point calling my local MP, she agrees with me!

Climate Talks Sputter

China, India and the other developing nations are upset that commitments to provide financial and technological help made during a U.N. conference in Bali, Indonesia, in 2007 have not translated into anything more tangible.

Mr. Meyer estimated that the United States, Europe and other industrial nations need to come up with $150 billion a year in assistance by 2020 to help develop clean energy technology for developing countries, reduce deforestation that contributes to rising temperatures, and help vulnerable nations adapt to changes attributed to greenhouse gases.

G-8 Nations Fail to Agree on Climate Change Plan – NYTimes.com

Yes, it is true, North America and Europe are responsible for a bulk of the greenhouse gas emissions currently in the atmosphere and need to do the bulk of the work. But it would also behoove India and China to make the right noises. There is no sense that we’re in this together, that we will all be affected, and India and China even more so

Leadership is lacking, the US needs to take a first big step and start things of.

Update

The G8 has agreed to sign on to a limit on warming of 2°C rise in global temperature. Well, how do you get there without reducing CO2 in the atmosphere, which we apparently can’t agree to do? It’s like saying you need to go a 100km more on a road trip, but refusing to agree to fill gas.

There is a chicken and egg problem here. The famously resistant to change US system is working through a climate bill. The world is waiting to see what will happen, but the version of the bill passed by Congress is not strong enough to avert a 2°C rise unless China and India are as aggressive and there is massive technological shift away from fossil fuels. The US system is waiting for signals from the world, reasoning they don’t want to act first and unilaterally. It’s all nice game theory for people watching from the sidelines, but life’s a little more serious…

India goes solar

India, of course, gets a lot of sun, it is wasted in the sense that it makes us sweat, causes us to use increasing amounts of electricity for air conditioning, and all in all, is a pain. So, a plan to use that sun to generate solar energy, of course, is very welcome. Solar energy use obviously is not new in India, my best friend growing up had a solar water heater at home (his family business used to make them). Policy has never kept up because there has not been a push, is this one?

The Union Government has finalised the draft for the National Solar Mission. It aims to make India a global leader in solar energy and envisages an installed solar generation capacity of 20,000 MW by 2020, of 1,00,000 MW by 2030 and of 2,00,000 MW by 2050.

The total expected funding from the government for the 30-year period will run to Rs. 85,000 crore to Rs. 105,000 crore. The requirement during the current Five Year Plan is estimated to be Rs. 5,000 crore to Rs. 6,000 crore. It will rise to between Rs. 12,000 crore and Rs. 15,000 crore during the 12th Five Year Plan.

A crore, BTW, is 10 million. India still uses its own number multiplier system for money that goes in 100s, not thousands. So, a 100,000 is a lakh, and a 100 lakhs is a crore. I never understood why this was not changed when the country went metric. Lakhs and crores, of course, are metric, but can get confusing.

The plan will start off by mandating roof top solar panels for government and government owned industry buildings in an attempt to reduce costs by scaling up. It will be followed by mandated solar water heaters for all commercial buildings and apartment complexes, and use of solar panels for all in industrial buildings. All this is supposed to happen in the next three years, which appears to be wildly ambitious.

India is a federal country with delineation of jurisdictions between the central and state governments on regulation. Electricity happens to be on the concurrent list, meaning both the state and central governments can make laws, and the central government’s laws will always preempt the states. However, building appears to be a local government issue, so managing this huge transition could get tricky. They are all supposed to use the same building code, but given the unevenness of local governance, who knows what implementation will look like.

In Phase II, starting 2012, India will go solar thermal. India and Pakistan have 200,000 sq km of the Thar Desert, a typical dry tropical desert with oodles of space and sun. It would be a good place to site all kinds of capacity similar to efforts in North Africa and Spain.

Solar thermal, if combined with the right kind of transmission and storage technology, could power the world in 7000 sq km, so theoretical capacity may not be an issue. Of course, the storage and distribution are key. Molten salt batteries look very promising for solar energy storage and night use.

India’s electricity needs are daunting. This WolframAlpha search provides the following:

IndiaCanada

Note to Wolfram: your data presentation would result in a failing grade on a middle school term paper, where are the sources? Where did you get your numbers? BIG FAIL!

We in Canada use more electricity than India for about a billion fewer people. Clearly, if India was as profligate as Canada in energy consumption and got the power it needed to get there from coal, we would all be dead soon. India needs to go solar in a hurry and I am glad the government has released a policy that is more ambitious than the US or Canada. It needs the support and funding to make it happen and I for one will be very happy to see progress in this area. Solar power needs big up front costs and little ongoing costs.

Can Indian industry provide the money needed? We shall see. I am not too worried about the photovoltaic panel parts, they will muddle along in typical patchwork Indian fashion with the quality of governance being the controlling factor in success or failure. It is the capital and political will needed for solar thermal that strikes me as problematic. The coal and mining industries are entrenched in some population (and vote) rich states like Bihar based in the central and north east regions and there could be some big losers if India went away from coal (as it needs to in order to prevent catastrophic climate change) and toward solar thermal, which I assume would come out of Rajasthan (West).

Anyway, we live in interesting and sunshiny times, stay tuned for more.

h/t to my one of my favourite climate blogs, solve climate for bringing this article to my attention, love your blog folks!

India has ‘proof of ISI involvement’

India has proof of the involvement of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency in last week’s terrorist attacks in Mumbai but will not level a public accusation because the ensuing tension in bilateral relations would play into the hands of those responsible for the incidents, authoritative sources claimed here on Thursday.

The Hindu : Front Page : India has ‘proof of ISI involvement’

I call BS. If you have “proof”, loudly announcing to the world that you have proof while saying that sharing this proof will “increase tension” is like your boss telling you “I know you are stealing on the job, but I won’t tell you what I know or how I know it because it will increase the tension”. Right…

Why not just work with the known facts? They are damning enough.

Congress-BJP slanging match over terror begins

Even before the gunbattle with terrorists in Mumbai could end, a slanging match on Friday began between ruling Congress and opposition BJP on the issue of handling of internal security and dealing with terrorists.

BJP's Prime Ministerial candidate L K Advani accused the intelligence agencies of failing to get a whiff of Mumbai terror attacks, alleging their preoccupation with "Hindu terror"– an apparent reference to Malegaon blast probe –helped the terrorist plot go undetected.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, BJP's anti-terror mascot, sought to upstage Congress by visiting the three Mumbai spots where the operations against terror were on and was promptly branded as a "publicity monger" by the ruling party.

Congress also raked up the Kandahar hijack episode during the BJP rule and alleged release of terrorists in return for safe release of passengers onboard had brought India to its knees

It also sought to puncture Narendra Modi's anti-terror plank alleging he had failed to provide manpower for a centrally-funded coastal policing

AICC spokesman Manish Tewari accused Advani, who is also the Leader of the Opposition, of failing to accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Mumbai, which would have sent a strong signal of a united India against terrorism.

Advani preferred to go to Mumbai along with Jaswant Singh whose conduct at Kandahar is possibly responsible for what we are facing today", said Tewari at the party briefing.

In a statement, Advani accused the UPA of not being serious about tackling terror. "The government's non-serious approach is reinforced by reports that the Mumbai attackers arrived in the city by the sea route.

via NDTV.com: Congress-BJP slanging match over terror begins

Note to BJP, your associates are responsible for thousands of deaths in state abetted riots and pogroms against Muslims and Christians. Also, your associates are suspected in fomenting acts of terror, shut the fuck up. You are equally complicit in increasing tensions in the country.

Note to Congress, You are also responsible for thousands of preventable violent deaths. You are inept and unable to setup a basic centralized counter terrorism program, you have, on your watch, let India suffer many brazen terrorist attacks without doing anything to improve intelligence gathering or have any kind of rational response. You have been using the Muslim community to gather votes for years without actually doing anything to make things better. You have not been able to bring the organizers of riots and mayhem to justice, hell, you haven’t even tried. You have no right to talk.

If there is one thing that can be done right away, list all the violence that has occurred in the last few years and actually bring the people responsible for this violence to trial, get some convictions, do some good police and prosecution work. Maybe then we can build some confidence in the system. We can’t have Hindus going free for hate crimes/terrorism, we can’t have Muslims going free for hate crimes/terrorism.

Rule of law, quaint, old fashioned, boring, but in the long term, combining a robust counter terrorism program with a low tolerance approach to violence is our only cure.

Terrorists boated in from Pakistan

MUMBAI: Maharashtra Police investigators say they have evidence that operatives of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba carried out the fidayeen-squad attacks in Mumbai — a charge which, if proven, could have far-reaching consequences for India-Pakistan relations.

Police sources said an injured terrorist captured during the fighting at the Taj Mahal hotel was tentatively identified as Ajmal Amir Kamal, a resident of Faridkot, near Multan, in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

Highly-placed police sources said two other Pakistani nationals had also been held in the course of intense fighting on Thursday.

All three, the sources said, identified themselves as members of a Lashkar fidayeen squad.Based on the interrogation of the suspects, the investigators believe that one or more groups of Lashkar operatives left Karachi in a merchant ship early on Wednesday. Late that night, an estimated 12 fidayeen left the ship in a small boat and rowed some 10 nautical miles to Mumbai’s Gateway of India area.

The investigators say the fidayeen unit of which Mr. Kamal was a part then split up into at least six groups, each focussing on a separate target: Mumbai’s Nariman House, which is home to a large number of Israeli families and a Jewish prayer house; the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus rail station; the Cama hospital; the Girgaum seafront; and the Taj and Trident Oberoi hotels.

via The Hindu : Front Page : Three Lashkar fidayeen captured

Well, so it goes, this gives the government and all politicians free license to start bashing Pakistan all over again, while failing to take care of all the changes that need to happen in order to avoid an attack of such brazenness and sophistication. There is no intelligence gathering, no infrastructure to coordinate intelligence, no disaster preparedness, insufficient patrolling of the coasts, gang influences that run deep in the police and the politicians, an inability to run effective investigations, the list is endless.

All that being said, how does one deal with the lawlessness in Pakistan? If we assume that the Pakistani establishment did not have anything to do with this, we are still left with the conclusion that terror groups can function with impunity and in broad daylight in Pakistan’s major cities and just sneak across the border to attack, either in Afghanistan or in India.

The US is bombing the crap out of the Pak-Afghan border, but the terrorists are in the cities and towns, can’t really bomb away. India needs to seriously tighten its borders, and cannot rely on Pakistan’s situation improving any time soon.

Terrorist attacks in Mumbai

Terror struck the country's financial capital late on Wednesday night as coordinated serial explosions and indiscriminate firing were reported from at least eight locations across Mumbai.

At least 18 people are reported killed and 24 are seriously injured.

The coordinated terror strike which reportedly began at 2233 PM at Chhatrapathi Shivaji TerminusCST, formerly known as the Victoria TerminusVT, killed 10 people in the premises of the station, police say.

A petrol pump has been blown up in Colaba by armed men and at least 10 people are reported to have been killed in that strike.

Three persons are killed in a bomb explosion in a taxi on Mazegaon dockyard road and an equal number have been gunned down at the five-star Taj Hotel.

The victims in the hotel were its employees.

via MUMBAI TERROR: Hotels, hospital, bus stands, cinema halls attacked

All the attacks are in relatively affluent neighbourhoods and posh hotels in South Mumbai, clearly designed to terrorize people who would not normally be exposed to terrorist activity, and to further ratchet up tensions in India. Of course, scaring foreigners and tourists is a big deal as well. CST (or Victoria terminus as it is still referred to) is like Grand Central Station in NY city, an iconic Mumbai landmark and the starting point for many many trains. Security in this city of millions is non existent, so I guess such attacks are easy to carry out.