Category Archives: Publications

Low-Cost Strategies to Improve Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries: Experimental Evidence from Nepal

Mani Nepal, Apsara Karki Nepal, Madan S. Khadayat, Rajesh K. Rai, Priya Shyamsundar & E. Somanathan, Low-Cost Strategies to Improve Municipal Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries: Experimental Evidence from NepalEnviron Resource Econ (2022)


Many cities in developing countries lack adequate drainage and waste management infrastructure. Consequently, city residents face economic and health impacts from flooding and waterlogging, which are aggravated by solid waste infiltrating and blocking drains. City governments have recourse to two strategies to address these problems: a) ‘hard’ infrastructure-related interventions through investment in the expansion of drainage and waste transportation networks; and/or, b) ‘soft’, low-cost behavioural interventions that encourage city residents to change waste disposal practices. This research examines whether behavioural interventions, such as information and awareness raising alongside provision of inexpensive street waste bins, can improve waste management in the city. We undertook a cluster randomized controlled trial study in Bharatpur, Nepal, where one group of households was treated with a soft, low-cost intervention (information and street waste bins) while the control group of households did not receive the intervention. We econometrically compared baseline indicators – perceived neighbourhood cleanliness, household waste disposal methods, and at-source waste segregation – from a pre-intervention survey with data from two rounds of post-intervention surveys. Results from analysing household panel data indicate that the intervention increased neighbourhood cleanliness and motivated the treated households to dispose their waste properly through waste collectors. The intervention, however, did not increase household waste segregation at source, which is possibly because of municipal waste collectors mixing segregated and non-segregated waste during collection. At-source segregation, a pre-requisite for efficiently managing municipal solid waste, may improve if municipalities arrange to collect and manage degradable and non-degradable waste separately.

Coastal dilemma: Climate change, public assistance and population displacement

Susmita Dasgupta, David Wheeler, Sunando Bandyopadhyay, Santadas Ghosh, Utpal Roy, Coastal dilemma: Climate change, public assistance and population displacement, World Development, Volume 150, 2022, 105707, ISSN 0305-750X


Linkages among climate change–related environmental stress, public assistance, and the spatial pattern of population change are assessed for neighboring coastal areas of India and Bangladesh. Environmental stress is measured using historical cyclone impacts, salinization, and land loss from erosion. Household migration decisions are based on current and expected future income streams in different locations. Rising environmental damage raises costs, but it may also induce increased public assistance that moderates or neutralizes those costs, diminishing migration incentives, even in areas hard-hit by climate change.

Econometric estimates for the Sundarbans region shared by India and Bangladesh suggest that endogenous public assistance strongly dampens the migration response to rising environmental stress in both countries, though the assistance response and migration dampening are lower in Bangladesh. A broader analysis for the coastal region from India’s Odisha State to eastern Bangladesh finds that present and past cyclone impacts are highly significant for explaining coastal population changes, although responses are lower in India because of lower environmental stress and greater public-assistance intensity. A counterfactual simulation suggests that, as a result of cyclones since 1970, the affected regions are 8–10% less populous in Bangladesh but only 2% less populous in India.

The paper’s findings motivate a discussion of the implications for alternative policy regimes as land erosion increases, and sea-level rise and salinization continue with climate change. After comparing the efficiency and equity of regimes that provide universal damage compensation or leave coastal households to fend for themselves, the paper suggests an alternative approach that focuses public resources on compensation for households that choose to relocate as the coastal threat mounts.

There is no economic case for new coal plants in India

Shoibal Chakravarty, E. Somanathan, There is no economic case for new coal plants in India, World Development Perspectives, Volume 24, 2021, 100373, ISSN 2452-2929


India is the world’s third-largest emitter of CO2 and coal-fired power plants contribute approximately half of India’s CO2 emissions. Indian government policies assume a significant expansion of coal-fired power in India over the next two decades. This paper compares the costs of coal and renewable power, including quantifiable domestic external costs, in 2018 as well as projections for 2025. Our estimate for the environmental cost of coal is 2.4 US ¢/KWh (1.64 ₹/KWh) in the financial year 2018–19. The average cost of electricity from nearly all coal plants in India is greater than the cost of new solar and wind generators in 2018–19 when environmental costs are taken into account. More than 50% of the coal capacity has a social operating cost that is higher than the average social cost of power from renewables. By 2025, the cost of electricity from renewables with storage will be comparable to the domestic social costs of the cheapest new coal plants. We emphasize that this analysis holds without any accounting of climate change impacts in the form of a cost of carbon. There is, therefore, no economic case for new coal plants in India.

Satellite evidence on the trade-offs of the food-water–air quality nexus over the breadbasket of India

Mrinal Singha, Jinwei Dong, Quansheng Ge, Graciela Metternicht, Sangeeta Sarmah, Geli Zhang, Russell Doughty, Sharachchandra Lele, Chandrashekhar Biradar, Sha Zhou, Xiangming Xiao, Satellite evidence on the trade-offs of the food-water–air quality nexus over the breadbasket of India, Global Environmental Change, Volume 71, 2021,102394, ISSN 0959-3780


Access to food, water, and good air quality is indispensable for human life, as reflected in various United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs); however, pursuing food security may pose threats to water security and/or air quality. An important case is northwest India including the Punjab and Haryana states, which is the ‘breadbasket’ of India with a significantly increasing paddy rice area. The rapid expansion of rice farming has stressed groundwater resources and impacted air quality. Satellite observations have the potential to provide data for better decisions on food security, water storage, and air pollution, which would be vital for regional sustainable development. Based on observations from multiple satellites from 2001 to 2018, we found that paddy rice expansion (+22%) increased groundwater depletion (−1.50 cm/yr), residue burning (+500%), and air pollution (+29%, PM2.5) in the breadbasket of India. Moreover, satellite observations showed changes in these interactions after the enactment of a groundwater protection policy in 2009, which decelerated groundwater depletion (−1.20 cm/yr) due to delayed rice planting and harvest dates (∼15d); the latter elevated air pollution in November (+29%, PM2.5). Our finding stresses the need to reconcile the trade-offs and consider the interactions among SDGs 2 (food), 3 (good health), 6 (clean water), and 11 (air quality in cities), in policy-making for sustainable development. An efficient crop residue ultilization and management system, bottom-up groundwater use regulations, and cropping system shift towards less water-consuming crops are critically required to resolve the trade-offs of the food-water–air quality nexus in the northern India. Our study also showcases remote sensing approaches and methods to support and aid the achievement of the SDGs and track their progreses to support regional sustainable development.

The Need for Co-evolution of Groundwater Law and Community Practices for Groundwater Justice and Sustainability: Insights from Maharashtra, India

Cuadrado-Quesada, G. and Joy, K.J. 2021. The need for co-evolution of groundwater law and community practices for groundwater justice and sustainability: Insights from Maharashtra, India. Water Alternatives 14(3): 717-733


With groundwater becoming the mainstay for meeting water requirements for life and livelihoods, countries around the world are experimenting with law reforms in order to establish some guiding rules for its use, distribution and protection. A fundamental question about law reforms is the degree to which they incorporate justice and sustainability. This article, in responding to this question, focuses on Maharashtra, India. We base our response on a content analysis of the 2009 Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management) Act; the 2018 Maharashtra Groundwater (Development and Management Draft Groundwater Rules; 1 and a village case study. Primary data was collected in Pune, Mumbai, and Hivre Bazar village; this included an empirical analysis of 47 in-depth interviews, participation in a number of village meetings and open-ended discussions, and direct observations of groundwater practices. Our analysis led to three conclusions. First, the 2009 Groundwater Act and the 2018 Draft Groundwater Rules are primarily driven by concern for sustainability of the resource, especially in areas where the water table is steadily declining, but when it comes to groundwater justice, no proactive measures are suggested in either the 2009 Groundwater Act or the 2018 Draft Groundwater Rules. Second, there are certain core factors identified at the local level that we believe to be fundamental in facilitating sustainability and – to a lesser extent – groundwater justice. These factors include a community’s ability to: (1) acknowledge that there is a crisis and display a willingness to engage with it; (2) create a rule-bound community groundwater resource; (3) demonstrate leadership and the feeling of community; and (4) utilise awareness, information and knowledge. Our third conclusion is that there is a need for the co-evolution of community practices and state-led groundwater law; such a co-evolution has the potential to put in place arrangements around groundwater that can support both groundwater justice and sustainability.

Environmental justice and the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from New York State

Ruohao Zhang, Huan Li, Neha Khanna, Environmental justice and the COVID-19 pandemic: Evidence from New York State, Journal of Environmental Economics and Management Volume 110, October 2021, 102554


The decline in human mobility and socioeconomic activities during the COVID-19 pandemic has been accompanied by reports of significant improvements in air quality. We evaluate whether there was a uniform improvement in air quality across neighborhoods, with a special attention on differences by race. We focus on the COVID-19 lockdown in New York State, an early epicenter of the pandemic in the United States. Using a triple difference-in-differences model, we find that, despite the seasonal decline in particulate matter pollution starting late March (concurrent with the lockdown period), the lockdown narrowed the disparity in air quality between census tracts with high and low shares of non-white population in rural New York, whereas the racial gap in air quality remained unchanged in urban New York.

Climate Change and Community Resilience: Insights from South Asia

ISBN 978-981-16-0680-9

Published October 2021 by Springer Singapore

Edited by A.K. Enamul Haque, Pranab Mukhopadhyay, Mani Nepal, M.R. Shammin

About the book

This book contains 29 chapters documenting the many ways community-based climate change adaptation and resilience programmes are being implemented in South Asian countries. The narrative style of writing makes the book accessible to diverse audiences from academics and researchers to practitioners in various governmental, non-governmental, and international agencies. At a time when climate change threatens all of humanity, the stories of innovation, creativity, grassroots engagement, and locally applicable solutions highlighted in this book provide insights into the hopeful ways of approaching climate solutions and community resilience. South Asian countries have been dealing with the impact of climate change for decades and thus offer valuable learning opportunities for developing countries within and beyond the region as well as many western countries that are confronting the wrath of climate-induced natural disasters more recently.

The volume is published by Springer Nature (Singapore) and is dedicated to the late Professor Karl-Göran Mäler, one of the founding members of SANDEE. The book is open access, and the readers will have free and unlimited access to this book after the launch.

Split Waters: The Idea of Water Conflicts

ISBN 9780367466428
Published July 6, 2021 by Routledge India
276 Pages 16 B/W Illustrations
Edited By Luisa Cortesi, K. J. Joy
Copyright Year 2021

Book Description

Limited, finite, contaminated, unavailable or expensive, water divides people all around the globe. We all cannot do without water for long, but can for long enough to fight for it. 

This commonsensical narration of water conflicts, however, follows a pattern of scarcity and necessity that is remarkably unvaried despite different social and geographical contexts.

Through in-depth case studies from around the globe, this volume investigates this similarity of narration—confronting the power of a single story by taking it seriously instead of dismissing it. In so doing, it invites the reader to rethink water conflicts and how they are commonly understood and managed. 
This book:

  • Posits the existence of the idea of water conflict, and asks what it is and what it produces, thus how it is used to pursue particular interests and to legitimise specific historical, technological and environmental relations;
  • Examines the meaning and power of ideas as compared to other categories of knowledge, advancing theoretical frameworks related to environmental knowledge, discursive power, social constructivism;
  • Presents an alternative agenda to deepen the conversation around water conflicts among scholars and activists.

Of interest to scholars and activists alike, this volume is addressed to those involved with environmental conflicts, environmental knowledge and justice, disasters and climate change from the disciplinary angles of environmental anthropology and sociology, political ecology and economy, science and technology studies, human geography and environmental sciences, development and cooperation, public policy and peace studies.

Essays by Gina Bloodworth, Ben Bowles, Patrick BresnihanLuisa CortesiMattia Grandi, K. J. Joy, Midori KawabeAdrianne Kroepsch, Vera LazzarettiLeslie MabonRenata Moreno Quintero, Madhu Ramnath, Jayaprakash Rao Polsani, Dik Roth, Theresa Selfa,Veronica Strang, Mieke van Hemert, Jeroen WarnerMadelinde Winnubst

A breath of fresh air: Raising awareness for clean fuel adoption

Afridi, F., Debnath, S. and Somanathan, E., 2021. A breath of fresh air: Raising awareness for clean fuel adoptionJournal of Development Economics, p.102674.


Air pollution is amongst the gravest public health concerns worldwide, and indoor sources are the largest contributors in many developing countries. In our study in central India, we randomly assigned villages to a campaign by rural public health workers to either raise awareness about the adverse health effects of smoke from cooking with solid fuels and measures to mitigate them, or combined health awareness with information on the universal cash-back LPG (liquid petroleum gas) subsidy program or a control group in which neither information is provided. Using LPG sales records, we find an insignificant effect of the campaign on the purchase of LPG refills when measured at annual frequency. However, there was an almost 13% rise in refill consumption per month in the combined treatment, accounting for seasonality, monthly price variation and unobserved sub-district heterogeneity. Self-reported electric stove use rose by almost 50%, over the baseline mean of 6%, and the probability that the household had an outlet for smoke or separate kitchen increased by about 5 percentage points due to the treatment. There was no decline in use of solid fuels at the extensive margin, but the intensity of usage fell on some measures. The findings highlight the salience of financial constraints and the importance of the design of public subsidy schemes in inducing regular usage of clean fuels.

Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian seaport transportation and maritime supply chain

Prathvi Thumbe Narasimha, Pradyot Ranjan Jena, Ritanjali Majhi, Impact of COVID-19 on the Indian seaport transportation and maritime supply chain, Transport Policy, Volume 110, 2021, Pages 191-203, ISSN 0967-070X

Abstract: Impacts of COVID-19 in maritime transportation and its related policy measures have been investigated by more and more organizations and researchers across the world. This paper aims to examine the impacts of COVID-19 on seaport transportation and the maritime supply chain field and its related issues in India. Secondary data are used to analyze the performance indicators of major seaports in India before and during the COVID-19 crisis. We further explore and discuss the expert’s views about the impact, preparedness, response, and recovery aspects for the maritime-related sector in India. The results on the quantitative performance of Indian major seaports during the COVID-19 indicate a negative growth in the cargo traffic and a decrease in the number of vessel traffic compared to pre-COVID-19. The expert survey results suggest a lack of preparedness for COVID-19 and the need for developing future strategies by maritime organizations. The overall findings of the study shall assist in formulating maritime strategies by enhancing supply chain resilience and sustainable business recovery process while preparing for a post-COVID-19 crisis. The study also notes that the Covid-19 crisis is still an ongoing concern, as the government, maritime organizations, and stakeholders face towards providing vaccine and remedial treatment to infected people. Further, this study can be expanded to the global maritime supply chain business context and to conduct interdisciplinary research in marine technical fields and maritime environment to measure the impact of COVID-19.
Keywords: COVID-19; India; Seaports; Maritime; Supply chain; Stakeholders; Sustainability

Download here.

The impact of temperature on productivity and labor supply: Evidence from Indian manufacturing

Somanathan, E., Somanathan, R., Sudarshan, A. and Tewari, M., 2021. The impact of temperature on productivity and labor supply: Evidence from Indian manufacturing.  Journal of Political Economy, 129(6), pp.1797-1827.

Hotter years are associated with lower economic output in developing countries. We show that the effect of temperature on labor is an important part of the explanation. Using microdata from selected firms in India, we estimate reduced worker productivity and increased absenteeism on hot days. Climate control significantly mitigates productivity losses. In a national panel of Indian factories, annual plant output falls by about 2% per degree Celsius. This response appears to be driven by a reduction in the output elasticity of labor. Our estimates are large enough to explain previously observed output losses in cross-country panels.

Pre-print available here.

The distributional impact of climate change: Why food prices matter

Gupta, Eshita, Bharat Ramaswami, and E. Somanathan. “The distributional impact of climate change: Why food prices matter.” Economics of Disasters and Climate Change (2021): 1-27.

We analyze the impact of agricultural productivity losses stemming from climate change in an economy without frictions. The first-order GDP impacts are expected to be small. But the poor have higher food budget shares and food prices will rise. How do distributional impacts diverge from the GDP impact? This is the question that is addressed. The paper considers two major sets of comparative statics: the effect of trade and the effect of economic growth. The model is calibrated to Indian data of 2009 and projections for 2030. The percentage loss of income for the landless is six times the GDP impact in a closed economy. Trade halves this effect and economic growth moderates it substantially. Despite the food price rise, nearly all farmers lose from climate change. The model is simple enough for impact channels to be transparent.

Pre-print available here