Curious Bends – a rabid burden, two caverns of oil, the death of universal marriage and more

1. Over 35% of the world’s rabies burden is borne by India

“A global report on rabies has found India accounts for more than one-third of all deaths due to dog bite worldwide. Worse, the report says, most victims die at home because hospitalization provides little palliative care and death is inevitable. … According to one study, only 70% of the people in India have ever heard of rabies, only 30% know to wash the wounds after animal bites and, of those who get bitten, only 60% receive a modern cell-culture-derived vaccine.” (3 min read,

2. Pollution is ruining many iconic monuments in India, not just the Taj Mahal

“In Delhi, the white-marbled Lotus Temple, an architectural triumph and pride of the Bahai faith, is wilting under the onslaught of pollution. The temple was built in 1986 and attracts 400,000 visitors every month. But the pristine marble has been fading, despite regular maintenance. So badly, in fact, that the entire temple may look grey in a matter of years, according to the National Green Tribunal, an arm of the Indian parliament that focuses on environmental issues.” (4 min read,

3. A new solar installation will produce electricity for cheaper than coal or natural gas – a first

“In January 2015, Saudi Arabian company ACWA Power surprised industry analysts when it won a bid to build a 200-megawatt solar power plant in Dubai that will be able to produce electricity for 6 cents per kilowatt-hour. The price was less than the cost of electricity from natural gas or coal power plants, a first for a solar installation. Electricity from new natural gas and coal plants would cost an estimated 6.4 cents and 9.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, respectively, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency.” (9 min read,

4. Thanks to a slump in oil prices, India is filling two caverns with $800 million’s worth of it

“Taking advantage of weak global crude prices, down about 42.5% since July 2014, the government is spending about Rs 4,948 crore to shore up what are called strategic oil reserves, which can be used in emergencies, if crude imports are disrupted. Apart from the natural caverns, concrete tanks are being built at Vishakhapatnam port. Both underground facilities can together hold 1.33 metric tonnes of crude—the equivalent of 1,29,221 truck-tanker loads.” (4 min read,

5. Why you can ignore India’s dark monsoon forecast

“While the IMD allows for a wide margin of error of 5% above or below its April predictions, it still rarely gets it right. Even within that 10 percentage point margin of error, its early prediction has been right in only six of the last 21 years.” Simultaneously, “Economists say even if India is hit by another weak monsoon, it is unlikely the country’s grain output will take a huge hit. India’s biggest grain-producing states are more productive than ever and don’t depend on the monsoon anymore.” (3 min read,

Chart of the Week

“The roots of the current [marriage] squeeze go back a generation. Sex-selective abortions became common in China in the 1990s as a result of the country’s strict (now somewhat laxer) one-child-per-couple policy and a traditional preference for sons. A few years later they became increasingly common in India, also because of a preference for sons and helped by the growing availability of prenatal tests to determine sex. In 2010-15, according to the UN Population Division, China’s sex ratio at birth was 116 boys to 100 girls; in India the figure was 111. Though these ratios have fallen a little since their peaks, they are still far above the natural rate, which is 105 to 100. As a result, enormous numbers of girls and women are “missing”—absent, that is, compared with what would have happened if there had not been sex selection.” (11 min read,