Curious Bends – nuclear Himalayas, tiny Indians, renewables victory and more

1. 50 years ago a bomb’s worth of plutonium was lost on India’s second highest mountain. The mystery remains unanswered

“In October 1965, the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and India’s Intelligence Bureau (IB) joined hands in a clandestine mission to install a nuclear-powered sensing device on the summit of India’s second highest peak, also one of its most revered: the 25,643ft (around 7815m) Nanda Devi in Uttarakhand’s Garhwal Himalayas.” Then they lost the plutonium-filled device. Fifty years later we still didn’t know where it is. (20 min read, livemint.com)

2. India’s preference for sons has created a nation of tiny people

“Indian children are among the shortest in the world, and the country’s preference for sons might be to blame. Globally, one in four children under the age of five is stunted—that is, they grew at a slower rate than a healthy child would. This stunting is manifest in shorter than average height. About half the stunted children live in Asia and another one-third live in Africa. India has the fifth-highest stunting rate in the world—nearly 40% of the children were stunted in 2005. This is a worrying proportion, even if you didn’t know that by 2020 India is projected to have the world’s youngest population.” (3 min read, qz.com)

3. The Ghanian puzzle: “Water, water, every where; not a clean drop to drink”

“Despite an abundance of water sources, most people in Ghana can’t simply turn a knob in the wall to get it. The water infrastructure in the country does not even come close to meeting demand; to call it patchwork would be an insult to quilts. Ghanaians have to balance their time, money and safety to determine where they will get a drink. Millions of them choose to get their water in 500-ml plastic sachets. And some of them get their sachets from Johnnie Water.” (25 min read, mosaicscience.com)

+ The author of this story, Shaun Raviv, is a freelance journalist. He’s “currently American, formerly Ghanaian and Swazi.”

4. The Indian government heavily subsidises private healthcare at the cost of public amenities

“Since medical insurance payments are tax-deductible, up to a quarter or more of the insurance premia that support the private corporate hospitals is probably claimed as a tax waiver. In other words, the government is paying Rs 6,000 crore for the sustenance of these corporate hospitals; those insured pay the rest. On top of this, state and local governments have provided land at subsidised rates to these hospitals, in return for free or subsidised treatment to poor patients, who were to account typically for a quarter of the total patients. There is no corporate hospital that has met its obligations on this score; in one infamous case, the hospital said it had promised free treatment but not a free bed or bed linen.” (3 min read, businessstandard.com)

5. Suicide will soon become India’s #1 killer

“On being asked whether he thought the government of India was doing enough for mental health problems in India, Patel told TOI “Nowhere near the need, witness the complete absence of public health approach to suicide for example”. An earlier research by professor Patel on suicides in India had thrown up shocking findings. Four of India’s southern states — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Karnakata and Kerala — that together constitute 22% of the country’s population were found to have recorded 42% of suicide deaths in men and 40% of self-inflicted fatalities in women in 2010.” (4 min read, timesofindia.com)

Chart of the Week

“The race for renewable energy has passed a turning point. The world is now adding more capacity for renewable power each year than coal, natural gas, and oil combined. And there’s no going back.” (bloomberg.com)

Capacity addition by energy sources, divided as fossil fuels and 'clean' energy.
Capacity addition by energy sources, divided as fossil fuels and ‘clean’ energy.