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Is urban wastewater treatment effective in India? Evidence from water quality and infant mortality

Claire Lepault ()
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Claire Lepault: CIRED - Centre International de Recherche sur l'Environnement et le Développement - Cirad - Centre de Coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - AgroParisTech - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - Université Paris-Saclay - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, PSE - Paris School of Economics - UP1 - Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne - ENS-PSL - École normale supérieure - Paris - PSL - Université Paris sciences et lettres - EHESS - École des hautes études en sciences sociales - ENPC - École des Ponts ParisTech - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique - INRAE - Institut National de Recherche pour l’Agriculture, l’Alimentation et l’Environnement

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Abstract: In developing countries, untreated sewage exposes people to alarming water pollution levels, yet there is limited knowledge about the effectiveness of wastewater treatment investments. I leverage the national inventory of sewage treatment plants in India and various granular datasets on river water quality measures, as well as geo-localized information on child births and deaths, to identify robust effects of wastewater treatment installations. To do so, I use estimators robust to staggered adoption within a difference-indifferences design and compare urban areas that started wastewater treatment from 2010 onwards and urban areas where such treatment was planned or under construction in 2020. I show that after starting wastewater treatment, levels of fecal coliforms decreased by 50%, and downstream mortality under the age of six months declined by 20%. A back-of the-envelope calculation suggests that starting wastewater treatment earlier-from 2010 onwards-in urban areas later selected into treatment-after 2020-would have prevented over 40,000 child deaths in downstream sub-basins.

Keywords: infrastructure; wastewater treatment; water quality; infant mortality; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2023-10-06
New Economics Papers: this item is included in nep-dev, nep-env, nep-hea and nep-res
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