Frame

The Energy, Environment and Public Health Cluster at the Mahbub-ul-Haque Research Centre weaves together knowledge from the natural and social sciences to create transdisciplinary scholarship that informs environmental, energy and public health policies in Pakistan.

Focusing on data-driven empirical analysis, our research spans the disciplines of environmental and natural resource economics, development economics, health economics, political science, and environmental science and engineering. Each discipline offers a unique perspective, which we combine to inform the contemporary policy debates on the environment, sustainability, and resource management. Our approach allows us to employ a range of models, frameworks, and methodologies to investigate Pakistan’s various environmental challenges, issues related to access to affordable and clean energy and disparities within the public health sector to develop a rich set of policy prescriptions. A staunch focus on evidence-based policy design binds the various discipline-specific elements of our transdisciplinary work.

Context

As one of the most urbanized countries in South Asia, Pakistan faces various challenges related to environment, energy and public health that are also interlinked in many ways. The environmental issues such as urban air pollution are significantly damaging to human health, quality of life and the economy. While problems with the design of the markets, price regimes, regulations and policies for suppliers and consumers of energy and their behaviors within this socio-political context are inhibiting reliable and affordable provision of energy. Growing demand due to urbanization and poor quality of energy infrastructure has further exacerbated the problem. Finally, Pakistan’s health care system is marked by urban-rural disparities in healthcare delivery and an imbalance in the health workforce. Urban problems like overcrowded cities, poor socioeconomic conditions and worsening environmental conditions overwhelm the system and causes an increase in health problems.

Research Problems

  • Environment:
  • Employ a mix of methods, including causal inference, dynamic optimization, and cost-benefit analysis in research work to quantify the causal impact of interventions on individual, household, and firm behavior
  • Work on randomized control trials investigating the behavioral consequences of the provision of air pollution forecasts, short-term exposure to air pollution, and public dissemination of firms’ emissions data.
  • Assess the potential welfare gains of policies proposed by local environmental protection departments.
  • Engage advanced optimization models to analyze dynamic resource use.
  • Energy
  • Learn how we can extend access to clean and modern energy such as electricity and natural gas to these households, when their willingness and ability to pay is expected to be low?
  • Investigate if credit constraints, perceptions of service delivery, or social norms play a role in their decisions to use and pay for modern energy when it is available?
  • Study to what extent use of off-grid and distributed renewable systems such as solar and wind can play a role in bridging the energy access gap?
  • Seek to understand how we can design policies to influence the use of scarce energy resources across time, space and consumer groups?
  • Explore energy efficiency and conservation from the perspective of controlling environmental externalities in the production and use of energy services.
  • Examine how financial incentives coupled with behavioral nudges (e.g. real time pricing with alerts) can be combined in a simplified way to help consumers conserve energy.
  • Public Health
  • Explore knowledge, attitudes, and practices leading to high fertility rate in women in Pakistan
  • Understand the social and physiological factors associated with increase in the fertility rate and its impact on maternal and child health.
  • Examine childhood mortality, the role of vaccine preventable respiratory and gastrointestinal tract infections in children under the age of 5, and the role of immunization and short-term antimicrobial treatment in prevention of infection for improvement in child mortality.
  • Identify factors associated with child health inequalities, addressing governance and accessibility challenges to immunization, and proposing a way forward to reduce vaccine hesitancy and barriers to immunization, and improve access to basic health care facilities.
  • Investigate the role of political and bureaucratic incentives and autonomy in developing and implementing health policy.
  • Study the role of community engagement in improving public health, and explore understandings of and trust in public health services.
  • Develop an indigenous understanding of factors underpinning malnutrition and its national impact.

We also seek to understand how we can design policies to influence the use of scarce energy resources across time, space and consumer groups. Energy efficiency and conservation is also important from the perspective of controlling environmental externalities in the production and use of energy services. One of the big puzzles in the energy literature is the “energy efficiency paradox”, that is, why consumers fail to adopt seemingly profitable technologies that would help them save money and reduce energy consumption? We need more evidence to diagnose the reasons underlying the underutilization of energy efficiency technologies in developing countries. Credit constraints could certainly slow down the take up of costly technologies but behavioral biases such as time inconsistency, risk aversion, information failures could also play a role and we need appropriate policies to address each of these problems. In addition, we also retain an interest in conducting research on how financial incentives coupled with behavioral nudges (e.g. real time pricing with alerts) can be combined in a simplified way to help consumers conserve energy.

Projects

Geographical Distribution of SARS-Covid-19 in Punjab

This project looks into how geographic differences in incidence and prevalence of disease are the result of genotypic differences in the SARS-Covid-19 virus. Through extensive research, it sets out to determine if viruses isolated from different regions of Punjab have different genotype and whether the role of bacterial colonization in susceptibility to Covid-19 infections.

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