Clearing the Air Pollution in India
Various studies, including the one conducted by WHO, have suggested that air quality in India has been slowly deteriorating over the past decade.
Details of various studies:
- The World Health Organisation (WHO) recently reported that 13 of the 20 international cities with the worst fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in air pollution are in India, and Delhi is at the top of the list.
- As many as 54% of India’s population lives in regions that do not meet the NAAQS for fine particulate matter, and nearly every Indian (99.5%) lives in a region with air pollution levels above the stricter guidelines of the WHO.
- WHO has also ranked outdoor air pollution among the top killers in India.
- According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 77% of Indian urban agglomerations exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for respirable suspended particulate matter (PM10).
- It also shows that both the urban and the rural populations are exposed to dangerously high levels of fine particulates (PM2.5).
Effects of air pollution:
- Air pollution can trigger lung cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pneumonia and other acute lower respiratory infections, loss of vision, including cataracts, and it heightens the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Bad air is also blamed for the growth in stress levels as well as non-communicable diseases, such as high blood pressure.
- The annual cost of the environmental damage due to outdoor and indoor air pollution has been estimated to be Rs 1,10,000 crore and Rs 87,000 crore respectively.
- Air pollution has also made India home to the highest rate of deaths caused by chronic respiratory diseases anywhere in the world.
- It also causes acid rain and leads to the formation of Ground-level ozone.
Main Causes of air pollution:
- Growth in the number of personal vehicles.
- Burning of straw in few states during the winter months.
- Untreated industrial effluents.
What is expected from governments, both at the central and state levels?
- The government, in partnership with non-governmental organisations, technical specialists and research organisations, needs to initiate a clean air campaign. This needs to take the form of legislation as well as behaviour-changing approaches.
- Governments, both at the Central and state levels, need to reassess their production and consumption of energy and work with partners for a low-carbon future — one that is more efficient, has more natural gas and a growing share of renewable energy, such as solar and bio-gas.
- Public policy must address the various factors that contribute to toxic air, without damaging the core activities that are crucial to economic growth, which requires coordination across sectors, from industry and power to transport and cooking.
- Governments at the Centre and local levels must also demonstrate the political will to tackle what is a catastrophic public health problem. Local governments must clamp down on the specific pollutants that are pushing their respective cities into the danger zone
The Government has taken the following steps to reduce air pollution in the country:
- Bharat stage-IV emission norms have been implemented in 13 mega cities for new 4-wheelers from 2010.
- Mass emission standards (Bharat Stage III) have been notified for two, three wheelers and diesel driven agricultural tractors from April 1, 2010 throughout the country.
- Stringent Emission Standards have been implemented to regulate emissions from in-use vehicles from October 2004.
- Central Pollution Control Board and State Pollution Control Boards are implementing the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981 to restore air quality.
- A mutually time targeted programme is implemented under Corporate Responsibility for Environment Protection (CREP).
- BS-IV emission standards have been notified for all the diesel commercial vehicles in 20 cities of the country including NCR and other metro cities.
- In Delhi & some other cities most of the public transport is running on CNG instead of diesel.
- The government has also launched a colour-coded national air-quality index in April 2015, along with the promise of more monitoring stations, to continuously monitor the air quality.
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