AIR spotlight summary on “Air Pollution – a serious health hazard”.
Air pollution is again hitting the headlines with 2 reports pointing to its catastrophic effects in India. The reports have pointed out that India’s poor air quality causes 1.1 million pre mature deaths every year. Delhi and Patna are among the worst polluted cities in the world.
Increasing Air Pollution
- It is clear that the problem of air pollution has increased very seriously and over the years its intensity and seriousness has grown. In many places there is no proper air quality measurement mechanism. The main constituent of the pollutants are the particulate matter which breaches the standard prescribed by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB). CPCB standards are fairly above the international WHO standards. The standards are breached for longer periods of time.
- There are thermal power plants around Delhi and the polluted air moves towards the neighbouring cities. Many industries are using high sulphur oil which is highly polluted. There are large mounds of solid waste Seasonally farmers of Punjab and Haryana burn their crop residues for preparing their fields for next crop and during the winter the air becomes heavy, there is temperature inversion and the dispersal of the pollutants is very low. During winter we also see people burning fire during night to bear the cold. All this put together has a cumulative effect on the air quality.
- The thrust towards renewable energy is time consuming and expensive. Construction and demolition are the two major sources of Particulate Matter in the atmosphere. Most of the vegetation has been denuded, there is deforestation taking place and soil erosion acts a source for Particulate Matter pollution.
Consequences of Air Pollution
- Large number of deaths (around 2000) is attributed due to pollution which is very frightening. The figures may not be correct because they are only estimates. To find out precise data it requires a serious investigation for which neither the man power is available nor are the time and resources available. Therefore we need to take a precautionary approach towards tackling pollution.
- India has recorded 50% increase in the pre mature deaths linked to PM 2.5 and this is between 1990 and 2015 almost coinciding with the economic liberalisation.
- Air quality has become a serious health issue because the pollutants entre deep inside the lungs and the lungs capacity to purify bloods gets reduced which affects the person’s growth, mental ability and the working capacity especially for children, pregnant women and elderly people.
- Poor people are more vulnerable to air pollution because they are the one who spend more time on roads.
Climate Change and Air Pollution
- Climate change has a bearing on the poor air quality. Because of Climate Change the permafrost in the higher Himalayas is melting. As a result we are seeing landslides which create floods and bursting of many lakes. Therefore we have to tackle global warming and work very hard for which India is making serious efforts. It the global efforts which are required to tackle global warming.
Concerns / Challenges
- In the present situation the nutritional level of general public is very low and therefore their susceptibility and resistance to air pollution is also very low.
- The problem in China about air pollution is as severe as anywhere else. We see emergency measure declared in China. They are able to impose these measures with more tightness and implementation of these measures is more effective. In India the implementation is very loose.
- We see police men imposing fine for moving in the red signal, while we hardly see imposing fine for vehicles emitting high smoke.
- Many of the trucks and the heavy duty vehicles are Bharat Stage (BS) 3 and some are Bharat Stage (BS) 2 which is emitting high level of smoke. It has been notified that by 17th March all vehicles will conform to Bharat Stage (BS) 4 and by 2020 to Bharat Stage (BS) 6. We are conforming to BS 6 at least 8 to 10 years late in India compared to Europe.
- While the vehicular strength keeps on increasing, the road conditions are poor. The mechanical cleaning of the roads has not taken place and the efficient public transport system is not in place.
Need of the Hour
- Recent government initiatives include the notified National Ambient Air Quality Standards, formulation of Environmental Regulations; setting up of monitoring networks, etc. There is much more which needs to be done. It is not the question of sensitisation; it is the question of making people themselves committed towards maintaining air quality. Ultimately the action at the individual level is what matters.
- There is a need for more publicity, transparency and online readily available data which will help in reducing air pollution. People should be committed by preventing those activities and processes which cause air pollution.
- It is not the question of additional research, but the question of implementing what we already know which matters a lot.