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Sansad TV: Perspective- Air Pollution: That Choking Feeling

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Introduction:

Air quality in the Delhi-NCR is deteriorating with each passing day and it continues to remain in the severe category. Air pollution in the national capital and NCR region has been severely affecting people’s health especially elders and children. This problem however is not just limited to the NCR region. According to the national Air Quality Index several major and small towns in the country are in the poor to severe category. According to latest assessment by the Centre for Science and Environment, when pollution concentrations from all sources – local, NCR and beyond are added, Delhi’s vehicles account for nearly 17 per cent of total PM2.5 concentration. However, vehicles’ daily share of pollution from local sources varied between 49.3 per cent and 53 per cent during the week of Diwali this year. Delhi-NCR region is most troubled by air pollution at the onset of winter season with stubble burning accounting for at least one third of the pollutants. Various steps have been taken for monitoring and management of air quality for reducing air pollution.

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.
  • There are thermal power plants around Delhi and the polluted air moves towards the neighbouring cities. 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.
  • The bad air quality tells you that the governance is not upto mark.
  • It is a huge problem and increasing geographically every year.
  • According to air quality data compiled by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Delhi is among the world’s most polluted cities.
  • Particulate matter, PM2.5 and PM10 in Delhi, exceed national standards and the more stringent World Health Organization limits.
  • Delhi needs a 65% reduction to meet the national standards for PM2.5. Delhi’s toxic air also contains high doses of sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide.
  • According to the WHO, India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma.

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.
  • 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 enter 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.

Measures to improve air quality:

  • Improving public transport
  • Limiting the number of polluting vehicles on the road
  • Introducing less polluting fuel
  • Strict emission regulations
  • Improved efficiency for thermal power plants and industries
  • Moving from diesel generators to rooftop solar
  • Increased use of clean renewable energy
  • Electric vehicles
  • Removing dust from roads
  • Regulating construction activities
  • Stopping biomass burning, etc.

Way Forward:

  • Undertake a thorough review of the various laws and institutions in order to look at their efficacy and utility.
  • Have detailed consultation with all relevant stakeholders, especially those outside Delhi, which includes farmers’ groups and small scale industries and the public at large.”
  • Draft a Bill and it should be put up for public comments.
  • The members of Commission for Air Quality Management(CAQM) in National Capital Region and adjoining Areas met and reviewed the air quality scenario in the region.
    • Minimize use of personalized transport to the extent possible
    • Restrict travel unless absolutely essential
    • Encourage work from home
    • Strict enforcement of laws and rules regarding dust control measures including at construction sites
    • Strict enforcement to prevent burning of municipal solid waste and biomass
    • Intensify water sprinkling particularly in dust prone areas
    • Use of anti-smog guns at pollution hotspots specially at construction sites
    • Strict implementation of extant rules, Courts and Tribunal orders regarding stubble burning and use of fire crackers
    • Seek co-operation from civil society and public spirited citizens to report air pollution incidents on the Sameer App
    • Encourage coal using industries in NCR to minimize the use of coal in the coming months.