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Sansad TV: Nature Connection- Air Pollution’s Danger

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Introduction:

There is a lot of uproar regarding air pollution in Delhi. The air is so poisonous that even breathing is becoming difficult. The Supreme Court has also said that it is necessary to control this by any means. In view of these circumstances, the Delhi government had earlier decided to implement odd-even from 13 to 20 November, but at present it has been postponed. As far as pollution caused by traffic or transport is concerned, experts believe that if some points are adopted then such pollution can be avoided to a great extent.

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.
  • 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.
  • The lack of wind worsens the pollutant concentration. The Ministry of Earth Sciences published a research paper in October 2018 attributing almost 41% to vehicular emissions, 21.5% to dust and 18% to industries. Emission testing of vehicles is only 25%.
  • According to the WHO, India has the world’s highest death rate from chronic respiratory diseases and asthma. Air pollution also impacts the environment through reduced visibility, acid rain, and formation of ozone at the tropospheric level.

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.

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. The Commission also felt that active public involvement is critical in the abatement of air pollution and identified the following major immediate measures:
    • 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.