AIR POLLUTION IN INDIA
In India, the problem of air pollution tops over problems like a child and maternal malnutrition, diabetes, smoking, and high blood pressure, etc causes more than 2 million premature deaths.
Air pollution is a phenomenon that happens when excessive quantities substances including gasses, particle, and biological molecules mingle with the environment more than the acceptable amounts.
More than 140 million people breathe in air which is 10% more polluted than the maximum WHO standards. More than one-third of India’s population is exposed to air pollution and 13 out of 20 worlds most polluted city is Indian cities.
Apart from the WHO reports the Greenpeace report said that the world’s largest nitrogen oxide air pollution emission hotspots are in India. Delhi-NCR, Sonbhadra in Uttar Pradesh, Singrauli in Madhya Pradesh and Talcher-Angul in Odisha are the biggest hotspots that have the highest level of air pollution in the country.
EFFECTS OF AIR POLLUTION IN INDIA
Air pollution leads to lower birth-weight, and other acute cardiovascular diseases and even cancer.
Some particles of these pollutants are so minute and so harmful that are so small that when inhaled they can enter the bloodstream, and recent medical research indicates that it can cause the degeneration of blood-brain barriers, leading to oxidative stress, neuron-inflammation, and damage of neural tissue.
The burning of the residue after the crop being harvested in north India, inefficient thermal power plants and usage of fuelwood contribute to the formation of the Asian brown cloud which prevents the monsoon clouds from entering the Indian mainland, resulting in droughts, crop failures, and more people dying.
Indians have their life expectancy cut down by 5.2 percent, those living in the cities like Delhi or Bulandshehr have their lives reduced by 12 years. Children below the age of 5 are being affected the most.
A study even shows that about 2.2 million school children in Delhi are growing up with irreversible lung damage which they will never recover from the number of premature deaths due to outdoor air pollution is projected to increase from three million people globally in 2010 to a global total of six to nine million people in 2060.
CAUSES OF AIR POLLUTION IN INDIA
Fuel and biomass burning
Fuel and biomass burning is the primary reason of the near-permanent haze and smoke that lingers over the north of the Indian Ocean. It is a layer of brown cloud that obstructs the monsoon clouds which results in late monsoons.
These fuels are used for cooking purposes and warmth during winters. There are currently 100 million estimated stoves in use in India, which means they are being used thrice each day. No wonder why India is the highest consumer of fuelwood.
India used 148.7 million tonnes of coal replacement worth of fuel-wood and biomass annually for domestic energy use. The fuelwood quality in India is different from the dry firewood of the United States; and, the Indian stoves in use are less efficient, thereby producing more smoke and air pollutants per kilogram equivalent.
Fuel Adulteration is a common phenomenon in South-Asia and India is no exception. The blame can be put on the taxing systems.
In India, gasoline carries a much higher tax than diesel, which in turn is taxed more than kerosene meant as a cooking fuel, while some solvents and lubricants carry little or no tax.
So when the prices of the taxed hydrocarbons go up people tend to mix taxed and cheaper hydrocarbons, especially the auto-rickshaw and taxi drivers and the addition results in higher levels of HC, CO and PM emissions even from catalyst-equipped cars.
Traffic congestion is severe in India. This means that there are more vehicles on the road per kilometer than the road can actually handle.
Traffic congestion reduces average traffic speed and at low speeds, vehicles burn fuel inefficiently and pollute more per trip as the scientific studies reveal. For example, a study in the United States found that for the same trip, cars consumed more fuel and polluted more if the traffic was congested than if traffic flowed freely.
An average trip speeds between 20 and 40 kilometers per hour, the cars pollutant emission was twice as much as when the average speed was 55 to 75 kilometers per hour. An average trip speeds between 5 and 20 kilometers per hour, the cars pollutant emissions were 4 to 8 times as much as when the average speed was 55 to 70 kilometers per hour.
Fuel efficiencies similarly were much worse with traffic congestion. Some reasons why this problem is so severe in India is because there’s no lane driving in India, a lack of intra-city divided-lane highways and intra-city expressways networks, lack of inter-city expressways, traffic accidents and chaos due to poor enforcement of traffic laws can also be blamed.
India is the third highest emitter of greenhouse gasses only after the USA and China, one of the main reasons of which can be the inefficient thermal power plants in India. As compared to Europe the power plants of India produce more CO2 per kWt of energy produced.
This is in significant part to inefficient thermal power plants installed in India prior to its economic liberalization in the 1990s.
TOLL ON HEALTH
A WHO report said that as high as 98% of children under the age of five are exposed to highly toxic fumes in the developing countries among which India is too was included.
It also said that over 1 lakh children of the same age died in India due to air pollution in 2016. The WHO report said that a total of 101,788 deaths under the age of five- 54,893 girls and 46,895 boys- were reported in 2016 due to the effects of air pollution in houses and outside.
The report noted that air pollution is one of the leading threats to child health and was responsible for almost one in 10 deaths in children under the age of five. Air pollution can also cause childhood cancers, asthma, poor lung function, pneumonia and other types of acute lower respiratory infection, the report said along with premature deaths.
STEPS TAKEN BY THE GOVT TO HELP CURB AIR POLLUTION
The Air Act
This act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution in India and since then there have been some significant improvements in the pollution toll. However, India ranked 141 out of 180 nations in the Environmental Performance Index in 2016.
Odd-even vehicles make a comeback
The Delhi govt had made this initiative strict rule on the usage of personal transportation and to encourage usage of public transportation. This move was appreciated and duplicated in many other places that face problems related to pollution.
Parking fees increased and cycles put up for public usage
Urban transportation needs a complete revolution with cycles and it is appreciable and should be duplicated. Odisha govt has also taken a step towards it with its “Mo Cycle” and “Mo Bus” initiatives.
Strict rules on the construction sites
Construction sites can be blamed for the dust in the city air. Hence this was an initiative to help curb down the dust in the air.
Ban on heavy vehicles entering the city
Heavy vehicles carrying load both clutter and pollute the city roads and are a major cause of traffic congestion. Hence directing them away from that pass through the outskirts of the city helps avoid these problems.
Solutions we suggest to help with Air Pollution
FOR THE GOVT
- The govt should take proper steps to update the technology used in thermal power plants.
- Tax the low-quality hydrocarbons and reduce taxes on the lower quality hydrocarbons to reduce fuel adulterations.
- Make sure all the households in India get the LPG connections to reduce the usage of fuelwood.
- Promote the usage of public transports and usage of cycles for proximity. And for a generation that has gotten used to booking everything on their phones, make these means of transportation available and accessible on mobile apps.
- Constructions of expressways and highways and better quality roads should help with the congestion on roads.
- There should be compulsory pollution check for every vehicle and a strict ban system should be followed for all the vehicles surpassing the maximum standards.
- Promote the invention and usage of electric cars/ transportation.
- Make air filters compulsory for the factories before releasing into the air.
- Strict actions or punishments should be prescribed for burning the straws after harvest and burning dumped garbage.
- Increase area under forest and not the area under plantation/agriculture.
We need to understand that our little steps matter too.
- Lower the consumption of energy at home.
- Looking for the energy star label before buying the appliances.
- Use carpooling, public transportation whenever possible.
- Keeping the car, boat and other engines properly tuned.
- Reduce the number of trips you take in your car.
- Reduce excessive idling on your mobile phone or laptops.
- Reduce or eliminate the usage of stoves and fireplaces.
- Avoid burning leaves, trash, and other garbage
- Use spill-proof gasoline containers to reduce of wastage of fuel.
- Using sustainable clothing, and reducing or avoiding the usages of one-time-use plastics.