The targets that India has set to reduce air pollution include the introduction of more than one thousand electric vehicles in the coming years. Read Akshit Joshi’s report.
Swiss firm IQAir published a report on ‘World Air Quality’ on Tuesday. In this, it was told that during 2022, India was the eighth most polluted country in the world, which was at the fifth position a year before that in 2021.
IQAir measures air quality based on the amount of particulate matter in the air that damages the lungs. These microscopic particles are called PM2.5. This annual survey is widely prepared by researchers and government organizations around the world.
The new report was prepared using data from more than 30,000 air quality monitors at more than 7,300 locations in 131 countries, territories and regions.
What were the revelations made in the study?
- Talking about the cities with the worst air quality in India, the list includes Darbhanga, Asopur, Patna, Ghaziabad, Dharuhera, Chhapra, Muzaffarnagar, Greater Noida, Bahadurgarh and Faridabad.
- Seven cities of India Tarakeswar, Digboi, Alladu, Kattupalli, Polampalli, Kharsawan and Muthiyapuram were among the 15 least polluted cities in South Asia.
- It was told in the report that the air quality is the worst in India and Pakistan coming in the Central and South Asian regions. About 60 percent of the population here lives in areas where the concentration of PM2.5 particles is at least seven times higher than the standards set by WHO.
- The report also said that in Central Africa, Chad overtook Bangladesh as the country with the worst air last year. The average level of polluted air in Chad was 89.7, while Iraq is second in the list of most polluted countries, where the average level of polluted air was 80.1.
- There is only one city of China in the top-20, Hotan, whose number comes after Lahore. The PM2.5 level was found here at 94.3, while in 2021 it was 101.5.
- Air quality improved in Bangladesh as compared to 2021. In 2021, Bangladesh was described as the country with the worst air quality. It is at number five in the new report. According to Reuters, the PM2.5 level in Bangladesh has come down from 76.9 to 65.8.
- The cleanest air of any country in the world was found in the US Pacific region of Guam. The level of PM2.5 in the air was 1.3 here, while Canberra is on top when it comes to the capital with the cleanest air. Here the level of PM2.5 was found to be 2.8.
It was also told in the report that one out of 10 people worldwide is living in an area where air pollution is dangerous for health.
What is the reason for this problem?
More than 50 percent of pollution in India spreads due to industries. After this, 27 percent pollution is caused by vehicles, 17 percent by burning crops and seven percent by cooking in homes. Let us tell you that more than two million Indians lose their lives due to the problems caused by air pollution.
In urban areas, the reason for pollution is mostly industries and vehicles, whereas in rural areas, most of the pollution is caused by burning of organic material.
The main reason for this is the material, which is used as fuel for domestic stoves and used in heaters needed to keep homes warm during winter.
It is usually mixed with pieces of wood, dry leaves, grass and animal dung, and is compacted into discs and dried in the sun. At the same time, when it is burnt, it produces five times more smoke and other pollutants than burning coal.
It is believed that more than 100 million households use these chulhas three times a day and seven days a week, which is a major cause of air pollution. The small particles that come out due to the burning of fire in these chulhas remain in the air for a long time.
During autumn and winter, a large amount of stubble is burnt in the fields for the purpose of preparing the land for the next crop. This method is much cheaper than re-cultivating the residues in the fields.
During winter, the air quality in the capital Delhi reaches extremely poor condition. It has also been told in the report that only stubble burning is responsible for 32 percent of PM2.5 in Delhi. This figure reaches 292 micrograms per cubic metre, which is five times higher than the standard set by the World Health Organisation.
Many other reasons also play an important role in deteriorating the air quality in India. In fact, vehicles in India run on adulterated fuel, which is common in South Asia. Apart from this, the dust flying during demolition and construction is also very much responsible. Due to all these reasons, the air quality in Indian cities is continuously deteriorating. These are such cases, which are now being seen in rural areas as well.
What is the danger to health from this?
The level of PM2.5 in India is usually much higher than the standards of the World Health Organisation. It is often five times more and those who come in contact with it can have serious respiratory diseases.
Statistics show that poor air quality was attributed to over 1.6 million deaths during 2019. The cause of death was stroke, diabetes, lung cancer and myocardial infarction. All these diseases are directly or indirectly related to the problems caused by air pollution.
The State of Global Air 2020 has noted that air pollution is the most important cause of deaths this year.
Compared to other countries, Indians are exposed to 83.2 micrograms per cubic meter of pollutants compared to clean countries, which record a relatively low figure of just 8 micrograms per cubic meter.
Poor air quality has a serious effect on the respiratory system of humans, as the smallest particles of PM2.5 reach deep into the alveoli in the lung tissue. From here they can enter the tissues of the body and can also enter the heart. Decreased lung capacity, sore throat, cough, fatigue, lung cancer and headache are common symptoms of exposure to polluted air.
The Air Quality Life Index has done another study, which was prepared by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. It was told that due to air pollution, the age of Indians is decreasing by five years. During the first year of the Kovid-19 pandemic, there was no change in the global annual average particulate pollution (PM2.5) from the pre-2019 level.
The study also claimed that in terms of reducing the age of humans, pollution and smoking are almost in an equal position. At the same time, pollution caused by the use of alcohol and dirty drinking water is three times more dangerous, six times more dangerous than HIV/AIDS and 89 times more dangerous than violence-terrorism etc.
Is there any way to escape?
In view of the problem of air pollution, the Government of India inaugurated the National Clean Air Program (NCAP) in the beginning of 2019. Its objective is to reduce the level of air pollution by 20-30 percent by 2024 in more than 122 most affected cities.
This action plan has been started in many areas of the country. However, clearly improved conditions are yet to be recorded.
Action plans have been started in New Delhi, Ahmedabad and Pune. Under this, implementation of Health Risk Communication Plan, increase in monitoring stations and better control of industrial emissions etc. are included.
The targets that India has set to reduce air pollution include the introduction of more than one thousand electric vehicles in the coming years. This is such a scheme, to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi always gave a lot of importance.
It is expected that by 2023, 25 percent of private vehicles on Indian roads will be electric and all will be using renewable energy. Any vehicle more than 15 years old or falling below BS6 emission norms will be banned from the city roads.
Even though other such solutions are constantly being talked about and being implemented, there are many factors which make it difficult to achieve success. Its biggest obstacle is the wild population, which is increasing very fast. Apart from this, the middle class is not holding back from buying cars. On the other hand, there is a lack of development in the rural areas, which forces them to continue with the traditional methods of burning stubble and using fuel. The important thing is that these problems are common.
The geographical location of northern India and its proximity to the Himalayas also make it difficult to escape polluted air. When the wind speed decreases significantly during the winter season, this region comes in a bowl-like form, where there is no room left for the pollutants to escape.