Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment
In a report by Greenpeace India, 1.2 million deaths take place every year due to air pollution. The report is supposedly based on information available online and RTI applications from SPCB and assessment of air quality performed in 168 cities across 24 states and UTs.
Another report has pointed out that Delhi and Patna are amongst the worst polluted cities in the world. However, GOI syas that these exercises are good for academic purposes but may not necessarily reflect the truth. It also added that it will depend more on the studies done by Indian institutions.
The never-ending struggle
Air pollution problem has increased very severely and over the years its intensity and its seriousness has grown. Many of the international bodies are saying that Delhi is one of the most polluted cities among the world cities. This doesn’t mean that other cities don’t have bad quality but as they don’t have proper measurement mechanism, it is not evaluated enough. However, from whatever data is available, most of the pollutants which have greater consequence, especially the particulate pollutant, breach the safety standard prescribed by CPCB.It should be noted that Indian pollution control boards standards are fairly above the international WHO standards. Even then these standards are breached.
Over the years, measures are taken to tackle the situation but pollution continues to threaten. Now large number of deaths are attributed to air pollution. Though they not be 100% correct, but they are frightening statistics. To find out the actual numbers, it requires serious investigation for which neither personnel, nor the time nor the resources is available.
India has thermal power plants around cities. The pollutants from these plants reach the cities, thereby polluting them fullest. The usage of furnace oil and other high sulphur oil also creates air pollution. Along with it, there are large mounds of solid waste deposited at 2-3 places around the cities. In the north, especially the farmers in Punjab and Haryana, seasonally burn their crop residues for preparing field for their next crop. This happens during the winter when air becomes heavy and dispersion of the pollutants is very low. This creates pollution at low level with dense smog blanketing the cities, most prominently Delhi. At the time of Diwali, the situation gets worse. The heavy vehicles with BS III and BS II are seriously emitting gases which create dangerous pollution. These are the foremost reasons due to which air pollution levels are constantly above danger levels in many cities.
Compare, to improve
Often comparison between India and China is made. Reports have said that in China, the deaths linked to air pollution have steadied but have soared in India where smog readings in major cities routinely eclipse safe exposure levels.
India has recorded 50% pre mature deaths linked to PM 2.5 that seep in the lungs. This increase has been between 1990 and 2015 which coincides with the economic liberalisation.
However, India should not compare itself with china. There is a need to compare it with cities having good quality of air and measures taken to improve it.
During the Olympics in china, they ordered all the factories to remain close but as soon as they got over, the pollution levels increased to the previous times. China has serious problems and hence they always seem to take emergency measures to tackle air pollution. The point is that they are able to impose these measures strictly and implementation is very effective which is not the case in India.
In India, although on the statute books there are many rules and regulations which really are meant to control pollution but the implementation, the machinery and the equipment required for its implementation is not effective.
Finding the solution
It is not a question of fine tuning the air pollution numbers, but about taking a precautionary approach where the pollution levels are high.
The overall response in the nutritional levels of the general public is very low. Therefore their susceptibility and resistance to air pollution is low. At the same time, the standards are also high and they remain breached for a longer period of time.
It has been notified that by March 2017, all vehicles of all descriptions will confirm to BS IV. By 2020, India plans to go to BS 6. This is expected to help India in getting better technology and better fuel standards which will aid to ease pollution levels in air. However it is also a challenge to make the vehicles adhere to the BS IV norms.
These issues have to be tackled in a planned manner and make sure that by 2020, not much air pollution, atleast from vehicles is contained. Better and more augmented public transport system is provided to people.
Shifting from non-renewable to renewable sources is a time bound process. Solar energy is the most promoted form of renewable energy in India but the technology is still not available at an affordable rate.
Till that time, other measures should be taken up such as properly covering construction and demolition sites as they are two major sources of particulates in atmosphere. Most of the vegetation is denuded, deforestation is rampant and soil becomes naked and thus adds to particulate. Thus, measures such as afforestation along the roads, creating green cover in the city areas should be initiated and encouraged.
Poor are more vulnerable to air quality as they spend maximum time on the roads. Also, it has been reported that health exercises is not going to help neither is any amount of nutrition going to save the lungs because pollutants simply go inside and get arrested. This leads to lung capacity keeping on decreasing. If lungs do not work properly, the blood cannot be purified, and thus growth, mental ability, working capacity all gets stressed. The vulnerable population, children, women and elders, are going to suffer the most from air pollution. Though the research on air pollution is going on in some colleges and universities but not much is really available. More than research, it is a question of implementing what is already known that is more critical.
Connecting the dots:
Which are the different pollutions affecting environment, especially humans? Elaborate few of them. Also, determine what can be the practical steps to be taken to tackle the same.