Environment & Ecology
In News: Air pollution was responsible for 16.7 lakh deaths in India in 2019, or 17.8% of all deaths in the country that year. This is the largest number of air-pollution-related deaths of any country
- Globally, air pollution alone contributes to 66.7 lakh deaths.
- Overall, pollution was responsible for an estimated 90 lakh deaths in 2019 (equivalent to one in six deaths worldwide), a number that has remained unchanged since the 2015 analysis.
- Ambient air pollution was responsible for 45 lakh deaths, and hazardous chemical pollutants for 17 lakh, with 9 lakh deaths attributable to lead pollution.
Pollution in India
Out of the majority of the air pollution-related deaths in India
- 8 lakh were caused by PM2.5 pollution
- 1 lakh by household air pollution.
- Although the number of deaths from pollution sources associated with extreme poverty (such as indoor air pollution and water pollution) has decreased, these reductions are offset by increased deaths attributable to industrial pollution (such as ambient air pollution and chemical pollution).
- The World Health Organization (WHO) has lowered the guideline value for PM2.5 from 10 micrograms per cubic metre to 5. This means that there is hardly any place in India which follows the WHO norms.
- Air pollution is most severe in the Indo-Gangetic Plain.
- Burning of biomass in households was the single largest cause of air pollution deaths in India, followed by coal combustion and crop burning.
Lack of a strong centralised administrative system to drive its air pollution control efforts:
- The number of deaths remains high despite India’s considerable efforts against household air pollution, including through the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana programme.
- India has developed a National Clean Air Programme, and in 2019 launched a Commission for Air Quality Management in the National Capital Region.
- Therefore, improvements in overall air quality have been limited and uneven.
The Way Forward
- Need for a radical shift in the approach to pollution management efforts: Towards a green recovery model that is less emissions-intensive
- Governance: Along with political will and the ability to reduce corruption at the planning in monitoring level, air pollution control of Indian cities has to be tackled at the city governance level – not at the central level.
- Need integrated surveillance platforms for health and exposure survf-eillance: Population exposure surveillance via biological and environmental monitoring can inform risk attributions within health programmes already in place to reduce the burden of maternal and child health as well as non-communicable diseases.
- Capacity Building: Public and media discussions are needed for the longer-term adverse health effects of chronically high pollution levels throughout the year. More awareness needs to be created among policymakers and the general public about the slow but substantial impact of ambient particulate matter and household air pollution.
- A viable public transport system strategy: While the Metro has provided massive relief to Delhi’s commuters, it is not viable for all economic classes. Therefore, Delhi needs an active bus service that runs on electricity. Regardless of the high initial cost, such vehicles offer other advantages like low maintenance cost, longer service life and lower operational costs per kilometre. More importantly, they reduce pollution levels.
- Electric mobility is a definitive way towards cleaner air, without compromising functionality. A shift to electric mobility is long-overdue.
- An estimated 9 lakh people die every year globally due to lead pollution and this number is likely to be an underestimate.
- Globally more than 80 crore children (India alone contributes to 27.5 crore children) are estimated to have blood lead concentrations that exceed 5 µg/dL — which was, until 2021, the concentration for intervention established by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This concentration has now been reduced to 3.5 µg/dL.
- Earlier the source of lead pollution was from leaded petrol which was replaced with unleaded petrol.
- However, the other sources of lead exposure include unsound recycling of lead-acid batteries and e-waste without pollution controls, spices that are contaminated with lead, pottery glazed with lead salts and lead in paint and other consumer products.
Report referred to in the article: Report on pollution and health published in The Lancet Planetary Health
Source: Indian Express
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