8 Facts About Deadly Air Pollution in India You Were Unaware Of

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(Newswire.net — February 8, 2023) — Air pollution is a global environmental health issue affecting people in developed and developing countries. In India, air quality is worsening continuously, and rising air pollutants make it impossible to breathe fresh and clean air. The impact of air pollution has left everyone worried about their health, and the facts about deadly air pollution in India are shocking – 

1. 10 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are in India –

About 10 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities are in India, and almost 99% of Indians breathe the air above the WHO’s defined safety limits. According to IQAir’s 2020 World Air Quality Report, India’s cities, on average, exceed WHO guidelines for the amount of PM2.5 in the atmosphere by 500%. It is due to the emissions from vehicular traffic, the burning of fossil fuels in cooking by poorer families, and the fumes from waste burning. 

2. The health cost of this is as high as USD 80 billion –

One in eight deaths in India was due to air pollution in 2017. The health cost of this is as high as USD 80 billion. Also, about 1.24 million deaths caused by air pollution are more than those caused by diarrhoea, tuberculosis, HIV, or malaria.

3. Staying indoors can not save you from air pollution –

If you think staying indoors protects your lungs from blocking up, that’s not true. Indoor air quality is usually poorer than outdoors because of contaminated air pollutants such as PM 2.5, VOCs, dust, mould and fungal spores. Indoor air pollution is a significant risk factor for the development of chronic respiratory diseases.

4. Loss of welfare from PM2.5 pollution is 5.9 percent of GDP – 

Air pollution profoundly impacts the gross domestic product (GDP). The health impacts of pollution show a high cost to the economy. According to World Bank estimates, loss of welfare from PM2.5 pollution is 5.9 percent of GDP. 


 5. Low-income populations are overexposed to air pollution –

The poorest people in our society who contribute less to air pollution suffer more as they live near main roads where air pollution is worst. They cannot afford the latest technology, such as air purifiers and proper face masks. They usually do mining and traffic management jobs or work as industrial labourers, which overexposes them to higher amounts of particulate matter. They rely on polluting fuels such as wood, dung, or kerosene for cooking and heating.

6. Children are more susceptible to air pollution – 

The average life expectancy of a child is reduced by at least 2.6 years due to air pollution. Further, 10 percent of all under-five deaths in 2016 were caused by worsening air quality. Air pollution also affects children’s lung development and results in premature deaths. High respiratory symptoms have been noted in 32% of children examined in Delhi compared to 18.2 % of rural children. The symptoms are higher during the winter.  

7. Air Pollution is a public health emergency –

WHO considers air pollution a public health crisis and indicates that most diseases are linked to air pollution, which is responsible for chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases, lung cancers, pneumonia and birth, weight, child growth, obesity, and bladder cancer. Delicate particulate matter (PM2.5) passes through the lungs into circulation, and toxic gases such as NO2 reach the cardiovascular system through the bloodstream. These initiate ischemic heart disease, neurological disorders, stroke, and reproductive issues.

Image source : CEEW

8. Rural areas need more real-time monitoring and have only 26 manual stations –

The Central Pollution Control Board is executing a nationwide programme to monitor ambient air quality known as the National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP). India has 804 manual and 286 real-time air quality monitoring stations. Most monitors in India are located in urban areas. By discrepancy, rural areas need more real-time monitoring and have only 26 manual stations, most of which are in Punjab. The lack of monitoring infrastructure has hidden air quality issues in rural India. 

The government uses satellites to identify the air pollution sources that affect a city’s air quality and can design regional air quality management plans to mitigate the impact of air pollution rise. Satellites measure the concentration of particles in the atmosphere by observing how much light reaches the surface of the Earth and how much is reflected. 

What measures are in place to combat air pollution?

Air pollution is not a regional issue but a cross-jurisdictional and worsens further due to the interaction of pollutants from multiple sectors. Indian Institute of Technology Kanpur has collaborated with the Department of Environment, Forest & Climate Change [and others], supported by Clean Air Fund, to enable real-time measures to mitigate and plug pollution sources.

During the lockdown, the pollution level in cities across the country drastically slowed within a few days, which shows that lockdown is an effective alternative to prevent air pollution. 5About 40% to 50% improvement in air quality is identified just after four days of starting lockdown. 

The government introduced the National Clean Air Programme (NCAP), which aimed to reduce the concentration of particulate matter in the atmosphere by at least 30% by 2024. The NCAP is implemented in 132 cities, of which 124 cities have been identified based on non-conformity with National ambient air quality standards for five consecutive years. In 2022-23, Control of Pollution has been allocated Rs 460 crore, an 18% increase over the revised estimates for 2021-22. 

To control air pollution in Delhi, the government installed two smog towers that can clean 1000 cubic meters of air within a one-kilometre radius per second. It has 40 fans and 5,000 air filters that suck polluted air and release filtered air. However, according to an analysis by the Council on Energy, Environment and Water (CEEW), a New Delhi-based think tank, smog towers are not a scalable solution to curb air pollution. 

To find bold solutions to combat India’s air pollution problem, ACT Grants recently started India Clean Air Challenge (ICAC), which requests innovative startups to make scalable solutions to improve India’s air quality.

Challenges we face today:

We need to identify all significant sources of contamination to find an effective solution – 

  1. Many pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other hazardous air pollutants (HAPs), come from industrial facilities. Local and international authorities must enforce strict HAP and VOC abatement standards to reduce air pollution from industries.

  2. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is working to reduce air pollution. It brings some solid air pollution abatement laws to protect ozone layers, limiting the effect of global warming and prioritising areas with high contaminants.

Future challenges:

  1. As the population increases, more industries are developed, resulting in a rise in air pollution. Governments find better regulation techniques or more effective abatement mechanisms that reduce their environmental impact.

  2. The biggest issue with air pollution is rising continuously because only a small percentage of industrial facilities have a proper pollution abatement system. The rest contribute to pollution.

  3. Many companies fail to concede to environmentally-friendly approaches because they can readily get away with them. Governments take strict action if companies are not adopting the laws set by the established organisations.



FAQs –

Are smog towers efficient in reducing air pollution?

A smog tower comprises 8-10 air purifiers, but they only act upon particulate matter and do not purify the gaseous pollutants. So, we need more effective ways to deal with air pollution than the smog tower. 

What else can we do to tackle air pollution?

To tackle air pollution, we must be encouraged to opt for efficient public transport instead of depending on private vehicles. Similarly, some rigid laws, such as emission trading and congestion pricing, must be implemented to reduce emissions drastically. Apart from these, the government must promote alternate energies, e-cars, e-bikes and hybrid vehicle types. All these measures will help minimise city pollution effectively.


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