Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Air Pollution in India and its Impact







                    
                     Often, Lucknow skies are shrouded in a mist  that indicates chronic and extreme air pollution. This mist does not evaporate during the day but  only  seems to get thicker. Outsiders coming from cleaner cities,both  foreign and Indian , can immediately detect the difference in air quality. Lucknow air has a strange smell and taste. It can be choking at times and can cause  an irritating  cough.This is not only the story of Lucknow. The whole of north India is submerged in its own polluting emissions.
      Air pollution causes irritation in nose, throat, lungs and eyes. It causes breathing problems and aggravates existing health conditions such as emphysema and Asthma.Frequent exposure to polluted air increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Particulate matter in the polluted air can induce hardening of the arteries, triggering cardiac arrhythmia or even a heart attack.People afflicted with heart disease, children and older people are more sensitive to and are affected more by air pollution .Inhalation of particulate matter  has  adverse health impacts and there is understood to be no safe thresholds below which no adverse effects would be anticipated. The biggest impact of particulate air pollution on public health  is understood to be from  long term exposure to PM 2.5  which increases the  age specific mortality risk , particularly from cardio vascular causes. Several plausible mechanisms of this impact on mortality have been proposed although it is not yet clear which is the most important. Exposure to high concentrations of PM (e.g. during  short term pollution episodes) can also exacerbate lung and heart conditions, significantly affecting quality of life, and increase death and hospital admissions. Children, the elderly and those with predisposed respiratory and cardio vascular disease are known to be more susceptible to the health impacts from air pollution.
                           The largest source of air pollution in cities is from vehicle exhaust fumes. In large cities, over 80% of the fatal pollutants that cause lung damage comes from cars, buses, motor cycles and other vehicles on the road.The pollutants like sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide come from factories, automobiles and industrial or manufacturing plants. These gases react with water molecules in the atmosphere to produce acid rain.
                                   India  is the country with the worst air quality in the world. According to World Health Organisation, India has 13 out of top 20 cities in the world with the highest level of PM 2.5 air pollution.Delhi tops all the cities in the world  with highest (153)  level of PM 2.5Lucknow is the  tenth most polluted city in the world with level of PM 2.5 at  96. A list of top 20 cities in the world with the highest level of (Particulate Matter) PM 2.5 micrograms per cubic metre are as below: [source: W.H.O. Report, 2014].Out of 20 top polluting cities in the world,5 are in Uttar Pradesh.This calls for Uttar Pradesh government to  come up with a series of steps  to control  air pollution  on a war footing , by taking the help of all stake holders.
S.No.
City
PM 2.5
  1.  
Delhi (India)
153
2.                   
Patna (India)
149
3.                   
Gwalior (India)
144
4.                   
Raipur (India)
134
5.                   
Karachi (Pakistan)
117
6.                   
Peshawar (Pakistan)
111
7.                   
Rawalpindi (Pakistan)
107
8.                   
Khormabad (Iran)
102
9.                   
Ahmedabad (India)
100
10.               
Lucknow (India) 
96
11.               
Firozabad (India)
96
12.               
Doha (Qatar)
93
13.               
Kanpur (India)
93
14.               
Amritsar (India)
92
15.               
Ludhiana (India)
91
16.               
Idgir (Bangladesh)
90
17.               
Narayonganj (Bangladesh)
89
18.               
Allahabad (India)
88
19.               
Agra (India)
88
20.               
Khanna (India)
88

  This requires serious efforts   by the Government of India, governments of U.P. and governments of other states.    This also requires real time monitoring of  air pollution , especially of PM2.5.   Monitors need to be installed in all big offices and schools.
Masks  are somethings we can look for, in order to protect ourselves from this  growing  air pollution .
We also need to change our mind set and work together to protect our environment.
Education Boards should make environment education compulsory subject because  environment preservation can happen with massive awareness and action oriented activities by the students. Environment should be one of the subjects in grade 12  th so as to provide opportunities to the students for specialisation in environment. Schools can organise environment awareness seminars and conferences for students, parents and other education establishments.They  can minimise the use of air- conditioning gadgets. They  should celebrate clean and green Diwali.
Students, teachers and parents can use car pool for transportation to reduce carbon emissions and air pollution. They can also use cycles and non fossil vehicles.

We can request our Prime Minister and  Chief Minister of the State to start a campaign against air pollution. Campaign against air pollution should become a National Campaign.Media should partner with schools and voluntary organisations  for environment education projects.
We need to plant more trees. Strict enforcement  needs to be be done against felling of trees. Even for infrastructure projects, minimum number of trees should be felled.

In Bhutan, government has made a policy of no motor vehicles on one Sunday of every month.Certain zones of some cities (like London) have been declared as congestion zones and motor vehicles are strictly banned from those areas. In Delhi, this policy is followed on 22 nd of every month in some areas. A study showed that there was 30% decrease in air pollution level on those days.In Sri Lanka , Government has passed  very  strict laws when it comes to air pollution .People have to ask permission to fell trees grown in their homes.Government is encouraging cars that run with electricity.The government is also raising awareness among people by hosting a lot of environmental  programmes.   In Bangla Desh , all buildings should be designed  so as to have  at least 20% greenery.The government does not allow people to drive cars that are  older than  20 years of age.   Tehran is the most polluted city in Iran .The government of Iran has made a policy that restricts  the number of cars that are on road on  depending on the number  plates of the car.In Manila also the same practice is going on .
                   It is clear that in India , we have really taken the issues related to air pollution very lightly, over the last five decades.As a result , air pollution has become  alarming and a potential health hazard at a national level.India is the most polluted country in the world from the point of view of  air pollution at PM 2.5 micrograms  per cubic metre. .This calls for all  the more urgent action  , because air pollution affects the health of children and the very old  more than that of adults.That requires a very strong  and vigorous campaign for awareness, education , policies and action at local , regional ,state and national level.(This article was published in March 15,2016 issue of the magazine Tree Take  , Lucknow ,India)