With India attempting to compete with China on so many fronts, from population to military, there is a competition that India is on the verge of winning. And it is not in the best interests of its inhabitants according to the latest report and findings in a joint study by the Health Effects Institute, Boston and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, Seattle. The report, State of Global Air 2017, has grave news for us and the future of clean air in India. The Report talks about air pollution levels based on intensive studies from the period 1990 to 2015.
Right now, China is leading the world in the number of deaths due to air pollution, however, India has been quickly catching up. Globally, the number of deaths increased to 4.2 million in 2015, as compared to 3.5 million in 1990 which is primarily ascribed to fine particulate matter (PM) 2.5. However, more than 50 per cent of these deaths occurred in China and India with about 1.1 million (11 lakh) lives lost prematurely in each of these countries.
But even though China is the leader, the situation there has somewhat stabilised because of active government regulations and restrictions to curb the situation. With the large strides Beijing has been taking in the last decade, with steps like pulling outdated high emission vehicles off the road, introduction of policies on production and use of cleaner vehicles, along with an added emphasis on improving public transportation systems, the pollution graph is taking a downward turn. On the other hand, India has not done much to stem the pollution and PM 2.5 related deaths continue to unabated.
The PM 2.5 particles, produced from motor vehicles exhaust, power plants, particularly from coal and diesel, as well as natural sources like dust, increases the chance of stroke or heart failure, and also increases chances of respiratory diseases like asthma and pneumonia.
The Report mentioned that India’s increasing pollution crisis can be in part because of the growth it is undergoing in terms of industries and also due to coal being the major energy source. With numerous fronts to fight on, India seems to be on a backfoot. The air in major cities are full of dust, exhaust fumes, industrial emissions, crop burning fumes from neighbouring areas during winters and more. The journey to maintain clean air has been difficult for India to balance. Also, bursting firecrackers during Diwali is partially responsible, in rocketing the PM 2.5 levels to sky high levels.
Lakshman, Chairman, Karnataka State Pollution Control Board in a conversation with G’nY said, “Vehicle emission contributes to about 40-45 per cent of air pollution and the only way to really bring it down is by phasing out old vehicles (should be more than 15 years old) in all cities in a proper manner. For that local bodies and corporations along with the traffic police need to work for regular monitoring and random checks. Road dust contributes to 20 per cent of air pollution; corporations should make sure that cleaning of roads is done on a regular basis and keep a check on construction activities which also contributes to road dust.”
He added, “In Bengaluru, we have procured 12 vehicles to check emission from vehicles and check certificates with the help of the traffic police. We have been pushing for a mass transportation system encouraging metros and carpooling and CNG-run buses. While in the case of Delhi, smog can be reduced by a total ban on burning of crops in the neighbouring states”.
India needs to improve a lot of things if it envisages to better the current scenario. The lack of strong laws on environmental regulations has made the situation even messier as despite rulings, people still openly flout them, as is the case of crop burning – despite orders of National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s environmental court.