Air pollution in India is one of the most serious causes of health issues that most people are suffering from. In the year 2019, the list of highly populated cities in the world, 21 out of thirty is in India. According to a study based on data in 2016, a minimum of 140 million Indian people breathes intoxicated air that is ten times more polluted than the safe limit by WHO. The reasons behind almost 51% of the air pollution in India is industrial emissions, 13% by crop burning, 27% by vehicles, and 5% by fireworks. Air pollution is the cause of almost 2 million people every year in India. In rural areas, pollution originates due to the use of biomass implemented for cooking purposes.
In the winter and autumn months, large crop residues in the agricultural field burn to prepare the field for the next season of farming. It is also a primary source of smog and smoke pollution. A study in 2013 shows that most of the non-smokers in India have 30% weaker lungs than smokers due to air pollution.
Causes of Air Pollution in India
Now let us take a detailed look below into some of the key reasons that are responsible for the development of air pollution in India.
Some of the auto-rickshaws or taxis in India run on the blending of adulterated fuel. Adulteration of gasoline and diesel with low price fuels is common in India. Some adulterations enhance the harmful pollutants emission from the vehicles, thus worsening the urban air quality. With the increase in the prices of the fuel, the drivers of public transport cut the cost by combining cheap hydrocarbon into the highly taxable hydrocarbon. The combination is 20 to 30%. For the drivers, this adulteration might give them a short term saving for the month. Most people ignore the consequences of life quality and air pollution. They also ignore the health of the engine life and high maintenance cost, specifically if they have hired the rickshaw or the taxi on a daily wage.
Adulteration of the fuel enhances the emission of carbon monoxide, particulate matter, hydrocarbon, and nitrogen oxides. Kerosene is more sustainable than gasoline and includes high sulphur levels. Thus it also emits a high level of carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon, and particulate matter from transportation.
Emissions of Greenhouse Gases
The emissions of greenhouse gases in India are the third highest in the world. The primary source of this emission is about three GT coal emissions every year, which result in almost 7% of the total global emission of air pollution. In 2014, the carbon intensity of India per GDP was twice that of the average in the world.
Biomass and Fuel Burning
Biomass and fuel-burning are some of the chief reasons for smoke and near to permanent haze in urban and rural India. People use Biomass cakes and woods in rural India for heating and cooking purposes. The people burn them in the cooking stoves and are present nearly in over 100 million households almost three times a day. According to a report by WHO, 300000 to 400000 people die due to indoor air pollution, suffocation, carbon monoxide poisoning, and the burning of biomass.
India is the largest consumer of biomass, agricultural waste, and biomass for energy purposes. According to the recent nation wise study, India uses almost 148.7 million tonnes of biomass and wood for the domestic energy usage purpose. Conventional fuels like cow dung, fuelwood, and crop residues dominate the use of domestic energy in rural India and are responsible for almost 90% of air pollution in those areas. In urban areas, the number decreases to 24% of the total pollution. The stoves used regularly in the Indian household are much less efficient, creating more air pollutants and smoke for every kilogram equivalent.
Traffic congestion is one of the severe reasons for air pollution in the towns and cities of India. Increase in the total number of vehicles in every kilometre of the road, lack of intercity dividing lanes highway, intercity expressway highways, absence of inert city expressways, chaos and traffic accidents due to the poor enforcement of the traffic laws. The average speed of traffic decreases due to traffic congestion. According to the research of the scientists, vehicles burn much more fuel inefficiently and enhance the pollution for every trip. The traffic gridlock in the four metropolitan cities, especially in Delhi, is the highest.
The average traffic speed in the largest Indian cities is 20 km/hour. It requires 30 minutes to cover a distance of 10 km on the Indian roads. At such a lower speed, the vehicles will emit 4 to 8 time’s bigger pollution than they would do with less traffic congestion. The vehicles consume a lot of carbon footprint on every trip than they usually would if the congestion was much less. Emissions of heavy metals and particles enhance with time due to the fleet growth and mileage outpace of the efforts to reduce the emissions. In urban cities like Bangalore, almost 50% of children suffer from asthma.
Impact of Air Pollution on Daily Life
The most significant reasons for concern about the worsening air pollution in India are the harmful effect on individual health. Exposure to particulate matter for an extended time can lead to cardiovascular and respiratory diseases like COPD, heart attack, asthma, lung cancer, and bronchitis. According to a study by the Global Burden of Disease study in 2013, air pollution kills nearly 620,000 people and is the fifth-largest number. India also includes the highest number of COPD patients and death due to it.
According to the non-profit Health Institutes, more than a million premature babies die in India due to immense pollution in the air. More than two million children, out of which half are in Delhi, have severe abnormalities present in their lungs. Over the past ten years, air pollution in India has enhanced significantly. Asthma is one of the most common problems that the Indians face and accounts for more than half of the health-related issues due to air pollution. According to the Global Burden of Disease Study in 2017, almost 4.4% suffer from disabilities due to ambient particulate matter pollution. Out of this, 15.8 million were due to the result of the air pollution inside the household.
Authorities have an estimation that ambient air pollution causes 670000 deaths every year and aggravates cardiovascular and respiratory conditions like lung cancer, bronchitis, and asthma. 20 to 25% of the people suffering from the diseases end up in the hospital due to chronic breathing problems. The Indian cities that come with a higher level of 2.5 PM pollutants are Patna, Muzaffarpur, Gurgaon, Patiala, Delhi, Agra, Srinagar Jodhpur, and Jaipur.
Moreover, AQI or air quality index is a type of number that indicates the air pollution level and shows what the air pollution level in a specific city on a particular day is. The System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research placed Delhi under the category of Severe plus when the AQI level of the city reaches 574. In 2014, WHO declared New Delhi the most air-polluted city in the world. In 2016 November month, the Smog of Delhi covered the area with a dense and thick blanket of smoke and fog that no one has ever seen in the past 17 years.
How to Control Air Pollution in India
The Central Pollution Control Board is now routinely monitoring the air pollutants like sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen oxide respirable, and suspended particulate matter. They also monitor the meteorological parameters like direction and speed of the wind, temperature, and relative humidity along with the air quality. Below are some of the steps taken to control air pollution in India.
- The new standards of clean fuel have resulted in a decreasing level of sulfur dioxide. This is also mainly due to the implementation of LPG as the domestic fuel in place of wood or biomass. The use of CNG in certain vehicles instead of petrol and diesel have also caused this change.
- There has been a reduction in the nitrogen dioxide level in some residential areas like Solapur and Bhopal in the past few years.
- The Delhi government has imposed an Odd and Even rule in 2017 November. It means that the registration number of the cars that end with an odd digit can be driven on specific days of the week, while the owner of the even digit cars can take out on the remaining days of the week.
- The Government of every state has also implemented strict vehicle emission norms, better control of the dust, and high penalties for rubbish burning.
- The commitment of the Government in the 50% reduction of the household fuel for cooking
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Future Goals by the Government
- Introduction of 1000 electric buses for public transport for cleaning up the transportation sector
- Meet the goals of the introduction of 25% of the private electric vehicles.
- Delivering a machine named Happy Seeder to the farmers for converting the agricultural residues into fertilizer
- Identification of the efficient ways of informing the public about the data for air pollution
- Upgradation of the combustion of fossil fuel by the engine vehicles to BS6 emission standards
- Implementation of renewable energy in all the power plant
In the end, we can conclude by saying that the alarming statistics of air pollution have already raised warning concerns about the bad air quality in India and the health risks associated with it. The authorities immediately need to address the issues of persistent bad air quality. Air pollution regulations and policies must revamp sustainable development and promote them among the general public about the danger of health if it increases. They also need to be aware of how small changes in their daily life can create a small yet vital effect on air pollution.
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