National Capital – A Modern Day Gas Chamber

    India is one of the most polluted countries in the world. In 2019, 21[1] out of 30 most polluted cities were of India, with an average of 98.6 particulate matter, Delhi topped the list of 30 most polluted cities. Many cities in India have so much pollution that they are considered to be unbreathable and many people are even ready to sacrifice their careers and migrate to other cities because of the same reason. They are literally breathing toxic air.

    Last year in Delhi after Diwali the air of Delhi was named as killer air because the Air Quality Index(AQI) at Patparganj was recorded 999[2], emission from firecrackers and stubble burning in Punjab caused the rise in the AQI. According to experts breathing in Delhi is equal to smoking 45-50 cigarettes daily.

    AQI CATEGORIES

    As per standards,  an AQI between 0 and 50 is considered safe, 51-100 satisfactory, 101-200 moderate, 201-300 poor. At 301-400, it’s considered very poor and 401-500 falls in the severe category. Above 500 is severe as well as the emergency category.

    CAUSES OF POLLUTION

    • BURNING OF FOSSIL FUELS – The burning of fossil fuels is one of the major causes behind the rise in pollution, burning of coal, oil, gasoline, etc., to produce electricity, transportation, etc., emits monoxide and toxic pollutants in the air. Inhaling such air that is induced with these toxic pollutants can cause serious problems to the respiratory system and the health of a person, it can cause a reduction in the heart’s ability to pump enough oxygen which can cause respiratory illness[3].
    • WILDFIRES – Climate change is not just causing wildfires but also a spike in pollution. Stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana is causing a huge rise in pollution in Delhi and other states. It makes the air hazy and people find it difficult to breathe.
    • INDUSTRIAL EMISSION – Industrial activities emit several pollutants in the air that affects the air quality more than we can even imagine. Cement industries emit plenty of dust in the air and stone crusher industries also create menace, various pollutants nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and carbon monoxide are emitted from industries that use coal and wood as their primary energy source for the production of their goods. 
    • VEHICLE POLLUTION – There is no denying the fact that pollution emitted from vehicles is a major contributor to air pollution. Burning of car gasoline results in emitting pollutants like monoxide, hydrocarbons, nitrogen oxide, inhaling which is equivalent to “smoking” 10 cigarettes. When the pollution is high in the atmosphere, it creates a hole in the ozone layer leading to a blanket of smog and causing various health issues.
    • OPEN BURNING OF GARBAGE WASTE – Open burning of garbage is very much harmful to health and the environment. Delhi generates a whopping 9500 tons of waste every day, which makes it India’s second wastage dumping city. If anyone gets exposed to the open burning of garbage, it can pose serious health diseases such as cancer, liver issues, etc.
    • CONSTRUCTION AND  DEMOLITION – During clean air movement the highest no. of air pollution complaints were reported from Delhi-NCR due to the construction and demolition activities. Construction and demolition are ongoing, never-ending development phase. Several construction sites require raw material such as brick, concrete that causes haze and foul which is hazardous for people and especially for children.

    These were some of the major reasons behind the rise in pollution in the national capital of India.

    PM 2.5

    PM 2.5 is particulate matter floating in the air measuring 2.5 micrometers in diameter or less. It is so small that it can be inhaled and entered into the bloodstream. For this reason, PM2.5 poses a great health threat[4].

    MAJOR CAUSES OF PM 2.5

    • It can happen out of combustion from the power plant,
    • It can happen from smoke and soot from garbage burning,
    • It can happen from vehicular emissions.

    MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PM 2.5

    • 11% average increase in Cardiovascular Mortality,
    • 19% of children born with defects,
    • 84% of lung, Tracheal, and Bronchial Cancer-related Deaths.

    PM 10

    PM 10 is suspended particulate matter in the air with 10 micrometers or less (including smoke, soot, acid, and metals). The main difference between PM 2.5 and PM 10 is simply a matter of size. While PM 2.5 is fine, PM 10 is larger and coarser.

    MAJOR CAUSES OF  PM 10

    • Dust blown from open landfills,
    • Smoke and soot from garbage burning,
    • Vehicle Emissions.

    MAJOR HEALTH PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PM 10

    • 84% of lung, tracheal, and bronchial cancer-related deaths.

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    AIR POLLUTION LAWS IN INDIA

    THE AIR (PREVENTION AND CONTROL OF POLLUTION) ACT 1981

    The objective of the Act of 1981 is to preserve the quality of air and control air pollution. There are many functions of this law, some are to improve the air quality and prevent, control, or abate air pollution in the country and advise the government on any matter concerning the improvement of the quality of air, etc.

    THE ENVIRONMENT PROTECTION ACT, 1986

    Under the Environment Act, the Central Government is empowered to take measures necessary to protect and improve the quality of the environment by setting standards for emissions and discharges of pollution in the atmosphere by any person carrying on an industry or activity; regulating the location of industries; management of hazardous wastes, and protection of public health and welfare. The main objectives of EPA, 1986 are to:-

    • To implement the decisions made at the UN Conference on Human Environment that was held in Stockholm in the year 1972,
    • To take strict actions against whomsoever tries to harm the environment,
    •  To protect and improve the environment,
    •  To give all the powers to the central government, to take the required measures for the protection and welfare of the environment.

    Keeping in mind the present condition of Delhi regarding pollution, it seems very clear that the implementation of laws for controlling pollution is not very good. People need to take precautions while going out because the air outside is hazardous and can cause various health problems. 

    It is high time people need to understand the meaning of climate change and what is waiting for them in the future if they don’t stop now. Climate change will make humans and animals face new challenges for survival. Intense drought, heat, storms, declining water supplies, health impacts in cities due to heat, floods, etc., can directly harm animals, destroy their natural habitat as can be seen in Australia, and wreak havoc on human livelihoods. 

    PRECAUTIONS

    Precautions that should be taken against pollution – :

    • VERIFY THE AIR QUALITY IN YOUR AREA Before you head outside of your house you should verify the Air Quality Index of your area so that you get to know that you need to take precaution or not to safeguard your health. These days it is very easy to check the AQI of your area because there are various apps present which can tell you the exact AQI of your area at that present time[5].
    • KEEP YOUR MEDICATION WITH YOU If you are a patient of asthma or any other respiratory illness keep your medications with you when you go outside, and follow your doctor’s instructions.
    • WEAR MASKS Keeping the present air quality in mind people need to wear masks to avoid toxic air and pollutants entering your body and affect your health. The N95 mask is the best mask to wear for pollution when you step outside your house as it is very cheap and easily available at every pharmacy. 
    • AIR PURIFY PLANTS Air purifiers are available in the market but are very expensive and everyone cannot afford to buy them, therefore people can place air-purifying plants such as aloe Vera, ivy, money plant, and spider plant inside the house to help purify indoor air and minimize outdoor pollution.

    SUGGESTIONS

    • USING PUBLIC TRANSPORTUsing Public Transport is sure shot way to contribute towards reducing air pollution as it provides less use of gas and energy similarly is the carpool.

    • BAN USE OF PLASTIC The use of plastic bags needs to be banned as plastic is very harmful to the environment because it takes a lot of time to decompose and people find an easier way to get rid of it by burning it and burning plastics emits hazardous fumes which pollute the environment badly. The use of paper bags needs to be promoted as it is the best alternative reusable and decomposes quickly therefore not harmful to the environment.
    • SAY NO TO FIRECRACKERS The use of crackers during festivals and marriages is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution as it forms a layer of smog in the air which is very harmful to our health. 

    These were some of the ways to protect yourself from air pollution and reduce it. But the main way to reduce air pollution is to make people understand the harm that it is causing to their life and what problems they are going to cause to the future generation. Air pollution causes 6,70,000[6] deaths annually due to air pollution in India, 1,16,000 infants lost their lives in the 1st month of their life in 2019 due to air pollution. More people die due to pollution than people die from malaria, HIV//AIDS together.  

    These stats are enough to make you understand how severe the problem of pollution is and how important it is to reduce it, because if we don’t stop now, most probably we won’t be left with any fresh air to breathe in the future.

    REFERENCES

    [1]Weather, Top Polluted Cities Report, available at: https://weather.com/en-IN/india/pollution/news/2020-02-26-21-indian-cities-world-30-most-polluted-top-200-india-china#:~:text=In%20total%2C%2021%20out%20of,in%20the%20top%2010%20list (last visited on 30/10/2020).

    [2]India Today , Air Quality Index of Delhi in 2019 after Diwali Report, available at: https://www.indiatoday.in/diu/story/delhi-air-pollution-16-times-worse-prescribed-limit-diwali-night-1613477-2019-10-28 (last visited on 30/10/2020).

    [3]Medlife, Causes of pollution, available at: https://www.medlife.com/blog/air-pollution-causes-effects-solution/ (last visited on 31/10/2020).

    [4] Laqm defra govt, What is PM2.5, Available at: https://laqm.defra.gov.uk/public-health/pm25.html (last visited on 31/10/2020).

    [5]Times Of India, Precautions and suggestions, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/life-style/health-fitness/health-news/effective-tips-to-prevent-yourself-from-smog-air-pollution/articleshow/61574445.cms (last visited on 01/11/2020).

    [6]Times of India, Annual death report due to pollution, available at: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/air-pollution-contributed-to-6-7-million-annual-deaths-globally-in-2019-india-faced-1-67-million-deaths-due-to-dirty-air-says-state-of-global-air-report/articleshow/78782066.cms#:~:text=Top%20Searches%3A-,Air%20pollution%20contributed%20to%206.7%20million%20annual%20deaths%20globally%20in,State%20of%20Global%20Air%20report (last visited on 02/11/2020).


    BY KASHISH DHAWAN | VIVEKANANDA INSTITUTE OF PROFESSIONAL STUDIES , GGSIPU

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