Air Pollution in Delhi: Seeing through the Smog

Every year during the onset of winter Delhi’s air quality begins to fall. And it stands  as a cautionary tale of what can happen if we don’t actively participate in  conservation of our environment. 

Air pollution in India is estimated to kill 1.5 million people every year. It is  the fifth largest killer in India. 

According to air quality data compiled by the World Health Organisation  (WHO), Delhi is the world’s most polluted cities in the world. 

According to the WHO, India has the world’s highest death rate from  chronic respiratory diseases and asthma. Air pollution also impacts the  environment through reduced visibility, acid rain, and formation of ozone  at tropospheric level. 

Reasons for Deteriorating Air Quality of Delhi

Stubble Burning: National capital shares its border with the states of  Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. One of the main reasons for increasing air  pollution during the month of October-November is crop burning by the  farmers in these states. It stems from a lack of awareness and the  absence of initiative from concerned authorities. 

o Farmers burn rice stubbles in  Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh.  It is estimated that approximately 35  million tonnes of crop are set afire by  these states. The wind carries all the  pollutants and dust particles, which  have got locked in the air. 

Vehicular Emission: Delhi has  more than 9 million registered vehicles. The Central Pollution Control  Board (CPCB) and the National Environmental Engineering Research  Institute (NEERI) have declared vehicular emission as a major  contributor to Delhi’s increasing air pollution. 

High Density: With more than 11000 people per square kilometre, Delhi  is among the most densely populated cities in the world. Over-population  adds up to the various types of pollution. 

Lack of Infrastructure: In India, investment in public transport and  infrastructure is low which leads to congested roads, and hence air  pollution. 

Construction Activities and Open Waste Burning: Large-scale  construction in Delhi-NCR is another culprit that contributes to the  increasing dust and pollution in the air. Delhi also has landfill sites for  dumping of waste, burning of waste in these sites also contributes to air  pollution.

Thermal Power Plants and Industries: It is needless to mention how  industrial pollution and garbage dumps significantly depreciates air  quality and builds up smog in the air. 

Impact of Air pollution 

Health 

People exposed to high concentrations of air pollutants experience disease  symptoms and states of greater and lesser seriousness. These effects are grouped  into short- and long-term impacts on public health. 

Susceptible populations that need to be aware of health protection measures include  old people, children, and people with diabetes and predisposing heart or lung  disease, especially asthma. 

Environment 

Let’s go back to 8th grade and talk  about a few important  environmental hazards.  Acid rain is wet (rain, fog, snow) or  dry (particulates and gas)  precipitation containing toxic  amounts of nitric and sulfuric acids.  

They are able to acidify the water  and soil environments, damage trees and plantations, and even damage buildings  and outdoor sculptures, constructions, and statues. 

Haze is produced when fine particles are dispersed in the air and reduce the  transparency of the atmosphere. It is caused by gas emissions in the air coming from  industrial facilities, power plants, automobiles, and trucks

We don’t even need to explain that global climate change is the most pressing issue  mankind is collectively facing. And in case you haven’t noticed, the month of May is  already on its way

Steps Taken by the Government to Tackle Pollution

▪ To tackle Stubble burning: 

o The government is providing subsidies to farmers for buying  Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) which is a machine mounted on a tractor that cuts and uproots the stubble and also drills  wheat seeds. 

o Punjab and Haryana procure stubble and straw for biofuel  plants and in the waste-to-energy power generation plants. 

▪ Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP): 

o The government has  implemented GRAP to tackle with  the rising pollution in the capital. It  includes measures like shutting  down the Badarpur Thermal  Power Plant and a ban on  construction activities. 

▪ The central government  released the National Air Quality  Index (AQI) for public information  under the aegis of the Central Pollution Control Board. 

o AQI has been developed for eight pollutants – PM2.5, PM10,  Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and  carbon monoxide. 

The April 2020 deadline for the country to implement BS-VI (Bharat  Stage-VI is the Indian equivalent to Euro VI) grade fuels was advanced  for Delhi to April 1, 2018, because of the extremely high levels of air  pollution in the city.

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