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
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.
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.