Pollution across the country is a pinching issue at the moment. This led to several kinds of diseases. A huge number of people die every year due to pollution. The pollution level is so high in India that sometimes it is difficult to breathe. Not to talk of small cities, the pollution level of metropolitan cities has created havoc among the people.
New Delhi continues to be No. 1 in pollution.
New Delhi was once again declared as one of the most polluted capital cities in the world for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Dhaka, N’Djamena, Dushanbe, and Muscat in 2021, according to the World Air Quality Report, prepared by Swiss organisation IQAir and released on Tuesday. The report added that 35 of the 50 cities with the worst air quality were in India.
Improvement in China
The study also found that air quality in China continued to improve last year as more than half of its cities saw lower levels of air pollution when compared to the previous year.
The report added that pollution levels within the capital city of Beijing continued a five-year trend of improving air quality. This is driven by emission control and the reduction of coal power plant activity and other high-emission industries.
The IQAir report claimed that none of the cities in India met the prescribed World Health Organization (WHO) air quality standards of 5 micrograms per cubic meter. The report, presenting an overview of the state of global air quality in 2021, is based on PM2.5 air quality data from 6,475 cities in 117 countries.
The new guidelines were released in September last year and cut the existing annual PM2.5 guideline value from 10 µg/m3 to 5 g/m3.
PM2.5 harmful to health.
Fine particle pollution, known as PM2.5, is commonly accepted to be the most harmful, widely monitored air pollutant and has been found to be a major contributing factor to health effects such as asthma, stroke, heart and lung diseases. PM2.5 leads to millions of premature deaths every year, it said.
“India also continues to feature prominently among the most polluted cities, with 35 of the top 50 most polluted cities being in this country. The report said India’s annual average PM2.5 levels reached 58.1 μg/m3 in 2021, ending a three-year trend of improving air quality.
It added, “India’s annual PM2.5 averages have returned to pre-quarantine concentrations as measured in 2019. Alarmingly, in 2021, none of the Indian cities met the prescribed WHO standards of 5 μg/m3.”
The report also revealed that 48 percent of Indian cities exceeded 50 μg/m3 air quality levels, which is well over 10 times the WHO guidelines. Avinash Chanchal, campaign manager at Greenpeace India, said the report is a wake-up call for governments and corporations.
People breathe polluted air
“It is once again highlighting that people are breathing dangerously polluted air. Vehicular emissions are one of the major contributors to urban PM2.5 concentrations. With annual vehicle sales in India expected to increase, it is certainly going to impact air quality if corrective measures are not taken in time.
With 63, Indian cities dominate the list of 100 most polluted places. More than half are in Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. An air quality ‘life index’ developed by the University of Chicago shows that residents in Delhi and Lucknow, for instance, could add about a decade to their life expectancy if air quality levels met the WHO’s standards.
Pollution kills three people every minute
The major sources of air pollution include vehicular emissions, coal-fired power plants, industrial waste, biomass combustion for cooking and the construction sector. In fact, in November last year, several large power plants around Delhi, as well as many industries, were shut down for the first time because of severe levels of air pollution.
The economic cost of the crisis to India is estimated at over $150 billion annually. The health impact is far worse, with an estimated three deaths every minute linked to air pollution, in addition to heart and lung diseases and many other severe health effects.
All six metro cities, except Chennai, saw a rise in air pollution levels last year.
Interestingly, government data for 2021 also shows that air quality in Delhi, Kolkata, and Mumbai worsened. A recent note in parliament showed that “poor” to “severe” air quality days numbered 168 in Delhi last year, up from 139, or a steep 21 per cent jump in one year; Kolkata had 83 such days compared to 74 and Mumbai had 39 vs 20 in the previous year.
However, when asked about India’s poor showing in an earlier edition of the World Air Quality Report in 2020, the centre dismissed such a ranking, saying it was mainly based on satellite and other secondary data not validated by “proper ground truthing.”
IQAir says its data is based “exclusively” on ground sensors and almost half of them globally are operated by governmental agencies.
The report makes a special mention of smoke from crop-burning after the rice harvest, a politically sensitive issue with parties usually reticent about taking action against farmers.
According to the report, this smoke is responsible for up to 45 percent of Delhi’s pollution, particularly during the winter months in rice farms near the capital.Farmers do this because of a short window between the harvest and the sowing of the next crop to get rid of the stubble.
After the AAP’s landslide victory in the recent assembly elections in Punjab, party leader and Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said that farmers should be treated as assets and not liabilities.
In Hyderabad and Bengaluru, pollution levels are rising.
Air pollution in the cities of Hyderabad and Bengaluru worsened in 2021, with PM2.5 annual average air pollutant levels increasing in both the cities. In 2021, the concentration of PM2.5 in Hyderabad increased by 13.5 percent to 39.4 g/m3, up from 34.7 g/m3 in 2020.In Bengaluru, the PM2.5 concentration in 2021 saw a 5.4% increase at 29 µg/m3, up from 27.5 µg/m3 in 2020.
Pollution is a curse on the nation. Proper attention is not paid to how to control this deadly issue. Everyone is suffering, but it hits the elderly and children the most. Whenever the issue is raised, then politics takes place, and after some hue and cry, everything cools down.