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Smoke, Dust and Smog – constitute the air in most of India, today. The air pollution has been the most serious of problems in the country. It is known to be one of the top five reasons of deaths in India. People suffer from chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases and die of them in large numbers every year. According to the Statistical Handbook of India, 2,425 people died to serious respiratory ailments in 2011. The number is far more than of those who died due to water-borne diseases caused due to water pollution.
Causes of Air Pollution in India
There are many reasons behind this problem that include: Emission of Harmful Gases: Today, the roads even in a small town stay crowded by vehicles. The increase in affordability to buy one’s own vehicle at easy EMIs has led to this. In some families, the number of vehicles equals the total number of vehicles. They emit huge amounts of pollutants into the air. The huge establishments of factories all over, has also added to this problem. The factory emissions and wastes has gradually been poisoning the air.
Adulteration of Fuel: With time to time increase in fuel prices, the people especially the taxi drivers and auto-walas started blending several components in it. They blended it so much that about 20-30% of the fuel comprises of impurities. These components lead to higher emissions of harmful gases in the environment. They never realize that what they are earning by doing this is nothing in front of the problems they have been adding up for the coming generation.
Burning of Biomass: There is another major reason, that contributes to air-pollution, to a large extent. About 70% of India is rural where biomass is burnt for any purposes like cooking which has caused lot of pollution. Even today, the rural people follow ancient means for generating heat like through burning cow dung cakes, wood and other agricultural wastes. Even the satellite pictures show a strong haze of smoke above these areas. This haze has been spreading even in the urban areas.
A recent research has revealed that this air pollution has led to Asian brown cloud which is causing delay in the arrival of monsoon. The strangeness in the climatic patterns in India can very well be felt and it seems like the climatic changes are taking place; air pollution is one reason for this.
Harsh Facts about Air Quality in India
There are many shocking facts about air quality in India that ring the alarming bell:
According to the Ministry of Environment and Forest of India, the emissions of about 3000 metric tons of pollutants happens in New Delhi on daily basis which is why Delhi stands as one of the most polluted cities in the world. (source: www.envfor.nic.in)
As per the environmental studies conducted by the Central Pollution Control board, the concentrations of all fatal gases – sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and carbon monoxide have been on a rise at a considerable rate. (source: www.envfor.nic.in)
According to a data released by the World Health Organization in May 2014, India stands among the top most polluted countries in the world. Among the 20 cities that are badly polluted, 13 cities belong to India.
Indian Government on Air Pollution
The most widely monitored pollutants in India are particulate matter (PM), sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and on a limited scale carbon monoxide.
The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) considers air to be ‘clean’ if the levels are below 50 per cent of the prescribed standards for pollutants. During 2007 only 2 per cent cities had low air pollution on the basis of PM. In about 80 per cent of cities at least one pollutant was above the annual average ambient air quality standards. This has serious public health implications. There are very few cities, which can be termed clean keeping PM10 levels (respirable particulates) as criteria. However over the years though SO2 levels have fallen sharply in many cities, the NO2 levels have increased. Therefore, in 1981, the Air Act for prevention and control of pollution was passed. Much improvement could be recorded since then.
Apart from this, the government has encouraged the usage of electric mediums for producing heat. However, this required the market to work on the adequate availability as well as distribution of such means. This has a lot improved the scenario. Several awareness programmes have also been carried on by the government. People are taught about how to minimize the pollution levels and get into a healthy lifestyle. Yet a lot needs to be done and achieved on this, provided people as responsible citizens follow the campaign strictly!