Air Pollution


Now the fifth largest killer in India

According to a study by a US-based health institute, Air pollution is now the fifth largest killer in India, taking 6.2 lakh lives per year. And Delhi is among one of the five most polluted cities in the country.

The other four most polluted cities in the country are Ghaziabad, Gwalior, West Singbhum district in Jharkhand and Raipur. The study has claimed that premature deaths in India occur due to air pollution-related diseases, which has seen a six-fold increase as compared to that in the year 2000.

To say the least, the report that air pollution in cities is the fifth major killer in India is alarming. And the fact that it is based on a study of government data and the Global Burden of Disease report, lends it further credibility. In addition to air pollution, the other causes of death are high blood pressure, indoor air pollution, tobacco smoking and poor nutrition. The disturbing thing is that unlike some of these causes, breathing in polluted air is unavoidable, especially in a city like New Delhi or Mumbai.

In a country with a growing population, constant urbanisation and uncontrolled industrialisation, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to know that the air quality in India has deteriorated to a very large extent. From vehicle emissions to untreated industrial smoke, from acid rain to indoor air pollution (using solid fuels like coal), rapid growth in urban areas and upcoming industries have led to this disastrous situation.

Sadly yet predictably, the air quality in New Delhi is highly poor, with the airborne matter levels being ten times above India’s legal limit. And other metropolitans like Mumbai and Kolkata aren’t far behind either. Now, imagine millions of people breathing that fresh “polluted” air unknowingly.

It’s a general belief that rural areas are cleaner and in a way, you’d be right. But with out-dated techniques of consumption, especially burning coal and wood indoors, people in rural areas aren’t so safe either. They may be blissfully ignorant, but they’re still breathing contaminated air. All this eventually leads to weakened respiratory functions, use of medication, poor physical performance, more hospital admissions and consultations and even death in certain cases.

After independence, the population explosion in the country led to unplanned urban development, leading to higher consumption of energy and higher transport demands. With people buying more and more vehicles instead of preferring to carpool or use public transport, the day when the number of vehicles in New Delhi will be equal to its population number isn’t far. And just FYI Delhi has a lot of people- more than twenty million or two crores. Increase in industrial activity and use of thermal power are also one of the few major factors contributing to air pollution around the country.

To combat all this, the formation of “The Environment Protection Act of 1986” was passed. By enforcing environmental laws and policies like these, the Ministry of Environment and Forests established the importance of integrating environmental strategies into any development plan for the country.

That’s not all, vehicle owners are not allowed to drive cars which are more than 15 years old, due to the out-dated and polluting engine designs. Vehicular sulphur emission standards have also become stronger than before. And that’s a good sign.

With air pollution having become a serious threat for quite some time now, people have become more aware than ever before. And we as citizens need to extend that message of awareness by informing as many people as we can, but also implementing little changes on our personal front as well.

From carpooling to using public transport, from proper waste disposal to using cleaner energy sources, every little bit will make a difference.  With increased awareness and self-implementation of atmosphere-friendly actions, a change is possible. So, spread the message.

Akhil Thakur

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