India's plan for cleaner air ignores an important source of pollution

IANS

  • Nearly 674 million citizens in the country are likely to breathe air with high concentration of PM 2.5 in 2030.
  • Only half the estimated population in 2030 will be living in areas with clean air.
  • The current policies and regulation of the state government ignores emission sources outside their jurisdiction.
While India is stepping up its efforts to curb the problem of increasing air pollution, it may be ignoring domestic sources of emissions — including solid fuel usage in households and waste management practices.

Poor waste management, agricultural practices like stubble burning and use of fossil fuels for transportation, heating and electricity are bigger sources of air pollution in India. These have contributed more to the worsening air quality than vehicular emissions, particularly along the gangetic plain in North India, according to a report by the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) in Austria and the Council on Energy, Environment, and Water (CEEW).

Indoor pollution caused by cooking, heating or lighting with kerosene and solid fuels is proven to be hazardous for women and children living in developing countries since they spend most of their time at home.

Despite knowing the consequences, the Indian authorities have had a hard time in dealing with the practise of stubble burning. Studies have suggested that stubble burning — a practise to get rid of leftover crop before harvest — contributes to half the pollution and toxic air problem in India’s capital.

This comes in the back of a recent study that said seven of the 10 most polluted cities in the world are from India, with Gurugram ranking as the worst in the world with the highest levels of pollutants. The biggest source of pollution in Gurugram is stubble burning, which invariably contaminates the air in neighbouring New Delhi every winter.

Short sighted

The study clearly suggests that the current policies and regulation of the state government ignores emission sources outside their jurisdiction. For instance, crop burning in Punjab is one of the primary sources of pollution in New Delhi and nearby regions.

The study also found that, the population living in Indo-Gangetic plain has the highest exposure to PM 2.5 concentration mainly because the emission sources are dense in numbers and the Himalayas are acting as a barrier in ventilation process. 13 of the world’s 15 most polluted cities in terms of PM 2.5 belong of Indo-Gangetic plain. It is affecting over 600 million people with cardiovascular and respiratory diseases.

Indians will continue to deal with the struggle of alarming increase in air pollution as 674 million citizens in the country are likely to breathe air with high concentration of PM 2.5 in 2030 even if all the existing government policies and regulations are followed, said the study.

Only half the estimated population in 2030 will be living in areas with clean air. Any inefficiency in the policy will lead to significant increase in the number.

In 2015 alone more than half the then Indian population — approx 650 million people — were breathing air with high concentration of PM 2.5 that breached the standards provided by NAAQS. Moreover, only 1% had access to air quality approved by World Health Organisation.



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