New Delhi, Nov 4 (SocialNews.XYZ) India is currently facing an alarming increase in air pollution levels, posing a severe threat to public health and the environment.
As the country grapples with this escalating crisis, experts and officials are urgently seeking solutions to mitigate the hazardous impact of polluted air on the population.
Rising pollution levels have become a growing concern, particularly during the past few years.
A combination of factors, including industrial emissions, vehicular pollution, construction activities, agricultural practices, and meteorological conditions, has contributed to the deteriorating air quality in several major cities and regions.
A combination of lower temperatures and still wind is one the cause for the rise in pollution level across the country," said India Meteorological Department (IMD) official, adding that once wind speed increases, the air quality is expected to improve.
Pollutants tend to pile up in calm conditions, when wind speeds are not more than about 10 kmph. Speeds of 15 kmph or more favour dispersal of pollutants, which, literally, clears the air.
"The direction in which the wind blows is as important as the speed. In stubble burning season, northwesterly winds of moderate speeds transport smoke from farm fires in Punjab and Haryana to NCR and beyond. In December-January, easterly winds can push pollutants from Indo-Gangetic plains to NCR," say experts.
According to the latest data from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), air quality indices in several Indian cities have consistently reached very poor to hazardous levels. The nation's capital, often finds itself at the forefront of this crisis, with PM2.5 and PM10 levels exceeding the safe limits recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). Other cities like Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, and Bangalore are also grappling with high levels of pollution.
The health consequences of this air pollution crisis are grave. Studies have linked prolonged exposure to poor air quality with a variety of health issues, including respiratory problems, heart diseases, and even premature death. Children and the elderly are particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of air pollution.
The public outcry over this worsening situation has prompted various measures to combat the crisis.
"The government must now introduce measures such as the odd-even traffic rule in Delhi at other places other regions where pollution levels have spiked. Odd-even restricts vehicle usage based on licence plate numbers, as well as the promotion of cleaner transportation options, like electric vehicles and also brings down the pollution levels," said the Environmentalist and former Haryana scientist Chandra Veer Singh.
Additionally, industrial regulations and emission standards have been tightened, with stricter enforcement and monitoring with the implementation of GRAP stage -III.
However, environmental experts argue that more comprehensive and long-term strategies are needed to address the root causes of the problem. Increasing public transportation, investing in renewable energy sources, and promoting sustainable agricultural practices are among the recommendations put forth by experts.
"Furthermore, public awareness and individual actions play a crucial role in reducing air pollution. Citizens are encouraged to adopt eco-friendly practices, such as reducing car usage, supporting green initiatives, and adhering to clean waste disposal practices," said Singh.
"The importance of international cooperation in addressing the issue is also highlighted, as air pollution is not limited to national boundaries. Collaborative efforts, knowledge sharing, and technology transfer can help reduce the regional and global impact of pollution," says experts.
Vivek Nangia, Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket, said air pollution has emerged as the foremost global environmental health threat, leading to diseases and premature deaths.
"In 2012, it was responsible for approximately 7 million fatalities, equating to about one in eight worldwide deaths. By 2015, this figure had risen to around 9 million deaths, accounting for approximately 16 per cent of all global fatalities, or one in six deaths attributed to air pollution. This number was three times higher than the combined deaths from HIV, TB, and malaria in India, estimating about 2.5 million deaths during that period," he said.
"In 2019, the situation worsened, with India alone witnessing approximately 1.7 million deaths attributed to air pollution. This number is expected to continue rising due to increasing air pollution levels, particularly in the Indo-Gangetic belt. Alarming research has even suggested that our lifespan is diminishing by nearly 12 years due to this issue," said Nangia.
"Increasing the number of plants in your surroundings can help absorb particulate matter and toxic gases. Smoking should be quit as it exacerbates the effects of poor air quality, and 20 micrograms of PM 2.5 in the air is equivalent to smoking one cigarette, Nangia suggested.
"It's also advisable to get a flu vaccine, especially for the high-risk vulnerable group, as air pollution weakens the immune system and makes individuals more susceptible to infections. To mitigate air pollution, it is essential to reduce the use of fossil fuels and maintain a clean indoor environment. We should also try to reduce the vehicular load on the streets and avoid construction and demolition activities," he added.