Pollution in India: choking

As the winter approaches, the country is preparing for the worst weeks of pollution. Smog settles over vast bands of northern India, including New Delhi, thereby pushing air pollution levels off the charts.

Background

A combination of factors is the real cause for smog. These include burning of crop residues, fouling of the air by industry, vehicle exhaust, and dust from construction work. The lack of wind speeds during the month of October when the monsoon season ends tends to let smog hang in the air. Additionally, during Diwali, when crackers burst it aggravates the level of pollution in the atmosphere.

Analysis

The slowing wind and the approaching winter bring India’s national capital to a standstill due to pollution. Smog pushes air pollution levels off the charts.

Last year, a dangerous toxic smog forced authorities to shut schools, ban diesel-run generators, construction, burning of garbage and non-essential truck deliveries.

As pollution levels climbed to 12 times the recommended limit and the Indian Medical Association declared a public health emergency, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal called the city a “gas chamber”. Last week, he warned the city may face the same fate this year because of the unrestrained stubble burning.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), north Indian cities, including Delhi, top a list of places with the worst air in the world. This estimate is based on the amount of particulate matter under 2.5 micrograms found in every cubic metre of air. These tiny particles known as PM2.5 include dust, dirt, soot and smoke. It is known that they can penetrate deep into the lungs and even enter the blood. They’ve been linked to heart disease, strokes and cancer.

The WHO also estimates that globally about 7 million people die every year from breathing polluted air and air pollution could have been responsible for anywhere from 960,000 to more than 1.2 million deaths in India in 2016.

Assessment

Our assessment is that this is an alarming red signal for India to take effective actions against the air pollution that aggravates each year. We feel that the country must simultaneously adopt indigenous and new, modern and energy efficient technologies that can swiftly reduce the impact of smog in the northern regions of the country.