The ‘Gas Chamber’
Folks, I am going to take you back to 7th November 2017, a day that is known to Delhi as ‘gas chamber’. On this very day the Air Quality Index touched 999 – the highest the machine can read. The ambient particulate matter concentrations being 3-4 times above the standard is nothing out of the ordinary. What’s unsettling is, that the available data for the last five years in Delhi and the surrounding areas suggests the levels to be PM10 and PM2.5. On the bright side, the NO2 violations are under check and SO2 levels are within the standard limit. High levels of air pollution can lead to conditions affecting human health, majorly related to respiratory and inflammatory and yes, heart diseases are in the stock too!
The Global Burden of Disease Index estimates for 2017 suggest that the deaths related to PM2.5 and ozone are the second highest in the world although no such conclusive data can be established to prove a correlation between the deaths and death due to air pollution.
The sources of PM10 and PM2.5 along with their contribution are mentioned in the table below:
Table 1: Sources and Contribution of PM10 and PM2.5 during winter ( MoEF )
|DESCRIPTION OF SOURCES||CONTRIBUTION|
|Municipal Solid Waste burning||9-8%|
|Soil Dust||Anywhere around 0-4|
Table 2: Sources and Contribution of PM10 and PM2.5 during summer ( MoEF )
|DESCRIPTION OF SOURCES||CONTRIBUTION|
|Coal and fly ash||37-28%|
|Soil and road dust||26-27%|
|Municipal Solid Waste burning||8-7%|
Ray of Hope:
Well, amidst the Corona crisis you have enough negativity, so to lighten your mood I am just going to say, ‘Chill! The Indian Government has got you covered’. Below are some initiatives taken by the Indian government to fight air pollution:
- Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched the National Air Quality Index (AQI) starting with 14 cities in April 2015, currently extending to 34 cities.
- The Indian Council for Medical Research has initiated a project titled “Effect of Air Pollution on Acute Respiratory Symptom in Delhi: A Multi-city Study” w.e.f June 2017 at 5 centres, named as:
- AIIMS – Pulmonary Medicine Department
- AIIMS – Paediatric Department
- Vallabhai Patel Chest Institute
- Kalawati Saran Children’s Hospital
- National Institute of Tuberculosis and Respiratory Diseases.
- Vehicular pollution is kept under check by the use of CNG, LPG, ethanol blending from the universalisation of BS-IV in 2017 to BS-VI fuel standards by 1st April 2020. Along with this, the government is promoting carpooling and use of public transports (currently under the effect of Corona)
- A comprehensive set of direction under section 18 (1) (b) of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1986 has been issued by Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) for implementation of 42 measures to mitigate air pollution in major cities, these measures include control and mitigation of emissions.
- Awareness campaigns like ‘Harit Diwali and Swasth Diwali’ have helped educate about the problem. In Delhi itself, 2000 schools participated making a total of over two lakh schools in the entire country.
- The Graded Response Action Plan specifies the actions required to control and prevent PM10 and PM2.5.
- Making policies and initiatives are a tough job in itself, implementing them makes the job tougher, to ensure the ground implementation CPCB deployed teams for ground feedback on air polluting activities in Delhi.
- During the Emergency (not the dark one declared by Indira Gandhi in 1975) imposed with respect to air pollution from November 7 – November 14, 2017, a ban on construction and water sprinkling activities was announced.
- The anticipation of 12 pollutants under EPA, 1986 along with a Nation-wide air quality monitoring program known as National Air Quality Monitoring Programme (NAMP) is being executed by the government and currently, 691 manual operating stations are covering 303 cities or towns, 29 states, and 4 Union Territories.
- Apart from these initiatives, a High-Level Task force has been constituted headed by principal Secretary to PM that works with sub-committee to prevent stubble burning. Regular meetings are held in the Ministry at Official and Ministerial level with Central and State Governments.
Thank you MoEF:
The efforts of government can be seen from the fact that good, moderate and satisfactory AQI in 2016 were just 109 and 151 in 2017. To put it in a nutshell, the air quality in Delhi has improved – this is a success story but we cannot let our guard down yet. If there is no pure air to breathe there will be none to avail the freebies like education, water and electricity provided by the Delhi government. We are lucky to live in a country where the government is addressing the issue of pollution and climate change and initiating steps towards tackling the same. The Ministry of Environment and Forest and Climate Change has been doing a lot more than a bit, to save our environment, their efforts might have been undermined by all of us due to other volatile and futile issues, but the efforts are certainly not ignored by the environment. So, thank you, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change from the bottom of a stakeholders heart.
Remember people together we can and we will Save the Planet!
Source: Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change and Outlook.