GS (M) Paper-3: “environmental pollution and degradation”
Are we doing enough to curb air pollution?
- Air pollutionis to a large extent invisible in our day to day life.
- Toner dust, car exhausts and dust mite allergensare so small that they cannot be seen with the naked eye.
- Furthermore, many of the negative health effects of air pollution are accumulative, so that our health deteriorates gradually – often unnoticed from one day to the next.
- Cycling or jogging which is considered to be the part of a healthy lifestyle turns out to be more harmful. The reason is pollution.
- The harm caused by it exceeds the benefits due to inhaling of pollutants (measured in minutes per day). These refer to the smallest measurable particles of matter, PM 2.5 that are less than 2.5 micro meter and can elude the body’s defences.
- A data based from the journal, Preventive Medicine and the WHO showed cities around the world where such exercises caused harm rather than benefit.
India and China, being the most polluted countries tackle this problem very differently.
Condition of India:
India has been battling the problem of air pollution since a very long time. India has a string of such polluted cities mainly in the north of the country and extending into Pakistan and Afghanistan forming the biggest concentration is such danger spots in the entire world.
- Delhi was listed as the world’s worst polluted area by the WHO in 2014.
- More than 30 minutes of cycling or jogging becomes counterproductive in Gwalior and Allahabad.
- More than 45 minutes of cycling or jogging is dangerous in Patna and Raipur.
- More than 60 minutes of cycling or jogging becomes counterproductive in Ludhiana and Kanpur.
- Out of 4 months, only 5 days were listed as safe for children to play in open according to the American school in Delhi. In 2008, a study by the Institute of Urban Transport (India) estimates that there are a million trips by cycle everyday in Delhi.
- These become major drawbacks as the population in India is ruled by the middle class and lower middle class as they rely on alternatives such as walking or cycling.
- In 2015, there were 1.1 million premature deaths in India due to long term exposure to PM 2.5 according to the state of Global Air 2017.
- As shown in a new research in the journal Environment International, pure term babies face the risk of death or physical or neurological disabilities due to this kind of exposure.
- Since 2010, India and Bangladesh have recorded the highest such levels in the world.
- The highest number of premature deaths globally due to ozone is also in India.
- In 2010, 18% of the total pre-term births (2.7 million) were affected by this.
- India alone has contributed 1 million of such cases which is twice that of China’s.
China faces similar issues regarding air pollution, but, the way it tackles it is commendable.
- China had reported 17% increase in deaths due to air pollution since 1990.
- After the 2008 Olympics, China faced the air pollution crises because of the heavy field work. They were bulk of coarser particles as half of the world’s concrete and one third of its steel were being used for the games.
- To curb this, China began to execute the measurement of ‘blue sky days’ in a year. It rose to 274 from 241(2006) in a span of two years.
- From 2001, China spent 17$ billion on improvising it’s capital’s environment.
- It spent $557 million on air pollution.
- The number of buses doubled and the old buses and taxis were replaced with new ones. It also introduced 4000 CNG buses. It curbed pollution by controlling the number of cars that did not meet the emission standards. It also limited the use of cars by officials. By 2014 it had cut the number of new license plates by 37%.
- Over 200 polluting industries were shifted out.
- There was a considerable decrease in the Sulphur dioxide levels as it changed from Euro I to Euro IV (800 ppm to 50 ppm).
- In 2013 Beijing decided that it would spend $163 billion in 5 years on tackling pollution.
- Due to all these efforts the PM level fell by 3% in a span of 5 years (2010-2015) all over China.
What could be done?
- India needs to take immediate action to curb this rising danger. It needs to first of all spread an awareness regarding the current situation. We are already lagging behind.
- If immediate measures are not taken, then it would be an extremely dangerous situation.
- India now needs to take a serious look into sustainability and development of the environmental conditions of the country rather than just focusing on the growth.