By Elton Gomes
In the last two decades, Delhi’s air quality was the “most deadly” in 2016 as it reduced a resident’s life expectancy by more than 10 years, a new study said on Monday. The study highlighted that Delhi was ranked second among the 50 most polluted areas in India.
According to air quality life index (AQLI) and an accompanying report produced by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago (EPIC), particulate pollution around the world reduces average life expectancy by 1.8 years, making it the greatest global threat to human health.
“The impact of particulate pollution on life expectancy is comparable to that of smoking, twice that of alcohol and drug use, three times that of unsafe water, five times that of HIV/AIDS, and more than 25 times that of conflict and terrorism,” the study said, PTI reported.
What has the study found?
The study noted that over the past two decades, the concentration of fine particulates increased by 69 percent on an average across India, thus reducing the life expectancy of a typical Indian citizen by 4.3 years compared to 2.2 years in 1998.
The study said that concentrations of particulate pollution in India’s northern states of Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi are “substantially higher”, and the impact on life expectancy exceeds six years.
A total of 75 percent of the global population, or 5.5 billion people, live in areas where particulate pollution exceeds the guidelines prescribed by the World Health Organization. “The AQLI reveals that India and China, which make up 36 per cent of the world’s population, account for 73 per cent of all years of life lost due to particulate pollution,” the study said, as per a PTI report.
The study further said that particulate pollution is “so severe that it shortens the average Indian’s life expectancy by more than four years relative to what it would be if WHO air quality guidelines were met”.
What can be done to reduce pollution in Delhi?
In 2017, Delhi’s air quality had dipped to levels which were similar to smoking 50 cigarettes a day. The national capital’s air crisis seems to be worsening day by day. A few steps can be taken to curb pollution in Delhi.
Delhi’s deteriorating air quality could be partly salvaged through a plantation drive. The Delhi government should launch a campaign to plant trees in the city. Fresh air could be the only counter to the excessive amount of pollutants in Delhi’s air.
The apex court has also banned the registration of luxury SUVs and diesel cars above 2000 cc in the national capital. Diesel cars are believed to be a major source of vehicular emissions, thus exacerbating the crisis in Delhi. To lower the number of cars on Delhi’s roads, residents can either carpool or use public transport.
Moreover, a bench headed by the then Chief Justice of India noted that it was not fair for rich people to buy luxury cars and thus pollute Delhi. Additionally, the National Green Tribunal has also asked public administration departments and municipal bodies to make efforts to slowly eliminate the use of diesel vehicles.
Delhi could take some lessons from Beijing in curbing air pollution. A research project led by the Beijing Municipal Environmental Monitoring Centre had revealed earlier in 2018 that emissions from vehicles and construction dust constituted a large part of Beijing’s pollution.
A comparison of pollution levels in China and India, for their respective national capital regions and for the whole country, shows how China made significant progress in dealing with air pollution.
Data released by Greenpeace shows how China reversed its air pollution levels around 2014. China saw improvements soon after the National Atmospheric Pollution Prevention Action Plan was issued in September 2013.
What’s happening in Delhi?
According to recent reports, on Monday, the air quality in the national capital had been constantly fluctuating between the “poor” and “very poor” categories.
According to the Centre-run System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And Research (SAFAR), Delhi’s overall air quality was recorded in the “very poor” category, while the overall air quality index (AQI) was registered at 333.
If pollution levels in Delhi show no sign of improvement, the Centre is planning to induce artificial rain to wash away toxic pollutants from the air.
Union Minister Mahesh Sharma said that the Centre will roll out a notification to induce artificial rain over Delhi if the situation gets worse. “Increasing menace of air pollution is a big concern for a developing country like India. The Centre has decided that if the air quality will cross 500 mark then they will ask authorities to induce artificial rain or cloud seeding over the capital. Our scientists and authorities are working round the clock to curb this. All requisite preparation for artificial rains are underway,” Sharma was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius.