By Elton Gomes
14 Indian cities are amongst the 20 most polluted cities in the world as per data released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Kanpur, Faridabad, Gaya, Patna, Lucknow, Agra, Muzaffarpur, Srinagar, Gurgaon, Jaipur, Patiala and Jodhpur were among those cities that registered very high levels of PM 2.5 pollutants, which are tiny particulate matter that reach deep into the lungs. Other countries featured on the list include Kuwait, China and Mongolia.
The WHO has called for its member countries to address the increasing burden of air pollution adding that India accounts for 2.4 million out of seven million deaths caused by household and outdoor air pollution globally in a year.
It is clear that even though the government has launched campaigns such as “Clean Air,” stronger decisions need to be made. Savio Silveira, Director of GreenLine NGO, says, “Pollution cannot be brought down through a few cosmetic changes. It needs strong policy decisions, which are followed by rigorous implementation.”
Here’s what can be done to keep restriction levels in check
Carpooling, cycling, and walking short distances
As more and more people become environmentally conscious, residents can advocate the use of cleaner fuels and the use of electric vehicles for transport. Carpooling is a great way to reduce the number of diesel and petrol cars on Indian roads, thereby lowering pollution levels. Furthermore, ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Ola champion the cause of carpooling. The government can build better and wider footpaths to encourage people to walk short distances rather than compelling them to use a rickshaw or a taxi.
Plant more trees
Trees are integral to curbing air pollution and the government, as well as citizens, need to make more initiative to plant trees. More importantly, trees should not be sacrificed in the name of infrastructure development.
In a cluttered area like Mumbai, housing several plants is a luxury. Mumbai’s space can be optimally used to plant trees through vertical gardens. Two gardeners Nicola Antaki and Adrienne Thadani tapped their botanical experience in Kumbharwada in Dharavi by installing vertical gardens to restrict air pollution arising out of the kilns there.
Although the government’s plan to employ electric vehicles might not have taken off, cities like Nagpur are making efforts towards using e-vehicles. In 2017, Nagpur acquired a fleet of 200 e-vehicles that included taxis, buses, e-rickshaws, and autos rickshaws. Perhaps Nagpur’s example can be followed by other cities, thus, increasing the number of e-vehicles on roads.
Get rid of garbage dumps
The practice of burning garbage as a way of disposal is very popular in India and needs to shut down completely. Instead of burning garbage, it can be disposed of in an incinerator – which is claimed to be better than sending it to a landfill site.
What India can learn from China
China’s air pollution levels were similar to those in India. However, China has been successful in curbing air pollution. Italian architect Stefano Boeri has proposed that towers in China should be “coated with 23 species of tree and more than 2,500 cascading shrubs,” the Guardian reported.
Due to the same, buildings and apartments have shrubs and trees growing over them. Furthermore, Boeri even plans to develop forest cities in Chinese cities.
In addition, China has adopted stringent policies that have hefty fines if breached. A report in the Wire mentions that Beijing alone collected approximately $ 28 million in pollution-related fines. Most importantly, Beijing is planning to reduce the number of cars on its roads. According to China Daily, “In 2018, the annual car license plate quota will be reduced to 100,000, down from 150,000.” Additionally, the government aims to reduce the number of gasoline cars and add 60,000 new energy vehicles.
As car ownership in India is estimated to rise, India can take some serious lesson from China on imposing stricter fines and reducing petrol and diesel cars.
Why you should care
As Indian cities continue their battle against smog and increasing air pollution, the WHO’s report doesn’t come as a sigh of relief. In fact, the report reiterates the need for stronger and more stringent methods to combat air pollution. In addition to government strategies, every Indian household should be aware of what constitutes air pollution. Curbing air pollution is important as climate change looms large on us, and the earth is already witnessing some dreadful changes and failure to implement changes will be disastrous.
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