1. Substantiate with facts, the extent of clean air crisis in India
2. Mention the reasons behind the severity of air pollution; in both urban as well rural landscape.
3. Provide solutions
Air pollution is now the third-highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking, in India. According to Greenpeace India report 2018, it ranks 14 Indian cities among the 20 most polluted ones globally.
The State of Global Air Report 2019 highlighted the grim picture of India’s air pollution-
Over 1.2 million Indians died early due to exposure to unsafe air in 2017.
Entire Indian population lives in areas with PM2.5 concentrations above the WHO Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3, and only about 15 % of the population lives in areas with PM2.5 concentrations below the WHO’s least-stringent target of 35 µg/m3.
About 60% of India’s population was exposed to household pollution in 2017. However, the report also recognises that the proportion of households cooking with solid fuels in India has dipped from 76% in 2005 to 60% (846 million) in 2017, due to a major government program of shifting households from solid fuels to liquefied petroleum gas.
The govt has taken measures to curb this menace through legislative measures like The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981, The Environment (Protection) Act,1986 (Air Act) etc and other policy initiatives like Dust Mitigation Plan, FAME scheme, Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojna etc.
But, the Policy interventions can help improve air quality, but only when they attack the roots of the crisis, tackle the right problems and are implemented well. Today Air pollution control approach is more patchy and reactive rather proactive. Major issues which had made the situation critical are as follows-
A major hurdle in addressing air pollution is poverty. Poverty ridden households are still dependent on cook stoves, heating fuel, and kerosene lighting which are all common sources of pollution.
Further, though air pollution affects all, but the poorest and most marginalized people are worst affected and air pollution related deaths occur mostly in poorest households.
Poor governance is also a major challenge in curbing air pollution since lax enforcement of standards for car exhausts, crop burning, or dust from construction sites leads to more particulates in the air.
Cities can ban pollution sources like brick kilns from within their boundaries. However, they can’t stop pollutants from blowing over from the perimeter from stubble burning, polluting industries etc.
Controlling this kind of pollution requires coordinating across city and provincial boundaries over a geographic region, but there is complete lack of coordination between administration of different states or between rural-urban areas.
4. Technological challenges:
Major technological challenges include old technology and High average age of vehicles, obsolete technology used in industries etc.
5. Lack of adequate public transport:
Inadequate public transport and increasing number of private vehicles pose a serious challenge to curb vehicular pollution in Indian cities. A CSE study points out that the share of public transport is expected to decrease from
75.5% in 2000-01, to 44.7 per cent in 2030-31, while the share of personal transport will be more than 50%
6. Lack of public participation:
Lack of awareness among people and an inadequate public participation in air pollution control programs is a major issue which affects the effectiveness of policies and programmes
7. Inadequate data:
Data on air pollution is grossly inadequate and monitoring does not have all India coverage. Further, there is lack of indigenous studies establishing the correlation between exposure to air pollution and human health.
8. Construction is spread across the landscape posing serious enforcement challenge.
Byelaws on construction and demolition waste not implemented: The amended by-laws have stated that this shall be the responsibility of the owner/occupier of premises to store the construction material and construction and
demolition (C&D) waste within the premises.
Level of awareness is extremely poor among the citizens and efforts made by government agencies to change this is negligible. This reflected in uptake of recycled waste products that the C&D waste plants are manufacturing.
Creating a robust system to implement existing clean-air policies, promoting coordination between the centre and states, and devising state and district-level pollution control plans are vital to improve air quality.
Detailed emission inventories are needed to provide information on the type of pollutant, its proportion, its source and its chemical properties.
Satellite data can supplement the routine monitoring of air pollution, as it can be more economical than setting up and operating a number of fixed stations. They could also be used to identify potential air quality hot spots.
Sustainable government support is required for checking the indoor pollution due to solid fuels.
Air pollution does not recognise borders. Improving air quality demands sustained and coordinated government action at all levels. Emphasising the need for a comprehensive plan presenting systemic solutions and reminding governments that a plan can be executed successfully only if all stakeholders work in tandem. This template should also be adapted for other Indian cities that suffer appalling air quality.