Air pollution is responsible for more deaths worldwide - Seeker's Thoughts

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Air pollution is responsible for more deaths worldwide

As per the World Health Organisation, 14 of the 15 most polluted cities in the world are in India. Nearly all of them are in the Indo-Gangetic Plain — in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana. However, air pollution goes beyond state borders and political divisions.
 India's Supreme Court has said the world is "laughing at India" over its air pollution issues.
The court came down heavily on federal and state governments over what it sees as a failure to curb pollution levels.
"Get explosives in 15 bags and kill them in one go. Why should people suffer this?"
Thick pollution has blanketed parts of northern India for weeks, with Delhi recording "hazardous" air quality levels.
On 2nd December 2019, the air quality index figures in Delhi reached 339. A good level is considered anything between zero and 50.
Levels are expected to dip with rainfall predicted to hit the capital over the coming days.
At this time of year, farmers tend to burn crop stubble to clear their fields, contributing to the high pollution levels.

Vehicle fumes, as well as construction and industrial emissions, have also contributed to the smog over the past month.
The court said the lifespan of millions of people had been shortened and that people in Delhi and the surrounding region are "suffocating" due to pollution.
It called on Delhi's government to come up with a plan to install air-purifying towers across the city within 10 days.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) says a third of deaths from lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. 

 Worldwide, air pollution was responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors

This when current exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to over 1.2 million deaths in India in 2017, according to a new global study, State of Global Air 2019 (SOGA2019), released on 3rd April 2019.

Worldwide, air pollution was responsible for more deaths than many better-known risk factors such as malnutrition, alcohol use, and physical inactivity.

In India, air pollution is the 3rd highest cause of death among all health risks, ranking just above smoking; each year, more people globally die from air pollution-related disease than from road traffic injuries or malaria.

In China and India

In the study, the analysis found that China and India together were responsible for over half of the total global attributable deaths, with each country facing over 1.2 million deaths from all air pollution in 2017. China has made initial progress, beginning to achieve air pollution decline.

Overall, long-term exposure to outdoor and indoor air pollution contributed to nearly 5 million deaths from stroke, diabetes, heart attack, lung cancer, and chronic lung disease in 2017.

Out of these 3 million deaths are directly attributed to PM2.5, half of which are from India and China together. South Asian countries — Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan — led the world as the most polluted region, with over 1.5 million air-pollution related deaths according to the report.

What is the State of Global Air?

 The State of Global Air report brings into one place the latest information on air quality and health for countries around the globe. It is produced annually by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s Global Burden of Disease project as a source of objective, peer-reviewed air quality data, and analysis. Like previous reports, this year’s publication presents information on outdoor and household air pollution and on the health impacts of exposure to air pollution. For the first time, the report also explores how air pollution affects life expectancy. 

Who is it for?

The report is designed to give citizens, journalists, policymakers, and scientists access to reliable, meaningful information about air pollution exposure and its health effects. The report is free and available to the public.

How can I explore the data?

This report has a companion interactive website that provides tools to explore, compare, and download data and graphics with the latest air pollution levels and associated burden of disease. Anyone can use the website to access data for 195 individual countries or territories and their related regions, as well as track trends from 1990 to 2017. Find it at

Previous Reports
India is one of the worst countries when it comes to air pollution. The air quality of India has become more toxic in recent years. Soot dust, Ozone, and Sulphur Oxides are a growing threat for billions of people.

According to a new study by Swiss-based IQAir Air visual and non-profit organization Greenpeace, fifteen out of the twenty are the most polluted cities in the world are in India, Additionally, the report stated that Gurugram in the National capital Region was the most polluted city. 

Delhi with an average PM2.5 concentration at 113.5 micrograms per cubic meter was the most polluted capital in the world in 2018. 

Other Indian cities that made their way into the world’s polluted cities list are Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwandi, Naiad, Patna, and Lucknow.

2018’s World Air Quality Report was based on data gathered from over 3,000 cities around the globe. The report was made by measuring the level of PM.2.

In the report’s rank, Bangladesh is on average, was the most polluted nation, followed closely by Pakistan and India. While Afghanistan, Mongolia, Bahrain, and Kuwait topped the chart, countries like Iceland, Finland, Estonia, Australia and Sweden were among the least polluted as per the 2018’s World Air Quality Rep
The ranking shows Asian locations dominating the highest 100 average PM2.5 levels during 2018, with cities in India, China, Pakistan and Bangladesh occupying the top 50 Cities.

Notably – India stands out for air that is consistently, epically terrible.

Government's Efforts
The government has been constantly trying to curb air pollution but there is no sign of improvement even after launching several programmes in recent years. Like – Green India mission, electric vehicle, GRAP Delhi, UJJWALA yojana, odd-even policy, smart city, and AMRUT. 
 These programmes have shown the least improvement in air quality as the contribution of the citizens has been nil or even against the government. 

As in the case of odd-even policy, people disliked the idea and there was a discontentment among people. Even when the order for banning ten years old diesel vehicle in Delhi came, people were compelled to do so instead of volunteering for the environment and improving the air quality of the city.  

So now the central government has launched the National Clean Air Programme to control the air pollution across the country.

National Action plan for curbing air pollution
Looking beyond the national capital, which has been getting more attention on the critical issue of air pollution, the union government has launched a comprehensive National Clean Air Programme to tackle air pollution in a time-bound manner across the country. The programme is aimed at reducing the concentration levels of PM 10 and PM 2.5 by 2024, with 2017 as the base year.

It will be operationalized through inter-sectorial groups, which include the ministries of road transport and highways, petroleum and natural gas, renewable energy, and urban affairs among others. 
How will it be achieved?
The plan covers 102 non-attainment* cities, across 23 states and union territories, which were identified by the central pollution control board on the basis of their ambient air quality data between 2011 and 2015.

Non-attainment cities are considered if they were consistently showing poorer air quality than the national ambient air quality standards. Cities included under the list of non-attainment cities – Delhi, Varanasi, Bhopal, Kolkata, Noida Muzaffarpur, and Mumbai.

Air Quality Monitoring Network 
The center plans to scale up the air quality monitoring network across India under the programme.  Each city would be conducted across 102 nonattainment cities to ascertain pollution sources and the extent of their contribution.

Each City has to develop own action Plan
 Each city would be asked to develop its own action plan for implementation based on sources of pollution.

Periodically Review 
The Apex committee in the Ministry of Environment would be periodically reviewing the progress of these components on the basis of appropriate indicators, which will be evolved.

A three Tier System to collect the physical Data 
A three-tier system, including real time physical data collection, data archiving an action trigger system in all 102 cities, besides extensive plantation plans, research on clean technologies, landscaping of major arterial roads and stringent industrial standards are proposed under the plan.

State Level Plans
 State – level plans of e-mobility in the twin-wheeler sector, rapid augmentation of charging infrastructure, implementation of BS-VI norms, boosting public transportation system, and adoption of third-party audits for polluting industries part of the plan.

Non-Binding Document
The plan document is not binding on the states since the document is not a legal document. The environmentalist criticized the plan for not making it legally binding. The environmentalists demand a more strict action to ensure the safety and well-being of millions of lives risk because of the continuously growing air pollution crisis.

Government failures to curb Air pollution till now

In December 2018, the national green tribunal (NGT) slapped a fine of 25 cores on the Delhi government for failing to curb the city’s air pollution. The amount directly deducted from the salaries of government officials and deposited with the central pollution control board.
Government officials who failed to respond to more than 250 complaints from citizens about Delhi’s poor air quality.

The issue of environment and pollution is still to get the policy priority, while agencies like the Central pollution control board and state pollution control board have ignorant and irresponsible officials. Moreover, these agencies don’t have enough resources they are under –staffed too.

High dependence on coal for power 

Share of coal in power generation in India continue to be around 80% power plants with poor technology and efficiency continue to be the major source of pollutants like CO and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur.
-         Dependence on fuel wood and kerosene for the purpose of lighting and cooking leads to high level of pollutants being released in rural an urban periphery.
-         Over exploitation of coal mines like forests, grazing lands and mindless deforestation reduces the natural capacity to absorb pollutants.

What can be the solutions?

As per the current scenario, India should most importantly focus on green cover especially in the urban areas. Secondly, the government should more emphasis on renewable energy by adopting smart grid technology, incentives for decentralized power production via biogas, rooftop solar. Third better urban planning is the mandatory government should empower local bodies and puts to more scientific waste management. Fourth the problem of crop burning can be resolved only though financial and technological support incentives for farmers.
 Access to technologies like super seeder machines and the development of marker for crop stubble will push farmers to a cleaner method of waste disposal. Fifth pollution and its health burden are inevitable in the near future therefore it is necessary to equip public healthcare system with adequate resources for facing this emerging challenge and shield poor from catastrophic healthcare expenditure.

It is good to see the final version of NCAP out after a long wait with the vision of reducing air pollution levels across the country. 

It would help to control the air pollution and make India’s air clean. India is facing heavy burden of diseases which is directly associated to air pollution. Government has initiated the programme but the responsibility should be taken by every citizen of the country.
Non Awareness in India also remains a considerable problem. With NCAP government should focus on more awareness campaigning through social media and include celebrities in the programme. 

Hopefully environment ministry shows more seriousness in implementing the plan and strengthens it, because pollution does not discriminate with power- it makes everyone sick.