Tuesday, Aug 09, 2022

Pollution Control Day: Why India Has Some Of The Most Polluted Cities In The World

Commemorating the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984, the National Pollution Control Day is observed every year. Let's have a look at how pollution affects our lives, the reasons behind air pollution and ways to control pollution.

Representational Image PTI

National Pollution Control Day is observed every year on December 2, to commemorate the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of 1984 in which claimed the lives of thousands of people. National pollution control day is a reminder of how pollution can devastate human lives and society and governments should put in their best efforts to curb pollution.

A gas leak incident at the Union Carbide India Limited (UCIL) pesticide plant in Bhopal triggered a health hazard and many people lost their lives in Bhopal. It is considered one of the world's worst industrial disasters. Over 5,00,000 people were exposed to the toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas.

In 2021, the problem of air pollution is much more relevant. It is also widespread and affects large parts of India. Here is the list of the 5 most polluted cities in India as of today morning- 

1. Sankrail, West Bengal - 398

2. Jaunpur, Uttar Pradesh - 369

3. Pitampura Monitoring Station, Delhi - 360

4. Patna, Bihar - 351

5. Darbhanga, Bihar - 336

Reasons for Air Pollution in Northern India- 

The northern plains are the worst hit by the problem of air pollution in winters every year. Especially, the areas around NCR and towards the east, in Bihar and West Bengal. There are many reasons which can be attributed to the pollution in northern India - 

1. Stubble burning - Also known as Parali burning, this affects the areas around agricultural lands.  Towards the end of October, farmers start harvesting their Kharif crops and burn their stubble. Back in the day, they used to uproot the plants but with the modern-day harvesters, they have stubble of crop left, which they choose to burn every year. Despite the promises by governments, this problem hits India every season.

2. Dust pollution - This factor majorly affects the metropolitan cities where construction activities go around every time. PM 2.5 and PM 10 pollutants settle on the construction dust and the smoke remains caught at heights closer to the ground, rather than rising up in the sky.

3. Open fires - In the winters, people around India, light up bonfires using coal, wood, garbage, etc. This emits smoke and pollutes the cities from grassroots levels. Especially, in cities where people live in high-rise buildings, the security guards, house helps, etc gather in public spheres in night and bask in the warmth of these fires. The Delhi government recently announced the distribution of electric heaters to these people but no widespread change was seen in either the distribution or the pollution levels of the city.

4. Vehicular and industrial pollution - While this is a yearlong problem, this gets highlighted only in the winters when the cities experience mounting AQIs. Delhi used to implement odd-even scheme to counter this problem in the past years. Every year, industries are shut for a few days around Delhi to control this source of pollution. 

Effects of air pollution on our health

The health effects of air pollution are serious – One-third of the global deaths from stroke, lung cancer and heart disease are due to air pollution. Air pollution has an equivalent effect to that of smoking tobacco, and much higher than, say, the effects of eating too much salt.

A study published in the Lancet Journal found that around 16.7 Lakh deaths in India in 2019, were in some way or the other, related to air pollution.  

Not only health is affected but the economy as well. The same study found that India lost $36.8 billion, which was 1.36% of India's GDP that year.

How to prevent polluting our cities and towns?

The following steps can be taken by the citizens to ensure that they minimize their contribution to the pollution in their cities and towns - 

1. Using public transports.
2. Turning off the lights when not in use.
3. Recycling and Reusing products.
4.  Not using plastic bags.
5. Reduction of forest fires and smoking.
6. Using fans instead of ACs.
7. Using filters in the place of chimneys.
8. Not bursting firecrackers
9. Avoiding use of products containing harmful chemicals
10. Implementing afforestation