Air pollution is becoming a major health problem that affects millions of people
worldwide. In support of this observation, the World Health Organization
estimates that every year, 2.4 million people die because of the effects of air
pollution on health. Mitigation strategies such as changes in diesel engine
technology could result in fewer premature mortalities, as suggested by the US
Environmental Protection Agency.
- discusses the impact of air pollution on respiratory disease;
- provides evidence that reducing air pollution may have a positive impact
on the prevention of disease; and
- demonstrates the impact concerted polices may have on population health
when governments take actions to reduce air pollution.
Pollution is something that is prevalent in all parts of our country.
To understand what exactly a pollution we should know about the problem of
What is Pollution?
Pollution is defined as the introduction of contaminants into the natural
environment that cause adverse change. In simple words when agents like air,
water etc. gets contaminated with harmful particles it gives rise to
Pollution. It is increasingly recognized that implementation of strategies to
reduce pollution can have substantial health benefits.
For example, the
Environmental Protection Agency proposed that the implementation of measures to
reduce emissions from diesel engines could result in 12 000 fewer mortalities
and prevent 15 000 heart attacks and 8900 hospital admissions in the United
States each year.2 The aim of this review is to provide information on the
impact of pollution on respiratory health, as well as to discuss strategies for
reducing air pollution, as proposed in a number of clinical reports. Particulate
matter (PM) and ozone (O3) pollution are major causes of concern in the
Types of pollution:
As we have seen above pollution is basically of 2 types:
- Water Pollution
- Air Pollution
Causes of Pollution
When we talk about pollution the first word that comes in our mind is the
capital of India i.e. Delhi. Delhi is vigorously struck with the highest level of
air pollution in recent years. The major reason we have seen in seen in recent
years for pollution in Delhi are firecrackers and burning of crops (Parali) from
These elements results in high AQI (Air Quality Index). The
toxic levels of air pollution in and around Delhi is creating quite a menace.
Adding to the severity, the changing weather conditions have locked the
pollutants in the air and made the situation worse. Doctors are warning people
of dire consequences and discouraging them from stepping outdoors. The reasons
or causes for the pollution are:
- National capital shares its border with the states of Haryana and Uttar
Pradesh. One of the main reasons of increasing air pollution levels in Delhi
is crop burning by the farmers in these states. Farmers burn rice stubbles
in Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh. It is estimated that approximately 35
million tonnes of crop are set on fire by these states. The wind carries all
the pollutants and dust particles, which have got locked in the air.
- Pollution caused by the traffic in Delhi is another reason for
contribution of this air pollution and smog. The air quality index has
reached severe levels. Vehicular emission is increasing the hazardous
effects of air pollution and smog. The Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the National
Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have declared vehicular
emission as a major contributor to Delhi's increasing air pollution.
- Another reason of air-pollution is over-population in the capital.
Overpopulation only adds up to the various types of pollution, whether it is
air pollution or noise pollution.
- Large scale construction of buildings in Delhi-NCR is another issue that
is increasing the level of dust and pollution in the air. Considering the
dipping air quality, a number of construction sites have stalled work, as
directed by the Delhi Government.
- Investing less on public Infrastructure is another reason of air
pollution. In India, investment in public transport and infrastructure is
low which leads to congested roads, and thus it results in air pollution.
Levels of Pollution
Pollution levels in Delhi-National Capital Region increased marginally on
Tuesday, mainly due to slow wind speed.
The overall air quality index (AQI) in the city read 270. up to 252. Nehru
Nagar was the most-polluted area with an AQI of 330 and Dilshad Garden (163) the
least polluted. Neighbouring Ghaziabad (300), Greater Noida (268), Gurgaon (186)
and Noida (259) also recorded a marginal dip in air quality. An AQI between 201
and 300 is considered poor, 301-400 very poor and 401-500 severe.
Weather experts said slow surface winds led to accumulation of pollutants and
the intensity of rains will be the deciding factor . If sufficient rains occur.
the pollutants will be washed away, while scanty rains could prove
Skymet Weather, a private forecaster, said patchy rains are possible over Delhi
and NCR. Parts of Haryana, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh will also get scattered
rains.Pollution in Delhi and NCR is increasing once again. It may increase
Polluting particles 30 times finer than one human hair, that can enter the
bloodstream and sicken or kill people--in Delhi's air were recorded at a 24-hour
average of 625 microgram per cubic metre (µg/m3) of air, the seasons worst.
This is 24 times higher than the World Health Organization (WHO)-prescribed safe
levels of 25 µg/m3 (24-hour average) and nine times higher than the laxer Indian
standard of 60 µg/m3 (24-hour average)
Air pollution is not only a winter problem. Year-round, the level (of air
pollution) remains three times higher than the national standard. Unless we
bring down the annual concentration significantly, health burden will not
reduce, Dey told IndiaSpend. To fight air pollution, governments need not only
emergency measures when pollution spikes, but year-round air pollution reduction
drives across sectors.
During the first five days of November 2019, when the focus was on Delhi's
severe level of pollution, it was not the worst-polluted among the nearly 100
cities across India that the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) monitors
daily. On three (November 2, 4 and 5) out of five days, Delhi did not even make
it to the list.
Yet, media attention was narrowly focused on Delhi. The government has a
National Clean Air Programme (NCAP) with a target of reducing pollution by
20-30% across India by 2024. The entire Indo-Gangetic Plain has pollution levels
at an annual scale more than double the Indian standard. Today, more than 76% of
the population lives in places that do not meet Indian air quality standards.
Unless we form an intersectoral plan, it will not work. We think that rural
areas are not polluted, but studies have shown that emission from household
activities (cooking and heating with solid biomass and kerosene lighting) has
the highest contribution at the national scale, higher than contributions from
transport, power plants and industry. NCAP is a good start.
We have Ujjwala programme running and its successful implementation would ensure
a large reduction in the regional pollution level. Eventually programmes such as
NCAP, Ujjwala, Smart City Missions need to be linked.
Effects of Pollution
- Hazardous to Human Health
Air Pollution threatens the human health in various ways. It causes lung disease
and other respiratory problems. According to World Health Organization (WHO)
report in 2013, it postulates air pollution causes two million premature deaths
annually. Furthermore, the WHO report emphasizes that majority of the deaths are
experienced in developing countries. Long-term exposure to air pollution also
adversely affects the lungs of young and growing children and may worsen medical
conditions among the aged people. Perhaps, this is the reason air pollution is
perceived as a relentless and quiet killer.
- Acid Rain
When the particles, chemicals, and pollutant gasses present in the atmosphere
chemically react with water molecules and oxygen, they form acidic compounds.
These acidic chemical compounds then combine with various forms of precipitation
such as snow, fog, rain, or sleet to form acid rain.
Eutrophication refers to the process whereby a water body acquires excessive
concentrations of nutrients, particularly owing to runoff deposits of nitrates
and phosphates. As a result, it usually encourages the dense growth of plant
life and algae. When the plant life and algae die and decompose, the resultant
organic matter quickly depletes the available oxygen in the water causing the
death of animal life such as fish.
- Other effects
from the widespread effects of human and animal health as well as the impacts
to the environment and vegetations, air pollution also affects our surrounding
in several ways. At times when one takes a keen look at the streets of big
cities, it is easy to spot how blackened some of the buildings look. The trend
is widespread and evident even in places where power plants or factories do not
exist. The blackening of the buildings is predominantly caused by exhaust and
soot from cars, buses, or heavy duty tracks. Accordingly, it usually
necessitates the need for repainting from time to time, further generating
emissions from paints and chemical solvents. Besides, exhaust fumes contribute
to acid rain that leads to weathering of buildings, corrosion of metals, and
peeling of paints on surfaces.
Government Measures For Pollution
Urgent actions are required to help reduce air pollution in Delhi, one of the
most polluted cities in the world, and restore various air parameters to levels
safe for the health of its citizens and visitors. Here are few steps that can
play an instrumental role in reducing air pollution in Delhi, which reached
alarming levels of 485 AQI (air quality index), when the safe limit for humans
is less than 100 AQI.
- Car pooling: Reduce traffic-based air pollution and congestion by
starting car pool lanes for those cars and four wheelers that have three or
more passengers to encourage people to go for car pooling. Meanwhile,
citizens too should take initiative and car pool with friends, colleagues,
family wherever possible.
- Use bicycles: Mark out bicycle lanes in residential colonies as well as
on all roads in Delhi to encourage safe travel by bicycles. Meanwhile,
citizens should also be encouraged to use bicycles.
- Public transport: Encourage greater use of public transport by
supporting the Metro, overhead rail and bus services to make it convenient
for people to travel by public transport affordably and safely instead of
using their own vehicles. Citizens too must shed hang-ups over social status
and try to travel by public transport proactively.
- More CNG vehicles: Encourage use of CNG in motor vehicles as it is a much
cleaner fuel than petrol or diesel by considerably reducing the road tax and
sales tax on CNG filled cars as compared to petrol and diesel four wheelers.
Since there are at least 1,400 cars added to Delhi roads every day, all the cars
should be restricted to using CNG only as all new petrol cars can be converted
to CNG. Also, new registrations should be discouraged by enhancing registration
- Fuel-efficient cars: Encourage more fuel efficient four wheelers with
better mileage per litre through road tax and sales tax incentives in addition to CNG
requirement. Citizens should opt for more efficient and smaller cars that can
run on CNG as alternate fuel.
- Bigger trucks: Encourage six-axle trucks rather than the typical
four-axle ones to increase the pay load per truck to reduce the number of
trucks on roads. Trucks going to other destinations must not be allowed to
pass through Delhi and only use the bypass.
- Road signs: Improve the poor road signs so that people do not travel
extra to locate their destinations. All the signs must be signposted at two
or three places well before the turning rather than at the last minute.
- Maintenance of roads: Better maintain roads to complexes such as Nehru
Place to reduce the time a four wheeler spends on plying on such poor roads.
- Shared taxis: The transport department should encourage shared taxi
services by developing a taxi sharing website and set up taxi stands and
cabs to offer reduced fares for shared service. This is other than the
facilities Ola and Uber
- Burning waste: Burning of leaves, old tyres or any items in the open should
be made a punishable offence in NCR with a fine of Rs 10,000 per incident as
this is a major cause of air pollution. Citizens should be asked to report such
incidents to helpline numbers and emails.
- Solar power: Installation of solar panels should be encouraged at homes,
multi-storey buildings and commercial establishments so that decentralised
power is generated with suitable subsidies to make it financially viable for
all households. The cost of solar panels has come down considerably. This
should help retire all coal-based thermal power plants which are adding a
lot to Delhi's air pollution problems and adversely effecting climate change. In fact,
thermal power plants in Delhi-NCR should be stopped from functioning till the
AQI level is under 200.
- Power backup: Inverters should be encouraged for back up supply and
diesel generator sets should not be allowed to run in Delhi-NCR till the AQI level
comes below 200.
- Dump sites: Landfills should be better managed by the government to
ensure there are no fires there.
- RO-RO on roads: The present RO-RO (Roll-on-Roll-off) scheme launched by
Indian Railways to carry loaded trucks on goods train to decongest Delhi
roads and to reduce air pollution needs to be given a fill up and made
compulsory for trucks which otherwise pass through Delhi.
Measures of Pollution
The average AQI of Delhi from January 1 to November 4 this year was 195. The
same figure for 2018 was 204. With a reduction of 9 points or 4 per cent for
2019, the average AQI has improved from poor to moderate.
Being the capital, Delhi is watched closely for its severe air pollution every
year during winters. While stubble burning in neighbouring states is blamed
majorly, multiple studies have attempted to find solutions to the same. And now,
India Today Data Intelligence Unit (DIU) has found that Delhi hardly had two
days of good air in 2019.
AQI is considered to be good if it is below 50. From January 1 to November 5
this year, the Capital had only two such days when the AQI averaged below 50 for
24 hours. This was on August 17 and 18 when Delhi had an average AQI of 49 on
But this is both good and bad. Good because Delhi didnt have a single good air
day in 2018, and bad because the number of days with good air is extremely low.
On average, Delhi's AQI till November 4 is better than what it was last year.
AQI of Delhi from January 1 to November 4 this year was 195. The same figure
for 2018 was 204. With a reduction of 9 points or 4 per cent for 2019, the
average AQI has improved from poor to moderate.
A closer look at the statistics shows a significant decline in the number of
days with poor and very poor air quality days.
The number of days the Capital inhaled poor quality air decreased from 102 in
2018 to 85 in 2019. Similarly the number of days with very poor quality air
also fell from 39 to 34.
Thus, there was a reduction of 22 days with poor and very poor air quality
While reviewing existing environmental regulation in India, the TSR Subramanian
Committee bluntly notes that the legislations are weak, monitoring is weaker,
and enforcement is weakest. In this paper, we assert the need for greater
investments in monitoring that yields reliable data, taking advantage of
advances in technology and reduced costs of monitoring equipment, and
considering the incentives of third party agencies tasked with the monitoring.
We argue that compliance and hence enforcement may improve if regulations are
designed in a manner that is compatible with the incentives of the regulated
entities. We also make the case that market based instruments, like congestion
pricing or cap-and-trade, offer the potential of a rare win-win in that they can
reduce compliance costs and reduce pollution allowing for urgent improvements in
This is because these regulatory mechanisms seek to reduce to a minimum the
costs of cutting total emissions into the ambient. As such, they seem
particularly well suited to bridge Indias perceived conflict between improving
environmental performance whilst maintaining robust levels of economic growth.
Finally, regardless of the type of regulation, it is essential that new
interventions need to be piloted and rigorously tested.
- India today survey on Delhi air pollution
- Environmental studies