Delhi, India’s Capital City is in the grave environmental danger, drawing the attention of the world. This city of India, which was once known for its rich cultural heritage, is now, not only the most populated city but also a terribly polluted city. According to WHO survey, the concentration of the particulates in the Delhi’s Air is approximately 45 times excessive of the permissive limits. As Delhi is under a blanket of thick smog, it is evident that the city residents are not safe both indoors and outdoors. In the wake of the Delhi’s ever-increasing pollution levels, the top-notch medical authorities and institutions along with environmentalists have issued a Public Health Emergency warning to the administrative officials of Indian Government.
The current status of Delhi’s air quality has improved from being under ‘severe’ category to ‘Very poor’ category. In the past days, the pollution levels in Delhi has become so high that the Delhi’s Central Pollution Control board (CPCB) has recorded the levels ranging anywhere between 300 and 1700. This is seemingly variable with respect to the area and the timings, that is being monitored, during the day. The reading of the pollution monitors, that shows anything above 50 microgram, is considered to cause severe respiratory problems to the people.
CPCB along with the SAFAR (System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting And
Since then, the range of air quality has been oscillating between 300 and 800 micrograms per 24 hours. This clearly indicates that the highly intensified toxic air is getting circulated in the atmosphere of Delhi’s geography. As the prevailing AQI is 500+, people have been asked to stay indoors by CPCB and they are advised to wear the safety gas masks, wherever they go or whenever they go out.
The chemicals involved
Carbon dioxide, Carbon-monoxide, nitrogen oxides, Sulfur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, benzene, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde,1,3-butadiene, toluene, xylenes, perchloroethylene, methylene chloride, particles of diesel exhaust, soot and metals like cadmium, lead, mercury and chromium and many other unknown elements formed by continuous chemical reactions.
The health effects
The major health effects caused by the pollution include :
Adults: Nausea, headaches, eyes and nose problems, throat infections, strokes, damage of central nervous system and reproductive system, liver and kidney problems, carcinogenic and skin diseases, respiratory and cardiac diseases.
Children: Along with aforementioned adult health effects, children might develop autism, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, diabetes. Infants may be still-born or may suffer from impediments such as retarded brain and lungs, retarded physique and much debility caused by premature births.
The causes and effects of pollution levels
The major cause of Air pollutants are:
- Emissions from the motor and commercial transport vehicles;
- The emissions caused by industrial factories;
- Emissions from the power plants and dust from the roads and construction/demolition sites;
- Burning of the waste materials and stubble;
Apart from the Air pollutants, the weather condition of Delhi is also a major promoter of air pollution. The cold weather, low temperatures, and stagnant/light winds tend to trap the concentration of air pollutants for a longer duration of time preventing it from getting dispersed.
As the National capital – Delhi acts a gateway for the logistics and transport businesses in India, thousands of commercial vehicles and trucks cross Delhi’s geographical boundaries every day, commuting North to South and East to West. It is, therefore, adding up more to the existing pollution jeopardy.
The air quality levels drops to extremes during the mornings and evenings and are considered to be the worst on the roads, the railway stations, and the airports. The effect of this has proportionally claimed many thousands of lives. And among these lives,
- Few of them are the people on roads meeting accidents due to the lower visibility conditions and
- Few others are the infants being treated for pre-natal births and the elderly being treated for respiratory, cardiac, skin related diseases in hospitals.
Measures to tackle the air pollution
The Government of India is endeavoring to find a temporary fix in curbing the current rates of the surmounting pollution. Earlier this month, the Delhi Government initiated the short term, smaller yet aggressive, measures to curb the air pollution immediately. These measures included
- Temporary shutdown of Badarpur coal-based power plant.
- Temporary halt on the construction/demolition work.
- Vacuum cleaning and mechanical sweeping of the roads.
- Banning on usage of diesel generators (to be used only in case of extreme emergencies),
- Installations of water sprinklers and mist fountains at the roadsides.
- Installations of smoke-trappers at crematoriums and garbage landfill sites.
- Discouraged the burning of biomass for heating.
- Encouraged the public to use the electric heaters to cope up with colder climates.
- Shut down of educational institutions and Work from home convenience for professionals.
- Ban on the movement of commercial vehicles during the business hours of the mornings (7 AM-11 AM) and evenings(5 PM- 11 PM).
- Consolidate several consultations to induce the artificial rains through the method of cloud- seeding to saturate the smog and settle the dust.
The Supreme court of India has banned the production and sale of firecrackers in and around the capital region. The environmentalists have suggested shutting down the Badarpur power plant permanently owing to its maturity.
Pre-cautionary measures yet to be implemented
The suggested long-term pre-cautionary implementations, that can be taken up for an immediate action, by the government are as follows:
- Identify the causes of smog; initiate the necessary regulations and enforce the adherence of the same;
- Restrict the children and elderly from the outdoor activities and use high-quality home-based air-purifiers indoors.
- Bring necessary deviations to the academic sessions to reduce the students’ time spent outside home.
- Facilitate the professionals with work from home opportunities.
- Restrictions on usage of roads by regulating the traffic within city and inter-states effectively;
- Evaluate the industries causing air-borne pollutants and examine their standards, working methodologies, and working conditions.
- Ban on the burning of stubble and find the alternative solution for effective disposal of the stubble;
- Re-evaluate the methods of very large scale garbage disposal and seek for eco-friendly alternatives;
- Develop a comprehensive statistical data recording systems across the healthcare sectors.
- Build systems to monitor the dust levels and install these devices at the locations such as construction sites, roads etc.
- Devise an innovative and eco-friendly solution by conducting the detailed discussions and collaborating with medical practitioners, environmentalists, pollution control board, meteorological authorities, businessmen, academicians, researchers and subject matter experts in allied fields besides teaming up with other related departments.
- Enforce laws and rules and levy penalty if in case of any violation.
- Involve the people of India to aid the efforts of Indian Government.
In addition to these long-term goals, the Indian Government is also focusing on the research and development activities to get several innovative methods on-board.
- Feasibility studies and surveys are being conducted on the usage of Electric vehicles for regular commutation within the city;
- The central Government has sketched the short term plans to procure the electric automobiles from the other parts of the globe;
- Additionally, plans to adopt innovations related to clean vehicle and fuel technologies;
- In future, the Indian Government might consider introducing, the newly available solution in the world’s automobile market. Tesla’s electric semi-long haul trucks and short-range delivery trucks with an inbuilt mammoth battery which claims to be crushproof. It boasts of yielding and working more than that of a diesel truck. It is loaded with great features such as object detection cameras, autonomous driving, automatic braking systems, event recording, safety systems and much more.
As the saying goes “History repeats itself”. 65 years ago, London faced the same situation that the Delhi is facing today. Before it gets too late, realize that today’s Delhi is breathing a toxic combination of several hazardous elements. Eventually, it is going to face dire consequences such as the deaths of several people and environmental habitats. It induces long-term illnesses in the health of city’s dwellers, propelling India into a health crisis. Thus, it adversely affects India’s overall economy. Therefore, it is expected that the Indian Government will implement stringent measures in the future. This is necessary in order to stay committed to the long-term goals of curbing the air pollution disaster.
Be Pollution Vigilant and Save our Tiranga!
Authored by Rekha Harish Rao