“Of the 20 most polluted cities in the world, the top 14 are in India” states the WHO report. With the increasing air pollution, Indians are battling respiratory problems, foetal deaths, passive smoking and fighting for survival. Along with the already running Let Delhi Breathe campaign, The Times of India is back with a wider approach towards ways to combat Air Pollution. Let Our City Breathe aims to work at a micro level, to bring a true and lasting change. Let’s all pledge to fight for clean air and let our cities breathe!
In 2014, after a WHO report showed Delhi’s air to be the most polluted in the world, The Times of India launched Let Delhi Breathe – an initiative aimed at creating awareness around Delhi’s air pollution issue and getting authorities to take relevant action to improve the air quality. The initiative was highly successful in the first year itself as it caught the attention of both citizens and the relevant authorities who in turn acted upon the recommendations proposed by TOI.
The campaign also found mention in international media as a pioneering initiative in this space.
Soon after finding multiple mentions in the print media, the campaign made a huge impact after serious actions were taken by the concerned authorities including:
However, the problem of air pollution is not restricted just to Delhi but is a nationwide phenomenon, taking point in multiple other metropolitan cities including Kolkata, Mumbai and Bangalore. With poor air quality becoming a gnawing concern across the country, TOI now plans to scale up Let Delhi Breathe with a focus on the issue of paddy husk burning as well as expand this initiative to other parts of the country before it’s too late, under the name Let Our City Breathe.
In today’s time, there isn’t one single person who hasn’t witnessed the effects of the decreasing air quality. Poor quality air has hazardous consequences. This issue which was pertaining mostly to Delhi NCR and adjoining cities has now also spread to other parts of the country.
Fine Particulate Matter, PM 2.5 which is an air pollutant two and a half microns or less in width is one of the major contributors to the poor air quality. Particles of this size can easily travel deep into the respiratory system, causing shortness of breath; irritation in lungs, throat, eye and nose; coughing; sneezing and runny nose.
Our cities are becoming gas chambers, with increasing vehicular pollution, industrial emissions, combustion of fossil fuels, burning garbage, stubble burning, etc.
With festivals and Diwali around the corner burning of crackers worsens the air quality making it even worse for people. The after-effects last for days.
Indoor pollution has also been increasing due to the fumes from cooking oil, the gas stove, incense and mosquito repellents. The unfortunate scenario is that air purifiers are at an extremely hiked price, for a middle class or underprivileged family it becomes an expensive added expenditure.
Almost every activity we indulge in, leads to some kind of damage to the environment. Industrial waste, vehicular pollution, domestic smoke, cigarette smoking, outdoor fires, improper ventilation, incineration of waste are some of the major ways our daily activities contribute towards the horrendous issue.
After harvesting Kharif crops (Rice, Maize, Bajra) in October, most farmers burn the residues for sowing wheat and other Rabi crops in November. This is widespread in North India especially in Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn paddy husk contributing to nearly 70% of the air pollution. This not only deteriorates the quality of soil, but the smoke emitted is hazardous, causing many respiratory and other deadly diseases.
Generating a whopping 1 Lakh metric tonnes of waste per day, the air quality in India is worsened due to a major chunk of this getting burnt. The smoke rising from the waste burning poses serious health hazards as it is amongst the top 2 factors responsible for the highest PM 2.5 exposure, second being residential biomass burning.
Contrary to the popular belief, diesel is not a cleaner fuel than petrol, diesel cars may be fuel efficient and save you a few bucks but the emissions from diesel cars can lead to deteriorated air quality, global warming, formation of smog blanket and other serious environmental issues. According to a new European survey, Modern diesel cars produce 10x more toxic air pollution than heavy trucks and buses which leads to coughing, choking, and reduced lung capacity, and aggravated problem of asthma and premature deaths.
Dust has become a major source of air pollution. Frequent digging of roads, ineffective cleaning of roadside dust, dust brought through winds from Rajasthan and uncovered construction sites are some of the major reasons that adds up to the air pollution. As the winter season sets in and due to the stagnant winds, dust particles and pollutants get locked in the air, resulting in smog. This can cause several diseases ranging from minor allergies to fatal lung and heart diseases.
Industrial emissions are amongst the top causes of air pollution. It contains huge amounts of harmful pollutants like NOx, carbon monoxide, organic compounds and chemicals which when released in air unfiltered, severely deplete the air quality. Several cities in India have clusters of small industries operating close to the residential areas which leads to environmental and health issues.
People are adversely affected due to the deteriorating quality of air in the country. The effect of pollution is most harmful for the elderly, young children, and especially more for the child in the mother’s womb. More and more people are prone to lung infections, persistent cough, inflammations of the skin, the risk and statistic of heart attacks increases manifold.
Ambient air pollution shortens an average Indian’s life by over 1.5 years. Studies have revealed that air pollution, even at levels considered safe, caused one in seven new cases of contributes to diabetes with over 3.2 Million new diabetes cases globally in 2016.
A 4-year long longitudinal study by the International Food Policy Research Institute has, for the first time, found that exposure to air pollution over a significant period of time impacts cognitive abilities, and leads to steep reduction in verbal and math tests scores.
It is not only the outdoor pollution, in fact indoor pollution is equally dangerous. The WHO states that out of the seven million annual deaths caused by air pollution, about 3.8 million are caused by household/indoor pollution.
Choking in its own skin, the causes are stitched deep within. Sow a healing seed, let the city breathe.- Shreyasee Thakral