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In the News

July 5, 2020

Maybe It Is Late, But We Can Turn Around: Addressing The Rise of Smog in North India

Times of India addresses the rise of smog in North India.
By
Sayan Basak

I still remember the news on Nov 1, 2019, where the newspaper headline highlighted that the residents of New Delhi were submerged under a thick layer of smog, causing severe respiratory problems along with headaches and teary eyes. The air quality index touched 530, which is tagged as ‘severe plus’ or ’emergency level.’ Moreover, the particulate matter’s quantification was cited to be 500 μg/m³ (PM 10) and 300 μg/m³ (PM 2.5), which raises the question ‘if this is the current scenario, where are we heading to?’

I remember the Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority of the National Capital Region had declared the incident a ‘public health emergency’ and advised the residents to minimize personal exposure to the outdoors. Smog in Northern India is a burgeoning event that has kindled from the past decade, especially in the winters. Works of literature cite multiple factors that stimulate smog formation, including motor vehicle emission, emission from power plants ( coal-based and other industrial sectors), burning of domestic and agricultural wastes. The meteorological factors, especially in states like Haryana and Punjab, do not favor high wind speed. We simply catalyze the process by producing unchecked emission level both from the industrial and the domestic sector. It’s not only the case of these two states. In fact, the entire Indo-Gangetic plain has emerged as the ‘hotspot,’ where the annual particulate matter level remains more than double than the benchmark value. The emission sourcing from 700 million people dwelling in this region, coupled with the natural dust that is brought in from the western arid region ( in the summers), collectively degrades the air quality level of entire Northern India.

A report published in 2018 revealed that air pollution contributed more respiratory and allied diseases (respiratory infections, chronic obstructive lung disease, heart attacks, stroke, diabetes, and lung cancer) in India than tobacco usage. The prediction cited by Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago using the Air Quality Life Index claimed that the Indo-Gangetic plain should experience a reduction in the life expectancy by about 7 years, primarily due to the elevated levels of the particulate pollution.

Continue reading at Times of India…