India faces serious hazards from air pollution

Inspite of regular publication of reports by scientific bodies, government departments and the media on the plight of people suffering and dying from effects of air pollution in the Capital City and elsewhere in India, strategy and action to control the menace is nowhere to be seen.

One in every eight deaths in India is attributable to air pollution. The first comprehensive estimates of deaths, disease burden, and life expectancy reduction associated with air pollution in each state of India by the India State-Level Disease Burden Initiative has been published in The Lancet Planetary Health.

The estimates show that India with 18% of the global population has a disproportionately high 26% of the global premature deaths and disease burden due to air pollution.

India has one of the highest annual average ambient particulate matter PM2·5 exposure levels in the world.

 PM 2.5 particles are those that are suspended in air and have a diameter lesser than 2.5 microns. There is a marked variation between the states. States in north India had some of the highest levels of both ambient particulate matter and household air pollution, especially Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and Jharkhand; and the states Delhi, Haryana, and Punjab in north India had some of the highest ambient particulate matter pollution exposure in the country.

According to the WHO database of air pollution, 14 of the 15 cities with the worst air pollution in the world are in India. The study notes that the experience in controlling air pollution in Mexico City and Beijing could be “instructive” for dealing with the extremely high pollution levels in New Delhi and other cities of India. Mexico and China have been making long-term efforts to switch to cleaner energy options, improve the application of emission-controlling technologies, promote public transport systems, promulgate policies to reduce total energy consumption, and promote environmental education and research, which attempt to address all major sources of air pollution through coordinated air quality management.

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