Air pollution

Gasping for breath

Print edition : December 08, 2017
The country’s air pollution problem is going from bad to worse owing to the high usage of coal for generating power and the rise in the number of vehicles.

The recent severe smog problem in New Delhi, caused by crop burning in neighbouring States, has once again put the spotlight on the dangerous levels of air pollution in the city and also turned the nation’s focus on the extent of air pollution nationwide.

A report put out by The Lancet, one of the world’s most respected general medical journals, stated that outdoor air pollution was responsible for 6 per cent of the “total disease burden in India in 2016”.

According to Swaniti, a non-profit initiative, as of January 2015 coal-powered thermal power plants accounted for nearly 61 per cent of India’s total power generation, while private and commercial vehicles accounted for more than 66 per cent of the total consumption of diesel. Also, as per Census 2011, 87 per cent of rural households and 26 per cent of urban households depend on biomass for cooking. These are the three main causes of air pollution in the country.

The WHO estimates that over four million people die prematurely worldwide from illness attributable to household air pollution from cooking with solid fuels.

India is also among the worst performers worldwide in the area of ambient air pollution, which is measured in terms of PM2.5 concentration in the air.