It's a common knowledge that the economic growth story of India has been witness of rapid urbanisation and also of consistent migration of rural population to cities which are otherwise facing lot of civic and sanitation problems. The population of cities in India has naturally been increasing fast - a fact which is vindicated by the latest statistics of 2011 census.
Simultaneously, India’s vehicular population has also increased many fold in recent past – presently, we have more than 40 million passenger vehicles alone. In total, the country manufactures 11 million plus vehicles every year, 75% of which are two- wheelers. This has directly impacted the air pollution scene very badly. The country’s capital New Delhi ranks among one of the top cities in the world in this regard. According to a report the air pollution level in New Delhi is going to cross the human endurance level. Even non-metropolitan cities like Patna, Ranchi, and Lucknow are having relatively high level of Suspended Particulate Matter (SPM) in the air.
Before discussing this burning issue, why not look at the following facts with open mind:
- India is growing fast economically – average GDP growth of 7%.
- India’s population is also growing fast – its world’s second most populous country after China
- India ranks among the top automotive industry in the world.
- India’s energy needs, particularly Petrol/Diesel etc., is fast rising.
- We are importing 80% of our crude oil needs and our oil import bill touched $475 billion in 2011-12.
- Coal production and consumption is also increasing in good pace.
- Traffic congestion in big as well as mid-sized cities has risen to an alarming proportion.
- The Govt. initiatives don't seem to take care of environmental issues seriously as the priority is tilted in favour of GDP growth.
Obviously, all the above facts and some more have greatly contributed to making India one of the worst countries in the world as regards to the present status of Air Pollution (it is generally defined as the contamination of life saving oxygen with obnoxious gases such as carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, methane etc. mainly due to combustion of fuel - oil, coal, biomass and firewood, in vehicles, industries and household). This problem has been aggravating with every passing day. Consequently, the Indian population is face to face with such sordid situations as:
- Air pollution is causing almost 6.5 lakh deaths annually.
- Even far greater population suffers from lung infections, breathing problems, cancer and heart ailments.
- Pregnant women and children up to 5 years are very vulnerable to ill effects of Air pollution.
- Plants, vegetation and animals too are worst affected destroying the ecological balance.
Then what is the remedy which can earnestly be tried right from now both at the government level as well as at the community level with greater intensity? Some of the measures that would help reduce the level of pollution are:
- Reduction in emission of air pollutants including Green House Gases.
- Vast improvement in public transportation system.
- Making Solar and Wind energy popular in all possible and time bound manners.
- Protection of existing forests and large scale afforestation.
- Encouraging and convincing people to drive less and walk and bicycle more.
- Strict compliance of emission norms.
Milan K. Sinha is a freelance writer. He has worked in Banking and Insurance sector for three decades following three years of active writing in various newspapers and magazines. Presently he is engaged in stress management, wellness and awareness activities besides freelance writing.
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