Saturday, March 07, 2015

Air Pollution in Indian Cities

While it may be true that developed nations are the ones to blame for rapid global warming and the rampant ruination of air, Indian cities are now among the worst affected, and among the most dangerous places to live and breathe in. Dust from construction, exhaust fumes from vehicles, coal plant and factory emissions, diesel generators, stubble burning in fields, garbage fires and makeshift cooking appliances have made air pollution a public emergency.

A 2014 WHO study of 1,600 cities revealed that Delhi has the world's dirtiest air. Of the 20 most polluted in terms of super-fine PM2.5 particles, which are the most harmful, 13 are in India alone. Last winter, Delhi recorded 400 micrograms per cubic metre of the larger PM10 particle, for which the safe limit is 20 micrograms. Behind these numbers lies a disturbing human story. Bad air is preying on us all, starting with the most vulnerable. The ones most adversely affected are children, who are increasingly suffering from respiratory and other disorders, including cognition and memory. The next targets are the elderly, pregnant women, people with a history of respiratory trouble, and those forced to work and live outdoors.

The problem is not just of lifestyle but also policy and enforcement. While India keeps talking about how serious it is about controlling pollution, we haven't been able to create a working solution, perhaps because we do not understand what constitutes bad air well enough.

Read the full feature article in this week's India Today Magazine

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