The Darwin theory of evolution of human species on this planet and the concept of survival of the fittest has made us reach a stage through rapid advancement in science and technology where we have acquired the power to transform the environment on an unprecedented scale and in multifarious ways which can be disastrous without the responsibility of sustenance of these resources.
Keeping this in mind in 1974 United Nations started World environment day on 5th June every year. Currently involving participation of over 143 countries this day acts as a principle vehicle not only for raising awareness but also mobilising political will and creating responsible individuals for combating emerging environment issues.
According to WHO, 7 million people worldwide die prematurely every year from air pollution, making it world’s largest single environmental risk factor with half of the mortality contributed by the Asia Pacific Region. 9 out of 10 people are exposed to a pollutant level much above the WHO recommended safe levels contributing to a global disease burden of one third deaths from stroke, lung cancer and respiratory diseases & one fourth deaths from ischemic heart disease.1Not only the much debated PM2.5 but also ultra fine PM0.1 that directly enters the systemic circulation is responsible for congestive cardiac failure.
In today’s era unless ecology and economy get linked we are progressing towards our own doom. Not only is it affecting our health but the global economy suffers a loss of 5 trillion dollar yearly on the welfare costs. The right to clean air is embedded in the universal declaration of human rights fully enshrined by the Sustainable Development Goals 3, 7 and11 which are markers of ecologically sound development.
From smog encapsulating the air to smoke inside homes, from children going to school with masks to increased preterm birth and high infant mortality rate, from increase in deaths due to road traffic accidents to drastic increase in emergency admissions due to exacerbation of asthma-the situation has only worsened in the past few years.
Polluted air has become so omniscient that we cannot escape breathing it. Realising this the first ever global conference on air pollution and health with the theme -“Improving Air Quality, Combating Climate Change, Saving Lives” was organised by WHO in Geneva . “Breathe life” campaign was launched targeting a reduction in 2/3 rd in deaths due to air pollution by 2030.3Inter-sectoral Public Private Partnership can act as a much-needed catalyst. Here government can use networks to reach out to people, private sector can offer its expertise in mass media and NGOs can provide examples of successful environmental initiatives.
Realising the need of the hour, the theme for year 2019 “Beat Air Pollution” was chosen, China was this year’s host nation for celebrating World Environment Day.
Cities like Beijing are using means of Artificial Intelligence to tackle the issue. Global Horizon-a cognitive forecasting system with connected sensors has the capability to measure exactly where the pollution is coming from and eventually aid in developing solutions to reduce levels.
Project “Kaalink” is another innovative strategy developed by MIT graduate from India, which can harvest printer ink from black smoke. Investment in electrical vehicles for zero emissions in smarter cities pioneers a sustainable way of living.
With enormous accentuation in industrialisation, high population density and lack of awareness on environmental issues,India marks its way by accounting for 9/10 most polluted cities in the world with Kanpur heading the list. With an yearly mortality of 1.2 million, air pollution has become the third major cause of death. India’s environmental laws lack proper enforcement and resources to tackle the myriad of issues we are facing today.
For a developing country like India it is a major challenge to balance economic growth and environment protection.According to WHOIndia can reduce its pollutant level by 1/3 rd by reducing indoor air pollution. In the year 2017 solid fuels were used for cooking by 55.5 % population, this proportion exceeded 75% in states of Bihar, Jharkhand and Orissa.
Understandingthe adversity, Government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana scheme in may 2016 which has till date provided free cooking gas cylinder and chulha to 6.31 crore families and targets to reach 8 crore by 20309. But at the same time high fuel costs soars the whole purpose of providing gas chulha if continuous fuel requirement are not fulfilled. This, along with, the scheme of subsidised solar power connections with a higher reliability on renewable resources have immense potential to meet the air pollution problem.
For a better comparative study India needs indigenous impact assessment and pollution level standards. Various agencies like public health institutions, pollution boards, environmental engineering research institute are regularly producing data related to air pollution and health effects, but a lack of data triangulation at all levels, acts as a barrier for policy makers and law makers to make apt decisions and their implementation for control measures. Vertical expansion of tree density concentration, strict vehicular pollution control measures, restricting number of vehicles in major cities with improvement in public transport system, development of central parks can all decreaseair pollution. Strict compliance to the environmental and health impact assessment before initiating any major construction project is the dire need. Training school children in environmental issues with innovative ideas like giving a sapling in middle school to every student and making him/her responsible for the maintenance of it or involving students in the cleanliness drive can create a sense of responsibility towards ecology in the future stakeholders.
India faces a major challenge for its sustainable development of a prosperous economy and a healthy environment. This is only possible by implementation of environmental regulations with equal participation of government, private sector, NGOs and masses at large guided by a strong political will and leadership.
We cannot let our future to go up in smoke, so let us nurture our nature to have a better future and pledge to be a part of the SOLUTION and not POLLUTION.
1-World Health Organization-Global platform on air quality and health[Internet]Available from https://www.who.int/airpollution/en
2- Bert Brunekreef, Stephen T Holgate- Air pollution and health THE LANCET • Vol 360 • October 19, 2002 • www.thelancet.com[Internet} Available from https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(02)11274-8/
3-World Health Organization-Breathelife: Air pollution an invisible killer[Internet]Available from https://www.who.int/sustainable-development/news-events/breath-life
4- Chandra, Mahesh (2015) “Environmental Concerns in India: Problems and Solutions,” Journal of International Business and Law: Vol. 15 : Iss. 1 , Article 1. [Internet]
Available from: https://scholarlycommons.law.hofstra.edu/jibl/vol15/iss1/1 5
5-Beijing air improvement provide model for other cities (UNEP)cited 2019 March 9[Internet]Available from https://www.unenvironment.org/explore-topics/air
6-Recycling air pollution to make art-Rob mathewson/MIT office cited 2017 November26[internet] Available from: http://news.mit.edu/2017/recycling-air-pollution-make-art-1127
7-India Environmental portal -2018 World air quality report[Internet]
8-Ankita Kankaria, Baridalyne Nongkynrih, Sanjeev Kumar Gupta
Indoor Air Pollution in India: Implications on Health and its Control
Indian J Community Med. 2014 Oct-Dec; 39(4): 203–207. doi: 10.4103/0970-0218.143019PMCID: PMC42154999
9- Times of India article -Ujjwala Yojna has led to social transformation,cited MAY 28, 2018[Internet] Available from -https://m.timesofindia.com/india/pollution-news