By Sarkaritel October 20, 2016 11:17


Air Pollution


By Dhurjati Mukherjee


20air_pollutionA recently released report of the World Bank and the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has come out with some startling facts, the most important being that India lost 1.4 million lives to air pollution while in China the toll was 1.6 million. In fact, more than 5 million deaths world-wide were attributed to health conditions caused by air pollution out of which 60 per cent were in the two most populous countries.

China and India aren’t just among the worst hit in absolute terms because of the sheer size of their population. Even adjusting for their population, these two countries along with Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan are among the 15 with the highest toll per million people. India ranked 6th in the world, two notches below that of China, while Georgia saw the highest rate of air pollution deaths per million.

The report estimated that air pollution cost the world economy more than $5 trillion (PPP at 2011 prices) in welfare losses and an additional $66 billion worth of manpower loss. China’s overall welfare loss was more $1,6 trillion, while India lost more than $560 billion, which was equivalent to over 10 per cent of China’s and around 8 per cent of India’s GDP. Three years ago i.e. in 2013, air pollution was associated with 5.5 million deaths that translates to one in 10 deaths globally, an increase from 4.8 million in 1990.

It needs to be pointed out here that PM (particulate matter) 2.5 plays havoc with lives, more so in Kolkata and Delhi. The study by the Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) had found that Kolkata has the highest number of new lung cancer cases among men (20.5 per every lakh) followed by Delhi (13.9) and Chennai (12.6).

As per the IHME report, presently air pollution is estimated to be the fourth leading fatal health risk in terms of attributable deaths and premature mortalities since 1990 after metabolic risks, dietary risks and tobacco smoke. This is despite the fact that all countries claim to have reduced the number of deaths caused by air pollution through improved health services. The estimates are based on exposure to PM 2.5 pollutants. It is significant to mention here that the risks are much higher in the Third World and specially in the South Asian region.

By damaging people’s health and causing fatal diseases, air pollution can have a lasting effect on a person’s economic productivity. Experts are of the opinion that the poor and the economically weaker sections are the worst hit due to limited access to health facilities.

Another World Bank report presents a rather distressing scenario as India accounts for 75 per cent of the 8 lakh air-polluted related deaths annually in the South East Asian region, whereas 90 per cent of the world’s causalities from poor air quality are in the low and middle income countries. The report, described as representing the most detailed air pollution related health data ever from the World Health Organisation, found that in 2012 India lost over 4.5 lakh people to ischaemic heart disease or strokes and 1.10 to chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases attributable to outdoor pollution. This has increase by 10 to 15 per cent presently, as per unofficial findings. The other diseases caused by air pollution have been found to be lung cancer, lower respiratory infection, etc.

Meanwhile, the annual survey of the PEW Research Centre found that 7 to 10 Indians (68 per cent) believe that air pollution is very big problem in the country. Nearly 73 per cent of city dwellers are very concerned about air pollution while roughly 65 per cent of those living in rural agree. The issue is of such concern that a plurality of Indians voices the view that air pollution should be reduced even if it means slower growth.

All these reports clearly point out that air pollution is most acute in cities and poorer countries have dirtiest air than their developed counterparts. Obviously, the most affected are those that living in slums, squatter settlements, railway tracks, pavements etc. were pollution levels are very high. In a country like India where pollution density is very high in big cities, the effect of air pollution is quite disastrous on the impoverished sections.

It is indeed quite difficult to find a solution to this problem, which has been aggravating in nature. In spite of efforts being taken by the government in cleaning up fuel being used in vehicles, which is increasing at a rapid pace in the metropolises like Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata with the road space being more or less the same or there being a marginal increase, the situation has not shown any signs of improvement but reports reveal that pollution levels are turning to be dangerous for those out in the streets.

This has been revealed in a study by the Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM) and the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) where nine Indian cities, including Kolkata, Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru have shown significant temperature rise during 1971 to 2013. The analysis found that fast urbanisation and building activities played a substantial role in contributing to temperature rise in the major cities which is led by Jaipur (0.380C) and Bengaluru (0.230C) followed by Nagpur and Kolkata.

Though no data exists, the period from 2014 to 2016 should show a marked increase from the above data as since 2012, with the pace of activity having increased in the metros, leading to greater air pollution and obviously greater quantum of diseases. Moreover, the annual mean temperature of all the coastal towns showed a significant increasing trend, also the position of towns and semi urban areas where mining activities are prevalent, the situation is equally if not more distressing.

In such a situation, the future is quite grim as no solution appears to be in hand. The government has to take note of this gloomy scenario and come out with a strategic plan to tackle the problem so that poor people are not overburdened with diseases and have to bear expenditure for no fault of theirs. Scientists and environmentalists should pressurise the government to take prompt action at this juncture as further neglect of the problem would go out of hand and aggravate air pollution. Mere lip service will not do. —INFA

(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

By Sarkaritel October 20, 2016 11:17