Air pollution in India is a serious issue, and is both an environmental and health crisis.
Let’s look at the air pollution status in India:
Although India has a low per capita greenhouse gas emission, overall, it is the third largest polluter after China and the United States.
It is reported that 13 of the world's 20 cities with the highest annual levels of air pollution are in India. It is also declared that 11 of the 12 cities with the highest levels of particulate pollution are located in India.
In urban areas, vehicles and industries cause the most pollution, and in rural areas, much of the pollution comes from biomass burning for cooking and heating. In autumn and winter, large scale burning of crop residue in agriculture fields, a cheap alternative to mechanical tilling, is a prime contributor to smoke, smog, and particulate pollution.
With the economy flourishing in many Indian cities since the 21st century, the numbers of road vehicles and dusty construction sites have increased, and air pollution has become a major health and environmental hazard and even a killer.
According to WHO data, an estimated 1.5 million people died because of air pollution in 2012 in India. Air pollution contributes to the premature deaths of 2 million Indians every year.
The Global Burden of Disease has estimated that 3283 Indians died per day because of outdoor air pollution in India in 2015, making the estimated number of deaths due to outdoor air pollution 11.98 lakh in India in 2015.
Furthermore, the loss of productivity and forced shutdown of schools and industries have already started affecting our economy. The World Bank estimates that India loses around 3% of its GDP owing to air pollution.
The government of India has taken certain initiatives to combat air pollution, as follows:
The Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act was passed in 1981 to regulate air pollution, and there have been some measurable improvements in air quality.
In 2015, the government of India, together with IIT Kanpur, launched the National Air Quality Index.
In 2019, the Indian government introduced ‘The National Clean Air Programme’ with a provisional national target of 20–30% reduction in PM2.5 and PM10 concentrations by 2024, with 2017 as the base year for comparison.
Additionally, the ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyan’ (Clean India Mission) was launched by the government of India in October 2014 to reduce pollution. However, in September 2014, the government also launched the ‘Make in India’ initiative, aimed at make India a production hub. It is evident that the two proposals do not go hand in hand.
The actions taken by the Indian government to tackle air pollution are deeply inadequate, and if the lives and health of Indian citizens as well as the development of the Indian economy are important, fighting air pollution has to be a priority.