Editorial & Analyses

    Breathing in Danger: The Looming Threat of Air Pollution in India

    Seema Agarwal
    May9/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    In the vibrant city of Mumbai, Aarav's struggle against pollution mirrors a nationwide crisis. Explore the dire consequences of India's escalating pollution levels and the urgent need for comprehensive action.

    Representative Image

    In the bustling city of Mumbai, where the rhythm of life pulsates with the energy of millions, there lived a young boy named Aarav. Aarav had always been full of life, with a passion for exploring every nook and cranny of his vibrant city. From the crowded streets of Colaba to the serene shores of Marine Drive, Aarav reveled in the sights, sounds, and smells of Mumbai.

    But as he grew older, Aarav began to notice a change in the air around him. What was once the salty tang of the sea breeze now carried a heavy burden of pollution, casting a shadow over the city he loved. Despite his love for exploration, Aarav found himself struggling to catch his breath amidst the thick blanket of smog that enveloped Mumbai.Its sounds harsh but unfortunately in the era of information technology this is the truth of life of each and every Aarav that they are struggling for pure air .

    Air pollution has become a silent killer in India, casting a dark shadow over the health and well-being of its vast population. According to a recent report by the Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health, air pollution was responsible for an alarming number of deaths worldwide in 2019, with 6.7 million fatalities attributed to it. Of these, 1.4 million deaths were caused by ambient air pollution, and 900,000 deaths were linked to lead pollution. India, unfortunately, finds itself among the countries with the highest levels of pollution, with one in six deaths in the country attributed to this menace.

    The consequences of escalating pollution levels in India are dire. Rapid urbanization has led to a surge in industrial activity, resulting in the emission of harmful gases such as carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and methane from chimneys and exhaust pipes. According to data released by the IPCC in 2020, greenhouse gas emissions increased by 45% between 1990 and 2019, exacerbating the global climate crisis.

    The impact of rising temperatures on the planet is evident in the changing climate patterns, with longer summers, erratic monsoons, and diminishing winters becoming the new normal. These fluctuations have adverse effects on crop yields, leading to food insecurity and exacerbating issues of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

    Furthermore, the melting of polar ice caps and the rising sea levels pose a grave threat, causing disruptions in marine ecosystems and increasing the frequency and intensity of disasters such as tsunamis and cyclones.

    Recent reports from the Indian Institute of Science and Research, Bhopal, indicate a rise in the number and frequency of cyclones in the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, posing a significant risk to the 7,500-kilometer-long coastline of India, affecting densely populated coastal states.

    Experts point to particulate matter PM2.5 and PM10 as the primary culprits behind pollution-related deaths in India. These nano-particles, found in vehicular emissions and construction site dust, are finer than a human hair and easily enter the respiratory system, leading to cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and other respiratory ailments.

    According to recent data from the Environment Think Tank CSE, pollution from PM2.5 has more than doubled in the past 20 years, resulting in a staggering increase in mortality rates and reducing the life expectancy of Indians by 2.6 years, surpassing the global average.

    The American Heart Association issued a warning in 2019, highlighting the detrimental effects of PM2.5 on heart health and mortality, suggesting that even brief exposure to these particles could shave months off one's life expectancy.

    It is evident from these statistics that air pollution poses a significant multidimensional threat not only to public health but also to the very fabric of society. With India's large population residing in high-risk zones for PM2.5, urgent and comprehensive measures are needed to combat this 21st-century scourge.

    In conclusion, it is imperative for India to adopt a unified and extensive strategy to mitigate air pollution and safeguard the health and well-being of its citizens.