There are 300 million young lungs breathing in highly toxic air in the world, which is one in seven of world’s children according to a latest report “Clean the air for children” by UNICEF. The toxic air in which the children are breathing will have adverse effect on their health. The smoke and fumes in the air enter their breathing tracts and can easily irritate the lungs, exacerbating pulmonary or life threating disease.
The report also states that several studies have reported that tiny particles can permeate through the blood brain barrier ‘causing inflammation, damaging brain tissue, and permanently impairing cognitive development. They even can cross the placental barrier, injuring the developing fetus when the mother is exposed to toxic pollutants.’ Children and new born are at great risk with the deteriorating environment condition. Shockingly the report which is based on satellite imagery, a first analysis of its kind, categorized all the polluted areas on the basis of the amount of particulate matter which starts from 10 to 60 µg/m3 and mentioned that more than vast majority of these children live in South Asia. The children in these areas are breathing in the air which is toxic more than six times the international guidelines.
Most common question baffling our minds, is the government doing enough to tackle the air pollution problem? The piecemeal initiatives are not enough to tackle the pollution problem which has been costing lives and health issues since past so many years. There is an urgent need for a synergized comprehensive ‘war footing’ approach which can tackle pollution at the source rather than on the parks which are frequented by the children as well as the elderly in our homes every morning and evening.
The recent increase of particulate matter to 10 and 2.5 post the Indian Festival of Diwali has led to an alarming situation where the Indian capital, Delhi has been rated as one of cities globally having the highest pollution level.
India as a country has introduced a host of new measures in many sectors like the new emission standards which are in place for the coal-fired thermal power plants, in transport sector use of cleaner fuel, use of liquefied petroleum gas and incentives for better industrial efficiency. These measures will take few years to show the change at the ground level. But the government still needs to see through its strict implementation if they want the people to breathe in clear air.
Along with these many basic steps can be introduced in highly polluted cities. For example in Delhi, the state government instead of air filters, can invest in continuous monitoring stations which can deliver data 24×7. Secondly local municipalities can ensure that all waste is collected since, every kilogram of waste not collected is expected to be burnt, inspite of an official ban on that. Post the odd even experiment, it was analyzed that DTC needs to increase its fleet significantly. This should be implemented by available funds like the ‘green fund’.
Air pollution in urban areas can only be controlled if it is fought at the source level. It requires robust planning as well as robust implementation too in a continuous phase-wise manner.
India cities cannot afford to do any more experiments now on controlling the air pollution.