Wednesday, 18 March 2020

Deadly Delhi air pollution, a comprehensive action plan will be beneficial in the long run

Most polluted city in India- Delhi.

India and China, world’s dirtiest air, stack up on their fight against air pollution
The most important sign of a healthy country is her citizens longer life expectancy. Longevity of humans depends on many factors and the foremost one being living space free from many pollution - air, water, etc. Though air pollution is a major global problem, it is more prevalent in Asia.   Cities like Delhi  that may drift into   "emergency" levels of smog every year  are facing  the threat of lower life expectancy. Th general consensus has been that air pollution, as a result of  concentration of the most dangerous pollutant known as PM2.5, may promote short life expectancy of Delhiites by 17 years, indeed a gloomy situation for now and in the future, unless steps are taken by the govt. on a war footing.
Delhi air pollution.
The bad news is  at present in November 2019 Delhi residents  inhale  about 25 times more toxic air  than the permissible limit according to World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines.

In May 2019, the air quality of Delhi plummeted to “severe” category  with an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 413 at 8.30 a.m., according to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) much lower than   “very poor” category. This type of category will have serious health impact on the city people   already suffering from 
respiratory,  lung or heart problems.

According to  the CPCB  the level of PM 2.5 (deadly respirable particles, which is a chief pollutant)  was 4.7 times (283.9 ug/m3) the safe limit (60ug/m3) as per Indian standards in Delhi and 
NCR at 8 a.m. But the level of PM 2.5 is more than 11 times the safe limit (25 ug/m3) set by the (WHO) is a matter of serious concern. At stake is the health of a few million people, including children.In Delhi and suburb, outdoor activities seem to be a luxury - Doctors have advised the people to   shun  all outdoor physical activities, skip morning walks and close room windows.It is a good idea to consult a doctor if one experiences  any unusual coughing, chest discomfort, wheezing, breathing difficulty or fatigue. An advisory by government-run monitoring agency System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) said.

What is the reason for the poor air quality over Delhi? The primary reason is  stubble burning in neighboring and further  low wind speed, cloudy conditions aggravate the prevailing air-pollution.
An AQI between 0-50 is considered “good” and 51-100 “satisfactory”. Normally,   Delhi’s AQI Delhi’s AQI  fluctuates between 360 (very poor), slightly up from 321 (very poor) over a short period according to  bulletin by the CPCB, which is the average of the past 24 hours.  

There are three waves of pollution that happen in Delhi. One during the summer, that is mainly due to dust from other areas. Another during October 15-November 15, when the stubble burning happens and wind speed is less, and the third during December due to temperature inversion,” an offial in the meteorological dept. Mr. Khirwar said.“These are mainly due to meteorological conditions, which can be mitigated, but cannot be stopped.”  According to Siddharth Singh, author of ‘The Great Smog of India’, said, “The bay area of Los Angeles had a similar problem like north India, where the mountains blocked the wind and due to atmospheric inversion, pollutants got trapped. Called ‘Bay of Smoke’ due to pollution in 1600s, there is no trace of smog in Los Angeles because US environmentalists  came up with a proper solution.  Indian can improve the air quality if they take serious steps without delay.
A Comprehensive Action Plan for Delhi-NCR is already on the card, but the measures are not yet taken.  According to the WHO the top 14 most-polluted cities in the world are located in India, and  Delhi ranks six.  In 2017, 1.24 million people died in India due to air pollution, according to  In a study funded by the Indian government and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in 2017 air-pollution was the major cause of death of  1.24 million people in India. Cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases kill the most, one doctor at  Ganga Ram Hospital in Delhi said.
Long-term plans to fight pollution in Delhi gathering dust and the implementation may become cold unless the the Environment dept. Central govt. gives a serious push. The Central Pollution Control Board   was forced to come out with CAP for Delhi and the National Capital Region  soon after the Supreme Court had come down heavily on the the  Dept. of environment  over Delhi's poor air-quality. Pollutants  from automobiles  are a major cause of pollution and  the agency is keen to cut down the cars on the roads to the minimum by improving public transport.  It has a plan to increase the bus fleet to 10000 initially.  This way they can reduce emission-CO and nitrous oxide from passenger cars, etc. 
air-quality buffers.
Above image: Vegetation in buffers can affect local and regional air quality in three main ways: temperature reduction, removal of air pollutants, and energy effects on buildings.  Removal of air pollutants: Plants remove air pollutants by uptake via leaves and by intercepting airborne particles. Pollutants captured by vegetation are often transferred to the soil. While soils and plants will render some pollutants nontoxic, the final destination, form, and impact of the pollutants should be considered............................................

air-quality buffers

Above image: Proper selection of trees, etc is a must. Select plants with dense branching and twig structure.  Leaves with hairy, resinous, and coarse surfaces capture more particles than smooth leaves. Smaller leaves are generally more efficient collectors than larger leaves.  Herbaceous species may adsorb more gaseous pollutants.  Use multiple species to minimize risks with low diversity.  Use long-lived species that require minimal maintenance  (vide: . ............
The officials have a plan to  engage in dialogue with neighboring States because 50% of pollutants in Delhi are from outside. To tackle dust problem, a major cause of pollution,  it is really very sad little has been done across Delhi to prevent dust from rising in the air. This can be tackled by  proper landscaping of roads or by planting shrubs, trees and grass along the sides of roads. In other word, increasing the tree cover across Delhi appears to  be the good move in the right direction