shorten life


Air pollution is responsible for many health problems in the urban areas. Of late, the air pollution status in Delhi has undergone many changes in terms of the levels of pollutants and the control measures taken to reduce them. Air pollution shortens lives by almost ten years in the National Capital Territory of Delhi, according to data from a recent Air Quality Life Index report by the University of Chicago’s Energy Policy Institute. It's been blamed on various factors including the burning of farm stubble, on factory emissions, on traffic fumes, on general weather patterns, as well as the fireworks that light up the night sky during the Diwali festival.
The federal government says the seasonal burning of farm stubble is responsible for only a small proportion of the pollution and no more than 10% of the total. At the start of every winter, farmers in the states near Delhi burn the residue from rice and other crops to make way for growing wheat.The practice was banned in 2015 - but enforcement is weak.Several states have banned the sale and use of fireworks during Diwali celebrations, but the implementation of the ban has been weak in many states.
A 2018 study that has attempted to answer this question says there is a "small but statistically significant" effect from Diwali fireworks.

The study focused on five locations across Delhi, and looked at data gathered between 2018 and 2019. Diwali is set according to the Hindu lunar calendar and usually happens in late October or early November.But fireworks contain other toxic substances, including heavy metals.A separate study done in the Indian city of Jamshedpur found significantly increased levels of the following substances during the Diwali period: PM10 particlessulphur dioxidenitrogen dioxideozoneironleadmanganesecopperberylliumnickel The government's own Central Pollution Control Board lists 15 substances in fireworks which it says are "hazardous and toxic". Again, it needs to be added that some of these substances can also be produced by vehicle emissions. Vehicle traffic does increase during Diwali when people go out to buy gifts and visit family and friends. However, there's very little research that quantifies its exact contribution to poor air quality in this period.

Delhi is moving simultaneously on three fronts: energy, transport, and agriculture. In each case, East Asia offers valuable lessons.

Coal-fired plants. Delhi’s environment minister has called for the closure of 11 coal-fired power plants operating within 300 kilometers of Delhi. But policy implementation must improve: All the plants have missed two deadlines to install flue-gas desulfurization units to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions. Last year, 10 coal-fired power plants missed a December deadline to install pollution control devices. Beijing provides valuable lessons in cutting concentrations of PM2.5 more than 40 percent since 2013. Beijing substituted its four major coal-fired stations with natural gas plants. The city government ordered 1,200 factories to shut with stricter controls and inspections of emitters. Bangkok had success with its inspection and maintenance program.Cleaner transport. Delhi has tried pollution checking of vehicles by mobile enforcement teams, public awareness campaigns, investment in mass rapid transport systems, and phasing out old commercial vehicles. The Delhi government’s recent push for electric vehicles shows promise, while the response of industry and the buy-in from customers will be key. Overall results in cutting pollution have been weak because of poor governance at every level. Better outcomes will be predicated on investment in public transportation, including integration of transport modes and last-mile connectivity. Unfortunately, Delhi Transport Corporation’s fleet shrank from 6,204 buses in 2013 to 3,796 buses in 2019, with most of the bus fleet aging. Delhi should look at Singapore’s regulation on car ownership and use; its improved transit systems; and promotion of pedestrian traffic and nonmotorized transport.Better farming practices. Burning of crop stubble in Delhi’s neighboring states has become a serious source of pollution in the past decade. In 2019, India’s Supreme Court ordered a complete halt to the practice of stubble burning and reprimanded authorities in two of these states, Punjab and Haryana, for allowing this illegal practice to continue. Needed is the political will to act, as poor farmers complain that they receive no financial support to dispose of post-harvest stubble properly. Delhi’s “Green War Room” signaling the fight against the smog, is analyzing satellite data on farm fires from Punjab and Haryana to identify and deal with the culprits. The Indian Agricultural Research Institute has proposed a low-cost way to deal with the problem of stubble burning by spraying a chemical solution to decompose the crop residue and turn it into manure. Better coordination is needed. In 2013, when Singapore faced a record-breaking haze due to agricultural waste burning in neighboring countries, the Environment Agency and ministries of education and manpower together issued guidelines based on a Pollution Standards Index to minimize the health impacts of haze. Stubble burning has been banned or discouraged in China, the United Kingdom, and Australia.

Delhi, projected to be the world’s most populous city by 2030, is motivated by a sense of urgency. Facing a growing environmental and health calamity, antipollution efforts are being strengthened. But to succeed, the different levels of government must harness the political will to invest more, coordinate across boundaries, and motivate businesses and residents to do their bit.

BA ( hons ) journalism 
Delhi University 

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