According to recent reports, India is home to seven of the ten most polluted cities in the world. Previously, this infamous title was held by cities in China which were covered in smog. However, China has made major strides in cleaning up the air.
Gurugam holds the title of most polluted city in the world with an air quality index of 135.8. This is three times the number that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) deems healthy.
When is the Air Quality The Worst
During the months of October, November, and December the air quality in Gurugam jumps up to 178.3, 197.3, and 208.2 respectively. These all reach the EPA’s “very unhealthy” level, which signifies serious health hazards for inhabitants. This is due to using more energy to heat houses. And 80% of India’s energy is produced by coal, one of the biggest air polluters in the world.
Inhabitants of places with these air conditions can expect shorter lives. An estimated 7 million premature deaths will be caused directly by poor air conditions in these cities, which will have a major impact on the economy.
What’s Causing This Level of Air Pollution
The big question is, what is actually causing these unhealthy conditions? For starters, India strongly relies on coal. Coal and other fossil fuels can be responsible for smog, which is a major health hazard. Not only is coal the problem, but there is also a large amount of transportation in these cities and the fossil fuels burned by cars are also to blame.
What makes India unique is its climate since the rest of the world also burns these substances. India sees phenomena like dust storms and climate change has made forest fires much more common. Another major factor is that two-thirds of India’s population does not reside in cities. Houses rely on burning wood and other substances for cooking and heat, which adds to the air pollution.
Lastly, but most importantly, construction in India needs to be reformed. Large amounts of dust and other particles are released from construction sites into the air. One thing is for certain. If India does not fix this crisis, air pollution will claim millions of lives every year.
How Can It Be Fixed
How can India go about fixing its air pollution problem? For starters, coal needs to go. Not only is it terrible for the air quality, but it also produces large amounts of carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas, which intensify global warming. Clean energy alternatives like solar and wind power are not only healthier, but they are also cheaper than coal.
Major reform is needed in construction practices in India to prevent these sites from releasing dangerous particles and dust into the air. Industry reform is also needed because exhaust from plants is responsible for a lot of air pollution.
The Transportation sector, which is the main focus of the government, actually meets most guidelines around the world. In fact, India is actually quite far ahead in this regard since cars older than 15 years are scrapped. This results in more efficient cars driven. However, it should be noted that electric vehicles are always a better option.
Of course, these solutions beg the question, will India really make changes?
Improvements Are Possible
For skeptics who say change is impossible, look no further than China. While it still has poor air quality, it has improved greatly thanks to strong government reforms. The same is completely possible for India, but this relies heavily on the government stepping in to clean up the air.
The longer the country waits, the more lives it endangers.