Delhi Air Pollution: A Case Study on its sources, effects and preventive measures
Delhi never ceases to be in the news. It is the capital of India, a hotspot of political drives and a hotbed of protest. However, the city has also been grabbing headlines for one more reason- its alarming level of pollution that has made it the most polluted city in the world.
In India, air pollution is referred to as the silent and fifth largest killer in India. According to the WHO, the country has the highest death rate from asthma and chronic respiratory ailments in the world, as air pollution does irreversible lung damage to more than 50 per cent of children.
Delhi Air Pollution Case Study on Legal Terms
Things went out of the hands when the Supreme Court of India had to intervene on November 25, 2019. The Supreme Court Justice Arun Mishra compared Delhi situation to living in hell and said that it would have been better to get explosives and kill everyone.
Delhi Air Quality Index generally hovers from moderate to worse. It is rarely satisfactory and never ‘good.’ During December to March- the months of winters when Sun is hard to spot, it is the smog that affects the visibility to a great extent, and the quality reduces to very poor, severe and eventually hazardous. From October to December, the pollution level worsens exorbitantly due to stubble burning, dust storms, vehicle pollution, and gradually changing weather.
A Case Study on Air Quality Index Parameters:
Very Poor: 301-400
The 2017 Delhi Air Pollution Case Study
On November 8, 2017, the Air Quality Index crossed the pollution levels of 999, making it the worst of all. November 2017 is referred to as the Great Smog of Delhi as well because the air particulate hit the worst level, beyond the safe limit of 100.
The Ministry of Earth Sciences’ research paper was published in October 2018 and identified the following pollutants in Delhi air:
- Vehicular emissions: 41 per cent
- Dust: 21.5 per cent
- Industries: 18 per cent
The director of Centre for Science and Environment blamed the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers for lobbying against the report for it showed the automobiles in the wrong light.
Other than vehicles, the great Delhi pollution is also caused by animal agriculture or stubble burning. Agriculture is the main occupation in adjacent states of Delhi. The farmers burn their crops to prepare it for next harvest, and the smoke makes way to Delhi, engulfing it in the thick layer of smoke. The air quality, which is already in the worse shape, gets terrible real quickly.
The pollution level has always been a pain point for Delhi among its many issues, but of late, it has been drastic to the extent of becoming life-threatening. Even in the year 2011, the World Health Organisation reported in its urban air database that Delhi pollution levels have crossed the maximum PM 10 limit by more than 10X. The main reasons stated behind the increase in indoor and outdoor pollutions were industrial activities and vehicular emissions.
While the government machinery is making the city going through a significant overhaul,it is still a significant problem leading to many health problems in Delhi-NCR. Here, we are bringing evidence-based insights into the issue of air pollution, its effects on health and the preventive measures. A report by the Ministry of Environment and Forests, India in 1997 was the first in its direction to aware the machinery and masses of the grim scenario. It stated air pollution as one of the main areas of concern and estimated that more than 3,000 metric tons of air pollutants were emitted in Delhi air every day.
What is a Case Study on reports Submitted for Delhi Air Quality?
According to this report, vehicular pollution contributed to more than sixty per cent, and coal-based thermal power plants partook in twelve per cent of the pollution. Till 1997, a steep increase in vehicular pollution can be noticed as the city expands and becomes a major industrial hub. The records of Department of Transport, Government of NCT, Delhi suggests that the vehicular population in Delhi is more than 3.4 million and is growing at the rate of seven per cent annul.
It is to be noted that the capital is the highest cluster of small –scale industry setups constituting theother twelve per cent of overall pollution.
Besides, Delhi is home to more than 167.5 lakh people (2011 Census of India). While air pollution is a standard feature for a metropolitan city across the world, the capital of India has it in the worst way.
Whats is The magnitude and effect of Delhi air pollution?
The World Bank Development Research Group funded a study on air pollution in 1991-1994, which established that the TSP or the average total suspended particulate level in the capital are five times higher than the WHO’s average annual standard. Another study on TSPs in Delhi revealed that the readings were above ninety-seven per cent higher than the WHO average limit every day.
The study went on to add the gravity of the situation as it suggested that the loss of more life-years due to air pollution.
The PM10 is the standard metric used all across the world to measure air quality. It denotes particles in the air with a diameter of 10 μm, 0.0004 inches or less. A 10 μm is one-seventh the width of a human hair.
The Air Quality Guidelines established by the WHOstates that the particles can have an adverse long-term impact on health. Due to their smaller size, they can be inhaled through respiration and can cause severe respiratory issues.
This study also suggests the concentration of these particles shouldn’t exceed20 μg/m3. Beyond it, these air particles can trigger the onset of severe cardiopulmonary health ailments. When exposed to for a prolonged time, these particles can cause severe damage to lung tissue, asthma, cancer, and even premature death due to respiratory issues.
Hows is Delhi Air Quality for Elder People, Kids and Others?
Older people, kids and patients with pre-existing respiratory ailments such as lung inflammation, influenza and asthma are susceptible to the particular matter suspended in the air. And it is not just outdoor air pollution. The suspended particulates make way to indoor air in homes and stay there as well.
Several studies that researched and examined Delhi air pollution have established the impact of air pollution on morbidity due to respiratory ailments. One of the most credible and comprehensive studies managed to identify significant associations with morbidity due to respiratory diseases and air pollution. In this study,the Central Pollution Control Board compared the Delhi population with a rural community in West Bengal. It was identified that the Delhi population showed higher susceptibility towards respiratory ailments and the prevalence of breathing issues was nearly 1.7 times higher than the rural counterparts. According to this report, the upper respiratory and lower respiratory problems such as dry cough, breathlessness, chest congestion and dry nose were in the ratio of 1.59 and 1.67 respectively.
There were also increased incidences of restrictive and obstructive lung functions. The high prevalence of metaplasia and dysplasia of airway epithelial cells also put Delhi population in jeopardy. The sputum showed moderate to severe cytological changes, whereas the rural control population in West Bengal was blissfully oblivious to this side-effect of living in a metropolitan city.
The morbid effects of Delhi air pollution aren’t limited to lungs and respiratory ailments alone. Hypertension due to higher particulate matter was also a standard prevalence in Delhi inhabitants, and it was thirty-six per cent against the 9.5 per cent in the control population. PM10 was also responsible for higher incidences of eye irritation, skin irritation and chronic headaches in Delhi population.
Besides this, another study establishes that Delhi air pollution causes nearly 10,000 to 30,000 deaths in the city. In other words, the eighty lives are lost every day because of the PM2.5 level. The effect of pollution often appears as a secondary ailment. The deaths occur from strokes and heart attacks and respiratory ailments.
Case Studies have been concluded to report the correlation between indoor air pollution and the onset of respiratory ailments.
A particular study in children notes the correlation between particulate levels in ambient air and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in kids. The vehicular pollutants have also been responsible for increased lead levels in blood cells, leading to abnormal mental development in mothers during pregnancy. The air pollutants result in lesser visibility and lower penetration of ultraviolet-B radiation, resulting in a lower haze score. A lower haze scare means a decreased serum concentration of vitamin D and lower immunity in inhabitants. A time-series study also saw an increase in all-natural case mortality rate due to air pollution. Gaseous pollutants, however, even lower than the average permissible levels, showed a consistent adverse impact on respiratory issues such as asthma, lung infections, cough and breathing difficulties.
Since Delhi experiences its significant share of the winter season, it also is at receiving end of worsened air quality, both indoor and outdoor. This is why several Delhi inhabitants flock the OPD ward to see a doctor for respiratory ailments oraggravated airway disease.
Designated Bodies for Environmental Concern and Policy Implementation
The Ministry of Environment and Forests and the Department of Environment of the Government of National Capital Territory are the nodal ministriesfor planning, promoting and overseeing India’s environmental policies and programs. The Central Pollution Board is the state-level body to supervise and monitor the ecological concerns of a state.
Control Measures Instituted by the Government of Delhi
Delhi air pollution has been so severe since time immemorial that the Supreme Court of India keeps intervening to ensure the implementation of preventive measures by the state and centre governments.
The first such instance occurred in the year 1985 when the Supreme Court ordered the clampdown of hazardous industries, hot-mix plants, and brick kiln in response to a petition.
Policy-making is a democratic process in India. Apart from the Delhi Pollution Board, Centre for Science and Environment, the Indian Association for Air Pollution Control, the Energy and Resources Institute and several representatives and members of Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers, Confederation of Indian Industry and Factories Inspectorate are involved in the brainstorming, suggestion and decision-making. The research and academic bodies engaged in pollution control are- the Indian Institute of Chemical Engineers, the Indian National Science Academy, and the Indian Institute of Engineers, Indian Institute of Technology, National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research Institution.
Counter measures to combat Delhi pollution
The Great Green Wall of Gujarat to Delhi, Aravalli Green ecological corridor, which is also connected to Shivalik hill, is proposed for a plantation of more than 1.30 billion native trees in the coming ten years. This long-term solution will increase the green around the territory and help the capital to fight pollution.
In a collaboration, IIT Bombay and Mckelvey School of Engineering of Washington University in St. Louis launched the Air Quality Research Facility, enabling to study air quality and pollution in India.
Delhi Chief Minister also launched the odd-even scheme as a traffic rationing measure in Delhi to reduce the burden on Delhi roads, to ensure hassle-free commute and reduce pollution. As a result, the streets were less occupied, and hourly particulate levels in the air were dropped by thirteen per cent. Not a significant relief, but something is always better than nothing.
NASA’s list of air-purifying plants comes in handy at these times to combat air pollution at a personal level. Plants like English ivy, spider plant, dragon tree, Barberton daisy, aloe vera, peace lily, rubber plant, ficus and tulsi can eliminate the indoor pollutants like formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, and toluene. These plants don’t require direct sunlight and air, making them the ideal home accents for apartment living. The Central Pollution Control Board study reports improvement in overall well-being and respiratory status by spending about eight to ten hours indoors in clean air as well.
The government has taken several measures to combat vehicular pollution. The preventive measures like unleaded petrol (1988), reduction of sulphur in diesel(2000) and benzene in fuels, and catalytic converter in passenger cars (1995) have been proved quite helpful in bringing down the air pollutants.
The infrastructure has played a significant role in combating air pollution. The flyovers and subways ensure less clogging on roads and smoother transition. The introduction ofCNG for public transport means, cabs and autos andrigorous phasing outof old commercial vehicles have led to better air quality to some extent. The Delhi Metro (DMRC) has proved to be Godsent in such times, andpeople from all walks of life take it. It connects each part of Delhi and is cost-effective as well as a time-saver.
The government has also made PUC (Pollution under Control) mandatory for new and old vehicles. Besides, the vehicle owners need to comply with Bharat Stage II/ higher emission norms/ Euro-II stringently.
Thermal power stations and industries are now following up stringent emission norms. A part of diesel sales is used to set up the Air Ambience Fund.
A monthly Ambient Air Quality Monitoring is performed at various forty locations in Delhi to keep an eye on the pollution level across the capital. The countermeasures are taken accordingly.
The capital saw the first industrial policy in action in the year 1982. However, the following policy by the Department of Industries only came into being in 2010 and is valid for ten years. The plan mentions promoting and developing green and clean industries without sabotaging industry development and job opportunities in the capital. It also states directives and mandates for industries to follow and comply with.
While there has been tremendous progress on infrastructure and research front, however, the plight of Delhi inhabitant isn’t coming to an end.While several studies mentioned above allude toecological correlation and can be used to draw causal inferences at best, these are the best framework and blueprints available to date to draw attention to this burning issue.
Lower emission vehicles and implementation of several stringent measures have resulted in some improvement and relief from Delhi air pollution. Still, the government and other authority figures need to deploy war-like measures to ensure the well-being and health of the citizens.
Health is an all comprehensive and all-pervasive aspect. While clean air is a citizen’s right, it can’t be within a government’s purview to control all the factors. The citizens also need to be responsible. The vision of Clean Delhi isn’t possible without community participation.
Using the metro and public transport can reduce vehicular transmission. The citizens should comply with the emission mandates and get their vehicles checked regularly for pollution. They should turn off the engines while waiting at the traffic signals. The community should plant more trees and proactively get air-purifying plants to ensure the elimination of indoor pollutants.
The governments also need to focus on creating job opportunities in tier-2 and tier-3 cities to ease the congestion in metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai.