February 24th, 2016
News Source:greenpeace | Image Source: bbc
India has overtaken China in an aspect, which should induce introspection than celebration. As per the analysis of the international environment NGO Greenpeace of NASA’s satellite data on particulate matter from 2003 to 2015 in India and China, the exposure to particulate matter and the risk of eventual health hazards to people living in Indian cities was more than those living in China in 2015. Simply put, Indian cities were more polluted than Chinese cities in the year 2015.
What the data shows:
The analysis was done on data collected from NASA satellites which monitor the level of fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in the air. This is one of the most dangerous particulate matter that gets lodged deep in the lungs and gives rise to various ailments. Out of 17 Indian cities where National Air Quality Index (NAQI) stations are located, as many as 15 cities were found with pollution levels far exceeding the prescribed Indian standards. India is home to 13 out of 20 most polluted cities in the world as per WHO, most of them situated in north India where winter plays a major role in deteriorating air quality.
How was it earlier?
Back in 2005, the situation was quite the opposite. As per satellite data, pollution in Indian cities till 2005 used to be much less compared to cities along the eastern industrial corridor in China. Between 2005 and 2011, pollution in China rose about 20 percent till the government stepped in to bring out a comprehensive National Action Plan. The policy implemented strict laws to curb particulate matter from 2013 onwards, and the results became visible soon. In 2015, pollution in China fell as much as 15 percent compared to 2014.
On the other hand, Indian cities continued to grapple with increasing levels of particulate matter, with an annual rise of 2 percent between 2005 and 2015. As a result, India overtook China in pollution levels. It is to be noted that India has only 39 NAQI monitoring stations, compared to 1,500 stations in China. While the Indian data may not provide a comprehensive picture, it does paint an alarming one.
Call for Action:
The Indian government must wake up to the growing menace of air pollution that is eating into the productivity and wellness of its population. While we have taken clues from China on its manufacturing policies and special economic zones, we must certainly study the National Action Plan which it successfully implemented to curb pollution. Initiatives which incentivize the use of clean fuel like solar power for cooking and electric power for vehicles must find a place in the national policy; perhaps including them in the upcoming Union Budget will be a great start. More immediate steps to control the dust from construction activity have to be taken, like exploring better construction techniques and imposing fines on those violating the norms. Public transport needs to be augmented in a major way to decrease the number of cars on roads, and even public transport itself needs to be made more eco-friendly by bringing in metro trains over buses. Public initiatives like the Car-free day or Odd-Even schemes may have limited impact, but can be used as tools to spread awareness among people to shun their vehicles and adopt bicycles and car-pooling.
The Logical Indian urges the government to take up the issue of air pollution on equal priority as its economic concerns, to ensure a better environment for growth and prosperity in the country. This is certainly one game which India must aspire to lose against China.