April 20, 2024

Lukmaan IAS

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INDIA’s POLLUTION CRISIS: INSIGHTS FROM THE 2023 WORLD AIR QUALITY REPORT

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TAG: GS 3: ECOLOGY AND ENVIRONMENT

THE CONTEXT: In the 2023 World Air Quality Report by IQAir, India emerged as the third most polluted country globally, following Bangladesh and Pakistan.

EXPLANATION:

  • The report highlights the severity of India’s air pollution crisis, particularly focusing on fine particulate matter (PM2.5) concentrations, which exceed the World Health Organization’s guidelines by over 10 times.

Regional Comparison and Geographic Trends

  • Despite geopolitical differences, India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh share the common challenge of high levels of air pollution.
  • These countries are united in facing significant environmental and public health threats due to poor air quality.
  • While India didn’t clinch the top spot in the country-wise pollution ranking, it secured various other alarming distinctions.
  • New Delhi emerged as the most polluted capital globally, with PM2.5 concentrations far exceeding WHO limits.
  • Additionally, India claimed nine out of the ten most polluted cities worldwide.

Key Findings from the Report

  • Begusarai in Bihar, India, stood out as the most polluted metropolitan area globally in 2023, followed closely by Guwahati in northeast India and New Delhi.
  • These areas recorded alarming PM2.5 concentrations, posing severe health risks to their populations.
  • 5, being the most potent air pollutant, can lead to a range of diseases, including fatal ones, as the particles can travel through the bloodstream to affect various organs.
  • Despite the expanding scope of air quality monitoring, Africa remains significantly underrepresented, with one-third of its population lacking access to air quality data.
  • This gap hampers decisive action and perpetuates unnecessary human suffering.

Implications for Climate Change and Public Health

  • The report emphasizes the link between air pollution and climate change.
  • Climate change exacerbates air quality issues, intensifying extreme weather events, wildfires, and allergic airway diseases.
  • The pressing environmental challenges highlighted by the report pose significant health risks to India’s vast population, particularly those living in highly polluted areas.
  • There’s a need for urgent action to address air pollution and its disproportionate impact on vulnerable communities.

Calls to Action and Recommendations

  • Urgent measures are needed to move beyond fossil fuels and invest in clean energy generation.
  • The agreement reached during the COP28 to shift away from fossil fuels signals a global recognition of the need for action.
  • Cities must prioritize sustainable transport solutions to reduce vehicular emissions, a major contributor to air pollution.
  • This includes phasing out diesel, gas, and petrol cars and promoting renewable-energy-powered public transport.
  • India’s national ambient air quality standards need updating to align with WHO guidelines.
  • Outdated standards delay effective action against air pollution and fail to protect public health adequately.

Swiss organization IQAir and Air Quality Report:

  • IQAir is a Swiss air quality technology company, specializing in protection against airborne pollutants, developing air quality monitoring and air cleaning products.
  • IQAir also operates AirVisual, a real-time air quality information platform.
  • prepares the annual world air quality reports based on data from monitoring stations operated by governments and other institutions and organisations across the world.
  • The report includes 7,812 locations in 134 countries, regions and territories.
  • India had the third-worst air quality out of 134 countries in 2023 after Bangladesh and Pakistan.
  • 5 Concentration – India (54.4 micrograms per cubic metre), Bangladesh (79.9 micrograms per cubic metre) and Pakistan (73.7 micrograms per cubic metre).
  • In 2022, India was ranked as the eighth most polluted country with an average PM2.5 concentration of 53.3 micrograms per cubic metre.

SOURCE: https://www.downtoearth.org.in/news/pollution/india-was-third-most-polluted-country-globally-in-2023-right-behind-top-ranking-bangladesh-and-pakistan-95134

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