The Problem of pollution in Indian is not a new one and the crisis is deepening with every passing day. India ranks 17th on the list of the most polluted countries in the world. While the rank may look satisfactory but apart from China, it is the only major economy that ranks so high in the pollution index. Other countries that are above India include Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Lebanon and other under-developed countries. In the list of top 20 most polluted cities on the earth, there are 8 Indian cities. Faridabad is the most polluted city in India with a population index of 95.19. Other cities on the list are Ghaziabad, Noida, Gurgaon, Delhi, Allahabad, Kanpur and Patna.

Now, before we look at the key reason behind the increasing pollution in India, let’s look at the standard definition of air pollution.

According to the World Health Organisation, when the concentration of PM2.5 particles in the air increases, the air becomes hazardous for humans to breath. This is the basic definition of air pollution. Apart from PM2.5, PM10 is also responsible for polluting the air. Some other things that lead to air pollution in India include burning of crops, industrial smoke, smoke from vehicles, air-conditioners and burning of crackers. But, it is mainly the PM 2.5 and PM10 that worsen the situation.

If you follow the news frequently and read about pollution-related problems, you’ll think that Delhi is the most polluted city in the country. But this is a perception based on media coverage and lack of in-depth information. Invisibility and pollution are two different things. Plus, pollution in Delhi is not entirely due to the industries in Delhi. On the contrary, Delhi has a fair share of forest cover. It is the stubble burning in Punjab and Haryana and industries in adjoining areas that cause the unbearable pollution with AQI breaching the 400 marks every winter. Cities like Faridabad and Ghaziabad are much more polluted than Delhi.

Common Misconceptions:

The Diwali factor: As soon as the Diwali season approaches, there’s a lot of hullabaloo regarding the bursting of crackers. It is indicated as if it is the bursting of crackers that makes Delhi and other parts of the country choke. Well, this is a very exaggerated contradiction to start with. According to a report by WHO, road dust accounts for over 45% of the total pollution in India. 17 per cent of the pollution is due to waste burning, smoke from vehicles accounts for 14% of total pollution and domestic and construction activities account for 7% of total pollution. You’ll be shocked to know that a mere 0.07% share in total pollution in the country is held by the bursting of crackers in Diwali. 

This is not to say that bursting crackers is eco friendly and it doesn’t cause pollution. But, to solve a problem, we need to address the key reason behind the problem. Many experts argue that the stubble burning season coincides with Diwali thereby worsening the condition but if you look at the calendar the picture is very different. If we talk of 2020, Delhi started choking due to bad air weeks before Diwali. 

Source: BBC

The above chart indicated how pollution level rises on the day of Diwali and falls back to the initial level just a couple of days after the festival. It takes nature 4 days to neutralise the impact of crackers. But the pollution remains.

Pollution Is here to stay?

Many argue that dust and crop burning are inclusive to Indian and hence the pollution problem can not be tackled. WRONG! India is a developing country and the construction activities are responsible for the majority of dust blowing on the roads. This number is going to fall significantly as the construction slows down and India becomes a developed nation. 

In the meanwhile, we need to focus on certain things to neutralize the pollution while the government has already pulled its socks to give its citizens fresh air to breath.

  • Waste Burning: Waste Burning and Crop Burning are highly responsible for the pollution in India. UP, Bihar, Punjab and Haryana are key states where stubble burning is very common. The government in UP has already started collecting stubble from farmers in exchange for organic manure. Other states can also emulate this and we can reduce the pollution levels by 20 per cent.
  • Electric Vehicles: Smoke from vehicles is another major contributor to the bad air in the country. The government has decided to slowly shift to electric vehicles to cut down petrol and diesel vehicles in the country significantly. According to an estimate, Electric Vehicles are going to have nearly 30% penetration in the Indian market and this is going to help the government in fighting air pollution. Meanwhile, carpooling and increased use of public transports is going to be very beneficial.
  • Industrial Waste: Industrial smoke is another key contributor to pollution in the country. Shifting of these industries from residential areas to remorse areas can be really helpful in fighting the pollution.