The Pollution Paradox of India: Brief Insight of Current Pollution Condition
The case of bad air quality management in India is quite peculiar. Although it should be a concern of the whole population. However, upon further assessment, it is very evidently present that the issue of air quality management in India is a complete class-centric problem. What is even funny is that a greater share of population is absolutely unaware of this dangerous epidemic which is affecting each and every urban establishment in India.
The concerns regarding poor air quality management in India is multidimensional. Firstly, there is a section of the population which is aware about the growing problem of air pollution in India but is taking no active step to address it. Secondly, a share of population is active and taking the necessary steps but only at the household level. Thirdly, there a good share of population which is completely unaware about the issue and as a matter of fact are active participants in contributing to this issue without any consciousness. Lastly, there is a very small portion of the population which is actively engaging with the problem at a community level but their efforts are only limited towards awareness not action. In this complex situation, the category of people addressing the problem at household level and people being unaware is in good numbers.
As a result, what we see here is that the solutions to the problem it itself is getting entangled within this complex web of the society.
Mrinalini might skip doing her evening homework, but she never skips taking her daily dose of nebulization. Her mother is a doctor and she belongs to a well establish rich urban class background. All members in her family are completely aware about the issue and have taken the necessary steps to address the problem, but at the household level. Living in Laxmi Nagar is not an easy task. There traffic and then there is a whole lot of traffic. Pollution levels are generally high on that side. Mrinalini’s mother has taken all the necessary precautions from keeping an expensive air filter and ionizers to nebulizers and air masks. The child is just 6 years old but she is completely conscious about wearing her air mask before going out to play.
Kabeer, a hard-core soccer fanatic and resident of Vasant Kunj makes sure to wear his pollution mask before going out to play a game or two of soccer with his friends in the park. Belonging to a middle class family, Kabeer has all the necessary perks and benefits needed to lead a comfortable life. Although the family cannot afford the expensive equipments like Mrinalini’s but still they are very much aware about the growing problem of air pollution. The least which the family is doing is making sure that the members at least carry an air mask before going out for their respective activities.
Mallika, an enthusiastic student of Fashion Design has to constantly be in field to collect exquisite materials for her fashion assignments. She is new to this city and is thrilled by the adrenaline filled lifestyle that it has to offer. For her the primary tasks generally involve performing well academically and secure a good financial position to sustain both her and her family. For her, air pollution is the least of the concern. Even if it is, she cannot afford to channel her financial resources in purchasing the necessary aids to protect her from this problem.
Then there is Bharat who is a security guard at Chanakyapuri who comes every evening at 8:00 PM sharp for the night duty and stays awake till 8:00 AM in the morning. For him, his 2×2 small room is everything. Bharat cooks, eats and technically spends most of his time there. During summers, he is either burning wood to prepare his food and in winters to keep himself warm. All in all, Bharat is completely unaware about the contribution he is making towards air pollution in India. Sadly there are a good number of Bharats’ who are unaware about the gravity of the situation.
Cost Based Analysis
If we analyse the problem of air quality in India, we will find a clear picture that there is a major chunk of the population which cannot afford the technical aids to protect themselves from air pollution. Variety of gas masks do exist but with a continuous costs of Rs. 2000/- and more can be a bit heavy on the pocket. Not just that, air purifiers and ionizers which are highly effective at both household and professional settings are extremely expensive, ranging from between Rs. 1,16,000 to 1,25,000. On the other hand the reasonable range of air purifiers cost between Rs. 2000 to Rs 15,000 but the downside of these air purifiers is that their capability of handling dust PM 2.5 is less accurate.
But the most important point is that with the current costs of electricity, there is already a section of the society which cannot on a consistent fashion afford to pay the bill for the power required to operate such devices. Let’s look at the figures, the current average cost of electricity in India amounts to Rs 4/KWH. The average consumption of electricity required for air purifier is around 175 watts. Calculating the monthly cost of electricity needed to run such devices, we get a figure of Rs 504/month for this one device only. For a middle class to an upper class individual, maybe possible to manage, but for a person belonging to a low economic strata, very doubtful.
Although, India has witnessed a sudden growth in the market for air quality products. The sudden spike in pollution levels has driven the demand for air purifiers in the country. Major manufacturers have witnessed upto 4 times hike in the sales in the air quality products. Sadly this only a picture of the well-off classes. The situation is concentrated rather than holistic in terms of presentation.
India has boomed in terms of air pollution. Earlier China was considered as one of the growing nations at risk of severe air pollution. However, the latest trends of 2015 clearly indicate that India has been able to overtake China in terms of pollution levels. The number of deaths due to ambient (outdoor) air pollution in India has been witnessed to be around 50 deaths more than China per day in 2015, according to the Global Burden of Disease project. In 2015, India witnessed 3,280 Premature Deaths (fatalities due to Ozone concentration and particulate matter concentration) per day, whereas China had recorded 3,230. While Premature Deaths have increased by 23 per cent in India over the last decade, China has reversed the trend and recorded a decline of 3%.
Looking at the past figures, in 2010, number of Premature Deaths in India were at 2,863, whereas in China it was at 3,190. Similarly, in 2005 India was at 2,654 and China at 3,332. China, therefore, ranked high in terms of poor air quality management. However, over the course of years the tables have turned. The rate of Premature Deaths in India has been increasing at an alarming rate, and from 2,140 deaths per day in 1990, it has reached to 3,280 in 2015 which is nearly 53% increase in Premature Deaths in the last 25 years, a much sharper increase than in China, which has seen 16% increase over the corresponding period as it managed to reverse the trend from 2005 onwards.
A quick look at the global picture clearly shows that levels of air pollution specially dust PM 2.5 and 10 have been all time high in India.
Need of the Hour
It would be foolish to deny the efforts being put to create mass awareness campaigns regarding better air quality management. However, merely creation of awareness spaces will not suffice t holistically deal with the problem at its different stages within the society. There is a dire need to address the problem of air pollution as to how it affects different class stratas and how they can be made aware of different cost-effective and innovative techniques to carry out their day-to-day activities with minimal to no air pollution contribution. For instance, the people belonging to the marginalized classes, they require is access. Access to all the necessary resources which can make them to shift from the traditional aids to modern aids in their day to day lives. It can be anything which can help in reducing the levels of air pollution within the area.
The second most important thing needed is innovation to utilize the growing levels of pollution into something far more productive. Already there have been small-scale experiments into converting carbon to cheap diamonds or as printer cartridges. There are also beta-tests being conducted in converting toxics within the air into food preservatives. Now these types of innovation are needed as they are no class centric and will impact each and every individual who is affected by this problem.
Lastly laws influencing the lifestyles need to undergo a revision as per the situations in hand. With no proper regulatory mechanisms, there is an undue advantage which the big players are taking without any consideration towards the environment. This selfish act needs to stop and rational and sustainable approach is required to be followed if there is any hope of securing a better future for the coming generations.