As per a 2018 report published by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), one in every eight deaths is due to the harmful effects of air pollution. Around 77 percent of the Indian population breathes poorer air which is well below the safe limit prescribed by the National Ambient Air Quality Standards. Another study by the WHO in 2016 found that fourteen of the twenty world’s most polluted cities belonged to India. Air pollution can be caused by many reasons, including crop burning, vehicular emissions, dust generation from construction sites, depleting treecovers, lack of proper waste management, that results in low air quality.
Air Pollution In India
According to the ICMR report, the average life expectancy of Indians can be 1.7 years higher, if there was cleaner air in cities and towns, and pollution lower than the minimal level. Delhi, UP, Bihar, Haryana, Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttarakhand are the worst affected states in the country. A joint study by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), The Lance and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) revealed that in 2017, about 12.4 lakh people died due to air pollution-induced health complications. India is home to 18 percent of the global population and has a high number of premature deaths-about 26 percent because of air pollution.
Impact on Human Health and Tourism
A report by the WHO in 2016 revealed that one in ten deaths in children below the age of 5 was due to the after-effects of air pollution. The report also revealed a correlation between air pollution and childhood cancers, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), asthma, low birth weight in newborns and reduced lung activity. It affects the vital systems in humans, giving rise to chronic airway diseases such as COPD and affects the nose, throat, and lungs, leading to debilitating breathing disorders. It aggravates respiratory diseases like asthma, emphysema, and bronchitis. The diseases caused by air pollution are lung disease, heart disease, birth defects, cancers, immune dysfunction, hormonal imbalance, neuropsychiatric disorders, and hematological disorders.
As per a report by Environment Organization, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), life expectancy of South Asians has reduced by over 2.6 years due to rising air pollution levels. This includes the Indian population and is much higher than the global tally of reduced life expectancy by an average of 20 months. Household air pollution also affects the population adversely and accounts for a quarter of the outdoor air pollution in the country. Cities and rural areas both contribute to low air quality in India. The government is taking steps to cut down air pollution at national and state levels. However, if cities start initiatives that increase awareness of air pollution, it will be easier to combat the issue. Some initiatives like the Clean India Campaign can be effectively implemented to reduce pollution.
The National Clean Air Mission (CAM-INDIA) aims to increase life expectancy by ensuring that national standards with regards to air quality are met. The best way for people to protect themselves from air pollution is through air pollution masks and air purifiers. Pollution masks are resistant to oil and effective against oil-based impurities and are mostly worn by workers in auto, pharma, chemical, petrochemical, food, paint, paper, and textile manufacturing/processing units. Air purifiers remove pollutants from house air, and is an effective way to control indoor air pollution. People can use clean fuels and improve the functioning of stoves to ensure efficient fuel use and emissions. Annual environment status reports by cities, tree census, roof-top gardens, potted plants in balconies and kitchen gardens, lowering population are some of the ways that can help lower air pollution.
According to the World Tourism Organization, the number of tourists travelling internationally is expected to grow to 1.8 billion by 2030. Air pollution could adversely affect tourism in the country, as a study by NYU School of Medicine revealed that even short stays in cities with bad air quality could lead to respiratory issues that would take almost a week to recover from. Among Indian cities categorized by the researchers as polluted, New Delhi and Ahmedabad were found to have consistently high levels of air pollution. Participants in the study reported many respiratory symptoms after visiting these cities. Unless there are changes in the air quality of cities in India, there may be a significant decrease in the number of tourists visiting the country.