The Smog and Dust Story Around Us
Apart from being the capital of India, Delhi has been entitled as being among the topmost polluted cities in the world since a couple of years. Due to the crop (mainly of rice) stubble burning (done illegally) by farmers in its border states (Haryana and Uttar Pradesh), Delhi residents are always an unfortunate recipient to this pollutant filled air. Emission of greenhouse gases from vehicles and industries is just an addition to the already polluted air condition. The pollutants have thereby been trapped and decreased the air quality in addition to their former problem.
If we talk about the air quality index numbers for most of North India, including Delhi NCR and the numbers can range anywhere between 300 and 999. Air pollution is definitely the ultimate silent killer. Billions and trillions of tiny particles, smoke, fumes, volatile organic compounds, dangerous gases, and al are getting filled in our lungs as we breathe in. As the stubble burning continues unabated, most north Indian cities are covered in a stout envelope of smoke.
For those updated on the Delhi air pollution scenario might remember the odd-even rule that was implemented in Jan 2016 to curb the decreasing air quality. In Dec 2017 as well, the condition of the air quality went from bad to worse to the extent that the schools had to be shut down due to the severity of the situation. The visibility on the roads had reduced considerably due to the heavy presence of smog in the air apart from having a terrible effect on the health of the people. And there hasn’t been much improvement in the scenario so far. The winter season has only added to their problem by making it worse due to the stagnant air that blocks it and resulting in smog.
Similarly, The Republic of South Korea is facing serious problems due to the Yellow Dust Storms that come from the Chinese and Mongolian deserts. The increased deforestation due to the rising growth of industries has led to these increased dust storms which consist of inhalable particles. These dust storms apart from toxic waste consist of oxides such as Aluminum, Calcium, Iron, Magnesium, Potassium, and Silicon which leads to a high risk of suffering from severe respiratory and skin diseases. Also, due to contact of these minute particles with the sensitive tissues of the eyes, throat or nasal area can result in the damage of these parts and create many problems. But China isn’t the only country whose air pollutants are affecting the South Koreans, the pollutants also from South Korea’s coal-fired power plants and major use of diesel fuel has only added to the increasing problem.
Some years back Mumbai’s temperatures on a day in January matches to its states’ hill station, Mahabaleshwar (i.e. 13 degrees). Keeping aside the winter and summer scenario, I’m sure most Indians (especially the Mumbaikars) would remember the unseasonal rains during September, October, rain even during Diwali, astonishes us all,
If you have at some point vacationed in the rural areas or in the hill stations, you must have felt the difference in the clean and crisp air that is refreshing to breathe in. The few days of respite we get from the city air helps to rejuvenate us (and might save our lungs for a while longer from the short-term relief!). Though we city folks might not necessarily realize this daily, our lungs are no doubt suffering from the polluted air, irrespective of the fact that we are smokers or not. The level of pollution in the air is a result of our very own making and we are the only criminals to blame for this cause. I’m sure the basic causes leading to such conditions do not have any specification, but a few current examples can help you in understanding the situations currently being faced.
For all the textbook knowledge our generation received, for more than a decade ago in school and college on global warming due to man-made pollution and its effects; over the years we have been seeing the practical cause and effects. The purpose of this article is to draw your attention to the topic of the increasing environmental changes due to air pollution, further, to bring light to the technology that is helping to reduce the cause or cope up with the effect.
Air pollution not only affects the living organisms but also the atmosphere of the environment due to the power it has in changing the wind patterns leading to disastrous effects when it reaches its limit, cyclones being one such example. This has led to the formation of the Paris Agreement, where nearly 200 countries have voluntarily agreed to take steps in reducing carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emission that leads to climate change.
On the other had the Mother Earth has felt its biggest forest “The Amazon” burning over the last months. At a time when there is no lack of disputes among neighboring nations and continents, it is truly an inspiring initiative by the global leaders to make this wise decision that has been needing attention for quite some time. Despite the cultural, racial and political differences, we can only hope that the survival and protective instincts of humans proceed with this agreement in the coming years too.
Over the recent years, with the increasing rise in pollution from vehicle emissions being a major issue, one of the measures that have been taken is to have auto-emission norms set which is followed by most countries across the world. This helps in controlling the amount of carbon and other particulate matters that a vehicle emits into the environment. While the Europe Union, the US, and Japan are already following the Euro Stage VI, India is currently lagging behind by following the Bharat Stage IV. With the rise in the increasing pollution levels, the Government has planned to skip one level and implement Bharat Stage VI (equal to Euro Stage VI) by 2020 for the rest of the country except Delhi. Anyways that seems to be a whole different topic to discuss on.
The BS Stage VI is believed to result in fuel-neutral emission norms, i.e. all fuels would be provided an equal standard for emission without preferential treatment of one over the other. While oil refineries are trying their best to provide a fuel that meets the BS-VI standards, the auto (cars and trucks) companies, on the other hand, are concerned about the huge investment that will be required from their side to get the auto-technology upgraded to BS-VI standards. This would eventually also lead to increased vehicle prices and result in a lesser sale as well. But, with peoples’ health being on the line, the Government has been firm that the financial losses would not take precedence over the citizen’s health.
While the above was a way to curb pollution up to a certain extent, there are also technologies invented purely to help cope with the pollution and once such innovation is the air purifier. While many Indians might be aware of the product and brands like Panasonic, LG, Honeywell, Sharp, Eureka’s Dr. Aeroguard, among the few that offer them, there are still those in India to whom this is an unknown invention. An air purifier like the name itself suggests, is a product that helps in purifying the air by filtering the surrounding air to a certain level and trapping the harmful particles and pollen invisible to the naked eye.
With increased air pollution in the recent years, mainly in Delhi and its nearby states, the product seems to have seen a considerable rise in its sales. Apart from those who are suffering respiratory diseases or are having pollen allergies, the rest too are slowly purchasing air purifier to prevent themselves from getting affected by the harmful air. But, unlike the air conditioners that have become a necessity for most in India both for commercial and residential use, the air purifier is yet to create a need space and awareness for residential use. With the high ranging prices of these products, the aware audience has hesitated from purchasing the product. We Indians are pretty adjustable to situations and have a chalta hain attitude (alright with what is available), but when it comes to such health concerns it’s high time, we wisely invest in it as not doing so could be life threatening in years to come.
Technology, so far has been used for making human life easier and better but with the current environmental concerns and the small efforts being taken to curb it, hope the near future results in many environmentally friendly innovations.