IT HAPPENS ONLY IN INDIA,
GREAT JOB MR. PARMAR
it is good to eat as many as vegetables and fruits (totally vegetarian), but my aurvedic doctor asked me to stop eating every...
There is death in the air and more and more people are dying prematurely every year. In 1991-92, studies revealed that around 40,000 people were dying in India due to air pollution. By 1995 the figure had shot up dramatically to 50,000. Is our quest for economic growth self defeating? It seems so, for tiny particles of matter floating in the atmosphere known as suspended particulate matter or spm are slowly but silently choking people to death. And this is not all. There are deadly gases like ozone and sulphur dioxide to add to these degradations.
The more trucks we ply, the more three-wheelers we use, the more diesel cars we manufacture and the more power generator sets we use to make up for power cuts, the worse the situation becomes.
In 1991-92, 19 million people were taken ill or hospitalised in India, by 1995 the figure had reached 26 million. All this has a cost which the economy has to bear. Does anybody bother to take this cost into account?
Unplanned economic growth has resulted in filthy, grimy and sub-human living conditions in our cities.
So who is to blame. Is it industry? Automobiles? Or the government?
While industrial activity, like thermal power production, contribute to more than 80 per cent of the spm in Delhi, vehicles play a significant role as well. And junking old cars may not be the solution. It would merely be playing into the hands of the automobile industry currently facing a recession and seeking a way out of it. What would be more convenient for them than concealing their marketing drive under a green agenda. An agenda which could conveniently forget to mention that it is highly environmentally degrading to produce a car.
The car-- everybody's dream machine-- has become a victim of its own success. What began as a middle class dream has become an ecological and health nightmare.
A brief examination of the situation meanwhile shows that the government is lagging behind in its efforts to address the problem. The bureaucratic response to the problem of air pollution has been typical -- a procedure which only increases paperwork for the government. The government issues pollution under control certificates to vehicle owners. While all this succeeds in creating an illusion that something is being done and an effort is being made to curb pollution, in reality what is being addressed is only the symptom of the malady not the cause. Simply because if the number of vehicles goes on increasing, so will the level of spm , even if all vehicles have pollution under control certificates. Here again a bureaucratic response like fixing quotas for car manufacturers is not the issue. The idea is not merely to limit the number of cars or go back to the pre-liberalisation era when there was a waiting list for vehicles. The idea is to examine the quality of engines and of fuel available in India.
And who is the sole supplier of fuel? India is one of countries where the government has a monopoly over fuel production, refining, distribution and retailing. The government of India also decides how fuel should be priced. It is this fuel which runs trucks, cars and power generator sets, emissions from which result in spm in the atmosphere. This fuel, particularly diesel, is used to run tubewell pumpsets for irrigation in rural areas. The government heavily subsidises diesel.
But does this subsidy benefit only the farmer? Unfortunately no. Almost all commercial vehicles, trucks, three-wheelers and even private cars use diesel today and the demand for diesel cars is growing as the Indian middle class finds it cheaper to run these vis--vis petrol-driven cars. Today more than 70 per cent of diesel consumption is accounted for by the transport sector.
The quality of diesel in India is abysmally low. There has been a tremendous failure on the part of the government to set targets for itself. Diesel in India has a remarkably high sulphur content. By the year 2000, the government proposes to reduce this to 0.25 per cent, whereas in Europe and the United States, it is planned to be reduced to 0.05 per cent.
Primary emissions from diesel vehicles have a high spm load, particularly pm10 , due to the high sulphur content. They also emit nitrous oxide which upon exposure to sunlight releases ozone. Studies carried out in Japan in 1985 show increasing incidence of lung ailments due to ozone. Ozone also escapes to rural areas where it reduces crop yields. A phenomenon which is being now noticed in India as well.
The government has a lot to catch up with. While there has been an attempt to monitor spm levels in India. There has been no attempt to monitor pm10 and pm2.5 , particles which are less than 10 micron in diameter and which researchers in the West think are more detrimental to health, in fact pm 2.5 is supposed to be even more lethal than pm 10.
Therefore whether one has a pollution control certificate or not for his vehicle, it really doesn't matter. The only way to steer clear of spm is to hold your breath and wait for the government to act. But going by the government's record and the time that it takes for the government to react it may be too late. For even holding your breath for too long can be fatal.