Choked by smog: on air pollution

What is Important?
UPSC perspective:
Prelims :Highlights
Mains:Air quality in delhi and how to handle this issue?

Why in News?

Air pollution is choking several cities in the northern States once again, as changes in temperature and slowing winds trap soot, dust and fine particulate matter.

What is smog ?

Smog is basically derived from the merging of two words; smoke and fog. Smog is also the type of fog which has smoke or soot in it. Smog is a yellowish or blackish fog formed mainly by a mixture of pollutants in the atmosphere


*The National Capital Region is badly hit, as the burning of agricultural residue in Punjab and Haryana is releasing large volumes of smoke containing, among other pollutants, highly damaging fine particulates, or PM2.5
*The problem is aggravated by the burning of urban waste, diesel soot, vehicular exhaust, road and construction dust, and power generation
*The UN Environment Programme’s recent report titled ‘Air Pollution in Asia and the Pacific: Science-Based Solutions’ has sounded a warning, pointing out that only 8% of the population in the countries of the region get to breathe air of acceptable quality
*One study of the degradation of Delhi’s air over a 10-year period beginning 2000 estimated premature mortality to have risen by as much as 60%.


*The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that 13 of the 20 international cities with the worst fine particulate matter (PM2.5) in air pollution are in India, and Delhi is at the top of the list.
*As many as 54% of India’s population lives in regions that do not meet the NAAQS for fine particulate matter, and nearly every Indian (99.5%) lives in a region with air pollution levels above the stricter guidelines of the WHO.
*WHO has also ranked outdoor air pollution among the top killers in India.
*According to the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), 77% of Indian urban agglomerations exceed the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for respirable suspended particulate matter (PM10).
*It also shows that both the urban and the rural populations are exposed to dangerously high levels of fine particulates PM2.5.

Reason for smog:

*The smog, since Diwali, has been relentless due to certain weather conditions such as low wind speed, lack of vertical wind and lower temperatures.
*Winds usually blow the pollutants and particulate matter away, helping to clear up some of the smog. But with no winds, the pollutants remain stagnant in the air.
*In the winter, cool air causes “inversions” that stagnant the air and trap pollution close to the ground.
*Air flow patterns from Afghanistan and Pakistan pick up emissions as they move over the densely urbanized regions of Punjab and Haryana where farmers burn the straw in their fields
*The NCR generates 10,000 tons per day of municipal solid waste, much of which is eventually burned, adding particulate pollution to the air
*In adddition, Delhi has more than 7.4 million vehicles on it’s roads, with an additional 1,200 added each day and the result is a pollution “hotspot.”

What needs to be done?

*The Centre and the State governments need to get into crisis mode to dramatically reduce emissionsThey must address the burning of carbon, which is a direct source, and emissions with oxides of nitrogen and sulphur from vehicles that turn into fine particulates through atmospheric reactions
*Farm stubble burning is a major contributor to the problem, and its footprint may be growing because of wider use of mechanical harvesters that is producing more waste
*An innovative approach could be to use climate change funds to turn farm residues into a resource, using technological options such as converting them into biofuels and fertilizers
*From an urban development perspective, large cities should reorient their investments to prioritise public transport, favouring electric mobility
*The World Bank has said it is keen to enhance its lending portfolio to tackle air pollution, opening a new avenue for this
*Governments should make the use of personal vehicles in cities less attractive through strict road pricing mechanisms

Choked by smog: on air pollution Choked by smog: on air pollution Reviewed by The Hindu Current Affairs on November 02, 2018 Rating: 5

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