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HCFI Round Table Environment Expert Zoom Meeting on “Report of World Bank Group-2022 on Striving for Clean Air - Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia – Part 1”

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Dr Veena Aggarwal, Consultant Womens’ Health, CMD and Editor-in-Chief, IJCP Group & Medtalks Trustee, Dr KK’s Heart Care Foundation of India    29 December 2022

December 18, 2022, Sunday 

12 noon – 1 pm

 

  • The World Bank has recently released a report “Striving for Clean Air: Air Pollution and Public Health in South Asia”, which states that South Asia suffers from extreme pollution. Nine of 10 cities with worst air pollution are in this region.
  • This report has used a modelling approach over the entire South Asia and laid out multiple scenarios and the costs involved in reducing the average South Asian’s exposure to particulate matter. 
  • As per the report, currently over 60% of South Asians are exposed to an average 35 µg/m3 of PM2.5 annually. In some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain (IGP) it increased to as much as 100 µg/m3, which is nearly 20 times the upper limit of 5 µg/m3 recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO). 
  • If we take 400+µg/m3, it is 80 times the WHO recommended upper limit.
  • Various steps have been taken to control the air pollution. 
  • The National Clean Air Campaign (NCAP) was launched in 2019 to reduce air pollution in 131 of India’s most polluted cities. 
  • System of Air Quality and Weather Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) Portal is a national initiative launched by the Ministry of Earth Sciences to measure the air quality of a metropolitan city, by measuring the overall pollution level and the location-specific air quality of the city. 
  • AQI has been developed for eight pollutants viz. PM2.5, PM10, Ammonia, Lead, nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, ozone, and carbon monoxide. Furans emitted from waste to energy plants should also be monitored. 
  • Introduction of BS-IV vehicles, electric vehicles are other measures. 
  • Formation of a new Commission for Air Quality Management and giving subsidy to farmers for buying Turbo Happy Seeder (THS) Machine to reduce stubble burning.
  • A Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) has been designed for Delhi, which also includes the odd-even policy.
  • The Environment Pollution (Prevention & Control) Authority (EPCA) has directed Delhi and neighbouring States to implement air pollution control measures under very poor and severe category air quality of GRAP.
  • The report has also identified six major airsheds between which pollutants move. An airshed is a common geographic area where pollutants get trapped, creating similar air quality for everyone. India shares some of them with Pakistan.
  • The six airsheds are: (1) West/Central IGP that includes Punjab (Pakistan), Punjab (India), Haryana, part of Rajasthan, Chandigarh, Delhi, Uttar Pradesh 2) Central/Eastern IGP: Bihar, West Bengal, Jharkhand, Bangladesh (3) Middle India: Odisha/Chhattisgarh (4) Middle India: Eastern Gujarat/Western Maharashtra (5) Northern/Central Indus River Plain: Pakistan, part of Afghanistan and (6) Southern Indus Plain and further west: South Pakistan, Western Afghanistan extending into Eastern Iran.
  • When the wind direction was mainly northwest to the southeast, 30% of the air pollution in Indian Punjab came from the Punjab Province in Pakistan and, on average, 30% of the air pollution in the largest cities of Bangladesh (Dhaka, Chittagong and Khulna) originated in India. 
  • Industries, vehicles, power plants are the major sources of air pollution in South Asia; But there are also other sources of air pollution such as combustion of solid fuels for cooking and heating, emissions from small industries such as brick kilns, burning of municipal and agricultural waste, and cremation.
  • There are huge economic costs associated with ambient air pollution. It is also causes around 2 million premature deaths each year.
  • Existing measures by government authorities can reduce particulate matter but significant reduction is possible only if air shed approach and coordinated policies and programs are adopted across the airsheds. 
  • Scientists of India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and other South Asian countries must establish a dialogue on air pollution to tackle it with an ‘airshed approach
  • The causes of severe winter air pollution in Delhi are landlocked geographical location, overpopulation, vehicular emissions, industries, stubble burning, construction activities, shifting of jet stream causing a westward wind pattern in the northern part of India and spread of pollutants. Also, because of the stagnant lower level winds, pollutants get locked in the air and result in smog.
  • Earlier Delhi was in focus because of PM2.5, but recent modeling data show that many cities in Bihar have higher PM than Delhi.
  • Air pollution has now concentrated only on PM and that too only fine PM. This has diverted the focus from the health impact to a single parameter. Several other pollutants emerge from industries and automobiles, which are harmful to health.
  • Installation of air purifier tower/s is an ineffective, futile and expensive method to control air pollution. Investment is better made at the point where pollution occurs, which is at the source.
  • Trying to reduce/avoid air pollution by using technology will be a much more successful approach rather than trying to tackle the stack.
  • Along with particulate matter, gaseous pollutant also need to be looked at. These convert to secondary aerosols and again form particulate matter. Hence, it is important to also focus on secondary aerosols.
  • AQI has given more emphasis on PM2.5, but not enough weightage has been given to volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
  • It is important to understand the chemistry of the atmosphere.
  • A source apportionment study of PM 2.5 and PM 10 for Delhi had found that 60% of pollution is from adjacent cities. 
  • The WHO target of 5 µg/mm3 is not possible to achieve in South Asia as it is a dusty region. Even during lockdown, PM2.5 was in the range of 20-25 µg/mm3.
  • Dust in the rural areas is non-toxic, but the road resuspension dust is very dangerous as it contains toxic smoke, carcinogens.
  • Fast moving vehicles generate road dust. Particles are generated where there is high traffic volume and where wear and tear is also very high. Road dust problem is more where there are unpaved roads. In a study from NEERI, out of 71% particulate matter in Mumbai, 45% is from unpaved roads. Road construction activities also generate lot of dust. Mechanical sweeping is important. Unpaved roads require lot of sprinkling. Roads that are unbuilt or have open land on either side generate more road dust. Landfill fires and waste management system also contribute to the air pollution.
  • Aerosols are microsized gaseous or chemical components. It does not include the crystal material or the soluble material.
  • We should be able to divide into the anthropogenic or biogenic sources. Meteorological conditions have to be taken into consideration.

 

Participants

 

Mr Paritosh Tyagi

Dr Anil Kumar

Dr Dipankar Saha

Dr Ravindra Kumar

Dr Sanjiv Agrawal

Mr Neeraj Tyagi

Mr Pradeep Khandelwal

Mr Arun Kumar

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