Long term exposure to PM2.5 particles has caused millions of deaths in India. Hazardous air quality is causing heart and lung diseases in people, and with the spread of Covid, the situation is only worsening. A study published by the European Society of Cardiology states that air pollution could be linked to 15% of Covid deaths globally. “The high severity of the third wave is due to many factors, including pollution,” said Arvind Kejriwal, CMO Delhi, addressing the recent rise of Covid cases in the capital.
India alone isn’t witnessing the symptoms of this deadly phenomenon. Air pollution poses the fourth highest death risk globally, as per reports. Vehicular and industrial emissions along with fires are the main causes of air pollution. A recent article by the Center for Empowerment and Development Studies (CEDS) described how the activity of stubble burning (clearing the agricultural land of leftover stalk by setting it on fire) causes large amounts of air pollution.
The global discourse on pollution is perhaps more suitably highlighted by the words ‘climate change’. In Australia, greenhouse gases have triggered extreme weather conditions. As a result the average temperature has risen 1.44 degrees Celsius which will result in more droughts, wildfires and marine heatwaves. This is a very steep rise. Drying habitats are causing dwindling of the platypus population, who are nearing extinction. Platypus is an egg-laying mammal native to Australia and is the sole surviving member of its family and species.
In such situations it is important that governing bodies at every level make policy changes that prevent the destruction of the environment altogether, and actively work towards restoring it. The Commission for Air Quality Management, a newly appointed agency will formulate policies to control stubble burning. More such policies at individual levels are required. A glance at any reputable study predicting future implications of continuing in the same patterns are nothing but scary.
Recent protests in Goa against laying down a coal transportation corridor through the state show that people are worried now. Goa has a rich forest cover and complex biodiversity. The citizens are concerned that laying down railway tracks will cause large-scale deforestation which will ruin the state.
For a nation like India, development is important. However it has to be planned and implemented in such a way that the environment isn’t harmed. The country is already burdened by the second highest population and bringing the fruits of development to everyone without destroying nature is a challenge. But one in which we have only one option. On this World Pollution Day we must also ask ourselves. Is our lifestyle sustainable? Are we unnecessarily putting pressure on the environment by wasting resources? We need to think about what changes we can bring about in our daily lives. If not for the coming generations, we need to do it for ourselves. Because our foreseeable future is at stake.