Thursday, January 25, 2018

Deaths in India due to air pollution rose, plummeted in China; situation "serious" in Dec 2017, shows EU satellite

By Our Representative
Even as ranking one of the worst – 177th among 180 countries – in Environmental Performance Index (EPI), a joint study by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Yale and Columbia universities – released around the time when Prime Minister Narendra Modi the addressed the WEF in Davos – has regretted that India “India has made little progress reducing air pollution levels”, while China has begun achieving the much needed “stability.”
Reporting that India’s rank plummeted by 36 points from 141 in 2016, the study notes, 75% of the rural population in China and India is “without access to modern energy services”, with “over 800 million people rely on traditional biomass for cooking” in India alone.
The study underlines, “Premature deaths from air pollution in China have begun to stabilize, while India has seen a steady rise in air pollution levels and PM2.5-related deaths.” Ranking China 120th of 180 countries, it says, over the last three-and-a-half decades, the number of deaths attributable to PM2.5 in China came down from 16.15 lakh to 10.99 lakh. However, as for India, during the same period, the number of deaths because of PM2.5 has gone up from 13.08 lakh to 16.40 lakh.
PM2.5 refers to atmospheric particulate matter (PM) that has a diameter of less than 2.5 micrometers, which is about 3% the diameter of a human hair. Owing to their minute size, particles smaller than 2.5 micrometers are able to bypass the nose and throat and penetrate deep into the lungs and some may even enter the circulatory system, leading to chronic diseases such as asthma, heart attack, bronchitis and other respiratory problems.
India's EPI ranking among
180 countries
Recalling that “China and India combined made up approximately 52% of the 4.2 million deaths globally in 2015”, the study insists on the “the need for national sustainability efforts on a number of fronts, especially cleaning up air quality, protecting biodiversity, and reducing Green House Gas (GHG) emissions.”
Suggesting that, in India, things do not seem to be improving, the study says, “On October 13, 2017, the European Union and the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Copernicus programme launched the most sophisticated air-pollution satellite ever created”, and the first images “returned from the satellite in December of 2017” highlight “elevated concentrations of NO2 over parts of Europe and high levels of emissions from power plants in India.”
Insisting that “because of their coal consumption” both India and China “face significant challenges in addressing air pollution from sulfur dioxide emissions”, the study says, “Recent satellite studies have found that while Chinese emissions of sulfur dioxide have declined by 75% since 2007, India’s emissions have increased by 50%.”
“As a result”, the study says, “India has overtaken China as the world’s largest emitter of anthropogenic sulfur dioxide… Both India and China must address their air pollution emissions to prevent acidification and other negative ecosystem impacts.”
Pointing out that “air quality remains the leading environmental threat to public health”, the study says, “In November 2017, the government in Delhi declared a state of emergency. Particulate matter levels reached recorded highs of 969 ug/m3”, recalling, “The WHO considers anything over 25 ug/m3 to be unsafe.”
“To put this into perspective”, the study says, “News sites were reporting that breathing the air in Delhi was ‘equivalent to smoking 44 cigarettes a day’. Arvind Kejriwal, Delhi's chief minister, even described the city as ‘a gas chamber’. Blaming farmers who clear fields by burning crops, Kejriwal went on to say, ‘every year this happens during this part of the year. We have to find a [solution] to crop burning in adjoining states’.”

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