Air pollution in India has become a serious problem. Statistics published in 2018 suggest that 22 out of 30 of the topmost polluted cities were in India. The data published by the World Health Organization or WHO shows that 12.4 lakh deaths in the country could be attributed to air pollution. India needs to tackle the problem urgently as the level of toxic air is much higher than the recommended guidelines.

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Studies conducted by Organization such as WHO, Centre for Science and Environment and published journals such as The Lancet have linked pollution with premature deaths in the country. Air quality index (AQI) is an index to measure air quality. It tells you the quality of air and the associated health effects that it might have. An AQI 0-50 is good air quality while 301-500 is hazardous. Apps are now available that inform users about real-time AQI in their area. AQI levels have sky rocketed to hazardous levels in several cities in India.

Causes of air pollution
Fuel and biomass burning is the main reason for the permanent haze and smoke seen in urban and rural India. Many Indians still use fuelwood and biomass cakes for cooking and heating in their homes. According to the World Health Organization reports, 3 lakhs to 4 lakhs deaths is attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning. The air pollution caused by fuel-burning affects our lungs. India is the world’s largest consumer of fuel wood, biomass, and agricultural waste for energy purposes. These fuels are used in 90% rural homes and 24% urban homes.
Many vehicles in India use adulterated fuel blends. Adulteration of petrol and diesel is common in the Indian subcontinent. Adulteration increases harmful emissions worsening air quality. Adulterated fuel increases tailpipe emission of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, oxides of nitrogen, and particulate matter. Mixing kerosene with petrol and diesel has been increased sulfur levels. Adulterated fuels can have serious consequences on our health and vehicular life.
Traffic congestion in urban-centre in the country increases air pollution. Traffic congestion can be caused because of poor road infrastructure, the number of vehicles, and poor traffic rule enforcement.
India was the third-largest producer of carbon dioxide in the world. According to the Global Carbon Project, CO2 emissions have risen two years in a row. 65% of carbon dioxide emissions were from heating, domestic use, and the power sector.
The effects of air pollution on health
Studies have shown that India has a higher proportion of global health loss because of air pollution. According to an article published in The Lancet Journal, one in every eight deaths could be attributed to air pollution. One-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart diseases can be attributed to air pollution. Microscopic particulate matter (PM) can impact our respiratory system and circulatory system, damaging our lungs, heart, and brain. Respiratory diseases such as asthma have also spiked.

Steps taken by India to curb air pollution
According to WHO air quality guideline reducing annual fine particulate matter (PM2.5) from 35 g/ m3 (microgram/cubic meter) to 10 g/m3 can reduce air pollution death by 15%. Local governments around the country have implemented tighter vehicular emission norms, penalized garbage dumping, and reduced road dust. Future goals of the government include increasing electric buses for public transport, introduce a machine called Happy Seeder in farms, the machine converts agricultural residue to fertilizer. Other proposals include switching to cleaner fuels for cooking, levying congesting charge, and creating vehicle-free zones.

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