Pollution in Metros
Almost all the major cities of India have been found to be among the worst polluted cities in the world. A report by the World Health Organization shows that 15 out of the 20 most polluted cities of the world are in India. It is, therefore, not surprising that major health problems have become recurring occurrences. Pollution of all kinds is on the rise in India and it is imperative that the rise is checked in order to guarantee a sustainable environment for future generations.
Which are the most polluted cities in India?
According to WHO, in 2018, Gurgaon, Ghaziabad, Faridabad, Bhiwadi, Noida, Patna, Lucknow, Delhi, Jodhpur, Muzaffarpur, Varanasi, Moradabad, Agra, Gaya, and Jind are among the 20 most polluted cities in the world, in decreasing order of particulate matter.
What are the causes of pollution in India?
The major source of pollution in the cities is the heavy traffic on the roads which emit harmful gases like sulfur dioxide and carbon mono-oxide. Winters in India have become synonymous with rising occurrences of smog in all major cities. Smog is formed when smoke, particulate matter and other pollutants in the air combine with the winter fog to form a thick blanket of polluted air with little or no visibility. Aside from the fact that this air is heavily polluted, the problems with visibility have caused numerous accidents in cities like Delhi, Noida, Gurgaon, and Kolkata.
The Air Quality Index of Delhi in December 2018 was between 450 and 630, which is far above the permitted level of 100. The levels rose even more during the time of Diwali when despite Supreme Court orders, millions of firecrackers were used for the celebrations.
In the race for industrialization and development, green cover across the city has been reduced to a great extent. Trees have been known to reduce pollution levels in the air and bring rains, but the loss of green cover is a serious threat to the ecology.
Incineration is considered to be a safe method of disposing of wastes, but it ends up releasing harmful and toxic pollutants into the air.
Water pollution is also a serious issue in India. Most of the important rivers such as the Yamuna, Ganga, Mahanadi, Kaveri are choked with all kinds of pollutants. Waterbodies have become a dumping site for all kinds of garbage since they drain into rivers which ultimately drain into the sea.
Indian rituals and age-old superstitions have taken a huge toll on the waterbodies. Idols of deities are thrown into rivers after worship. These are made with dangerous chemicals and dyes which have many ill-effects. No effort has been made to create organic idols that are not harmful to the environment. Ashes and left-over bones, after the cremation of the dead bodies, are also thrown into rivers.
Effluents from industries are also released into the rivers and these further aggravate the problem of water pollution. Municipal sewage, household wastes, all drain into rivers which are the main sources of fresh water. Contaminants like arsenic and mercury have been known to cause deadly diseases in human beings. Oil spills are also a big reason for water pollution.
The pollutants being drained into the waterbodies result in loss of marine life, disruption of the marine ecosystem, killing of fishes and other marine animals.
Soil pollution is a rising concern in India. The excessive use of harmful pesticides and insecticides leave behind residues in the soil profile and affects the crops. Landfilling is also a big concern in India. There are miles of land in cities like Mumbai and Delhi which are filled with garbage. These dumping sites contain harmful wastes that seep into the groundwater and pollute it, thus causing more water-borne diseases. As such, the groundwater level in India is going down very rapidly and India ranks 120 on the list of 122 countries that are set to have problems regarding the availability of freshwater in the near future.
The rapid industrialization and the increasing number of vehicles contribute to noise pollution in Indian cities. Noise pollution leads to severe ailments such as loss of hearing, migraine, and amnesia.
Steps have been taken by the central and state governments and the judiciary to tackle the problem of pollution in India. The government of Delhi had issued an â€śEven-Oddâ€ť rule in vehicular transport to curb air pollution, but it ultimately did not work as planned. The government has proposed switching to clean energy sources for cook stoves, public transport and industry, and measures to reduce road traffic by raising fuel taxes and parking fees, levying congestion charges, and creating vehicle-free zones and cycle paths, in an attempt to curb vehicular pollution.
Environmentalists believe that industries must be warned against releasing harmful effluents into waterbodies and harmful gases into the atmosphere. Most industries in India do not have proper filtration plants required to undertake these actions, and therefore the environment bears the cost. If the problem of rising levels of pollution is not tackled soon, then India is looking at a serious epidemic of illnesses and death caused by air, water, soil, and noise pollution.