Delhi Ranked Most Polluted Capital in the World - Here's How We Can Reduce Air Pollution
People wearing masks display placards during a protest against Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on the issue of air pollution. (File Image: PTI)
Delhi has been ranked the most polluted capital in the world, while Gurugram is the most polluted city, according to a Greenpeace report. According to the latest data compiled in the IQ Air Visual 2018 World Air Quality Report and interactive world’s most polluted cities ranking, which is prepared in collaboration with Greenpeace Southeast Asia in order to reveal the state of particulate matter (PM2.5) pollution in 2018, Delhi had an average yearly PM2.5 concentration at 113.5 micrograms per cubic metre. The report is based on air quality data collected in 2018 from public monitoring sources, with a special focus on data which has been published in real-time or near real-time.
However, the city-based rankings differ, with Delhi taking the 11th spot as the most polluted city and Gurugram at top, with an annual average PM2.5 reading of 135.8 micrograms per cubic metre. Ghaziabad is number 2 with 135.2 micrograms per cubic metre and Faisalabad in Pakistan is third with 130.4 micrograms per cubic metre. Apart from this, Faridabad, Bhiwadi and Noida take the next three spots with average PM2.5 readings of 129.1, 125.4 and 123.6 micrograms per cubic metre, respectively.
We decode what actually is Air Quality Index, what determines AQI and how to reduce the air pollution in this article!
What is the Air Quality Index? (AQI)
The AQI is used by government agencies around the world to gauge how polluted the air is in their cities. It’s currently the best indicator of how vehicle emissions are responsible for polluting our cities. The index uses five criteria to gauge this:
- Particulate Matter (PM10 & PM2.5)
- Sulfur Dioxide (SO2)
- Carbon Monoxide (CO)
- Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2)
- Ozone (OZ)
Harmful Emissions - Key Findings
- Car exhaust fumes are responsible for more deaths than traffic accidents in the UK and US, according to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Only 3 of the top 10 most iconic cities in the world are considered safe according to the AQI
- Delhi in India has air quality 10 times worse than London
- Istanbul’s air quality is considered unhealthy during busy periods throughout the day, affecting the hearts and respiratory systems of healthy individuals
- Bnei Brak in Israel has the lowest air quality on Earth.
Chemicals Released by Car Exhaust?
There are several chemicals released by combustion engines that are harmful to humans-
Benzene (C6H6) - This substance is produced from exhausts of vehicles as unburnt fuel during the combustion process. It occurs naturally in small amounts of diesel and petrol. Benzene is highly toxic and long-term exposure has been linked to leukemia.
Carbon Dioxide (CO2) - Reducing the amount of CO2 in our environment is one of the main goals for governments around the world. The reason is that, although, the substance is non-toxic, it is a dangerous greenhouse gas and contributes to acidification of the oceans.
Carbon Monoxide (CO) - Carbon Monoxide is odourless and colourless and is caused by an incomplete combustion process. However, it can be extremely harmful. It has been known to cause irritations such as headaches and respiratory problems.
Hydrocarbons (HC) - Emitted as unburnt fuel, hydrocarbons also evaporate from the vehicles fuel tank. In sunlight, hydrocarbons react with NOx to create photochemical oxidants which can cause breathing issues and make symptoms, such as asthma worse.
Nitrogen Oxide (NOx) - Produced in any kind of combustion produce, NOx is oxidised in the atmosphere and is one of the major contributing factors to acid rain. It has been known to cause lung irritation and reduce the immune system when fighting respiratory infections. Tie in something about how this has resulted in the decline on diesels?
Particulate Matter (PM) - Soot is often a byproduct of using a motor vehicle powered by fossil fuels. Tiny particles, smaller than one-tenth the diameter of a human hair, can seriously impact the health of a human being as they penetrate deep into the lungs. Diesel is one of the major causes of PM pollution.
Sulphur Dioxide (SO2) - By burning fuel that contains sulphur, especially the likes of diesel and coal, combustion engines cause contamination when the sulphur reacts in the atmosphere to form fine particles and other pollutants. This can cause a major health risk, particularly to children.
How Dangerous are Vehicle Exhaust Fumes?
Although the risk of exposure to vehicle exhaust fumes is rarely talked about at any great length in the media when compared to other preventable causes of death, such as consumption of alcohol or tobacco, the statistics show that the number of deaths are similar.
A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology concluded that in the UK, 5,000 people die every year as a result of heart attacks and lung cancer caused by vehicle exhaust fumes. That’s three times as many who die from traffic accidents. Pollution from overall UK combustion emissions, which includes powerplants and other forms of industry, accounts for 13,000 deaths per year.
It’s also a similar story in the US, with the study estimating that 53,000 deaths per year are caused by emissions from vehicles. This is around 16,000 more than traffic accidents. Overall in the US, 200,000 early deaths each year are caused by overall air pollution.
Despite many major cities falling foul of the AQI regulations, several cities are beginning to make significant strides to combat their rising emissions. Here are the five major ways they’re doing this-
Restoration of Green Areas
Many cities have begun attempting to restore previous environmentally friendly features in the form of “green streets”. These are a new way of organizing our streets to help increase their functionality and manage stormwater which would otherwise gather pollutants and enter our drains, thus contaminating our water supply. Also, in many French cities, laws are being created to ensure all new buildings feature a green roof or solar panels.
Supporting Smarter Public Transport
Cities are beginning to deploy smart solutions across their busiest routes and motorways in order to curb the excessive pollution caused by public transport. It helps if your city has a large number of electric buses, but there are other novel ways to make public transport more efficient and greener. In Spain’s capital, Madrid, technology is now in place to harness energy from metro trains. The energy is regenerated and used to charge electric vehicles.
Promoting Green Initiatives
There are programs offered by governments around the world to home and commercial property owners that offer a substantial reduction in taxes and other subsidies in exchange for reducing their carbon footprint. This in turn reduces the cities overall emission rating and improves air quality. Many countries including the UK and US, offer tax incentives relief and grants for electric cars, helping consumers save money and improve the environment.
Embracing Renewable Energy Sources
It’s important that a city embraces and makes use of all forms of renewable energy if they want to reduce pollution and improve air quality. Many cities have began installing solar panels on the outside of their buildings, including Los Angeles, New York and Denver. Aspen recently became the third US city to achieve the goal of operating on 100% renewable energy after Burlington, Vermont and Greensburg, Kansas.
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With Inputs from PTI