Page 8 - Breathing Cleaner Air - Ten Scalable Solutions for Indian Cities
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Clean Air Mission for India - Ten Solutions 4

How Did We Get Here?

The burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, and agricultural substantially reduced its air pollution levels, first through
crop residues, is the primary source of air pollution. Air regulations on coal and fire wood burning, and more
pollution is an undesirable side effect of industrialized recently, by introducing reduced-traffic zones. Other
life and ongoing developments, with immense negative regions, such as the industrial Rhine-Ruhr and Benelux
impacts on human health, including increased rate of regions, as well as many of the former Eastern Bloc states,
heart and lung diseases. WHO (2016) concludes that also experienced high pollution levels in the 1960s to
92% of the world’s population lives in places where the 1990s and have substantially reduced them in the last
air quality levels exceed WHO limits. Air pollution also couple of decades. Overall, emission loads of gaseous
damages natural and managed ecosystems, and has pollutants like SO2, NOx, CO, and NMVOCs in Europe
a substantial impact on regional and global climate, have come down substantially by 64%, 51%, 66%, and
including disruption of precipitation patterns. Food 60%, respectively, during 1990–2012 (EEA-2016). The
and water security is also threatened. Unfortunately, air reduction in PM10 and PM2.5 was about 19% during 2000–
pollution is often mistakenly thought to be unavoidable, 2012 (EEA, 2016). However, air pollution is still an issue
hindering efforts to reduce pollutant levels. in many large European cities, as shown by the pollution
episodes in Paris in March 2014.
Contrary to prevailing opinions, however, several
regions have demonstrated that air pollution can often Likewise, India is now embarking on ambitious
be curbed drastically without apparent negative impacts plans for effective control of its pollution. A list of
on economic growth or development. For example, in major interventions taken by the Government of India
the 1960s, when California was building its economy in different sectors that already have or will result in
after World War II, there were many cities wherein the reduction of air pollutant emissions, is provided in Table
air quality had severely deteriorated. In particular, Los 2. In 2006, India passed its National Environment Policy
Angeles and neighbouring cities, like Riverside, were (MoEF, 2006), which aimed both to adopt an integrated
competing with London for the infamous title of the approach for energy conservation and use of renewable
most polluted city in the world, not unlike the situation energy options and remove policy, legal, and regulatory
with Delhi and Beijing, two historic and magnificent barriers to establishing decentralized power generation
cities in the world. California has made tremendous and distribution systems. The Auto Fuel Policy, passed in
progress in reducing air pollution levels since the 2002 (MoPNG, 2002), already laid out the roadmap for
1960s, by combining science, policy, governance, and the introduction of advanced vehicular emissions and
technology (Ramanathan et al., 2014). Between 1968 and fuel quality norms in India (BS-I to BS-IV) by the year
2008, California reduced emissions of gases like carbon 2010. In 2016, the Government of India again announced
monoxide (CO), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and sulphur the advancement of these norms to BS-VI levels by the
dioxide (SO2) by 75 to 90%, and cut its black carbon year 2020 across the country.
(BC) emissions by 90%. At the same time, its population,
number of vehicles, and diesel consumption increased There are several power plants in cities like Delhi that
by 100%, 175%, and 225%, respectively (Ramanathan et have switched from coal to gas, significantly reducing
al., 2014), and its economy grew enormously (resulting the total contribution of the power sector to air pollution.
in the largest GDP among all states in the US), in spite of Strategies for improving energy security and reducing
the efforts and financial resources expended to curb air GHG emissions have also been developed, and are
pollution. being implemented in India, with important co-benefits
for reducing air pollution. Due to stringent actions,
Various cities in Europe have also seen similar some cities like Ahmedabad have shown a 50% decline
developments. London is particularly infamous for in PM10 levels from 2002 to 2012 (NAMP-CPCB data).
its pollution episodes in the 1950s and has since Improved vehicular standards, enhancement of public
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