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The coming depression blog | September 26, 2017

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WHO report: 92 percent people breathing polluted air

While Delhiites are choking due to the alarming levels of air pollution, a recent research by the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that 92 per cent of people in the world are breathing air that is not safe.

The research titled ‘Ambient air pollution: A global assessment of exposure and burden of disease’ shows that India and China are leading the pack of countries where pollution levels are alarmingly high.

According to the WHO, 94 per cent of air pollution-related deaths take place in low and middle-income countries. Besides India and China, the other regional danger spots are Eastern Europe, parts of Africa, and the Middle East.

According to the WHO guidelines, the annual average concentration of PM2.5 should be below 10 micrograms per cubic meter. However, a majority of countries clock PM2.5 levels that are way beyond the normal. In Delhi, for instance, the level of particulate matter 2.5 soared up to 999 on Monday.

Developed countries fare better in terms of tackling air pollution. Large parts of the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Scandinavian countries meet the safety standards. Much of Europe, however, is breathing polluted air.

The research shows that even within a country, the air pollution levels may vary. For instance, north Italy, a hub of industrial activities, has recorded a higher level of pollution compared to the rest of the country.

The latest research by far is WHO’s most detailed study on outdoor air pollution country-wise. Around 3 million, or 30 lakh, people die due to the pollution caused by vehicles, power plants, and industries.

The research is supported by several maps which are based on data collected from satellites, air transport models and ground station monitors.

Before Delhi’s airpocalypse, there was Beijing’s. For days at a stretch during the long winter, China’s capital was, not unlike Delhi today, covered in smog. Though levels of pollutants are lower than last year by 15 percent Beijing is still grappling with pollution and smoggy days.

China has launched a four pronged strategy to curb air pollution.

Studies had shown that air was not polluted as much by vehicles as by the coal industry. Thereafter, all four coal plants in the vicinity of Beijing have been shut down and will be relocated and replaced with higher tech, low emitting factories.

85 percent of the 900 metric tons of crop stalks will be picked up by the government and utilised for biomass, fibre and pulp by 2020. This will reduce pollution caused by crop burning.

Vehicles will be regulated. Trucks not allowed to enter the vicinity of cities. Car licenses have been reduced and there is an emphasis on building better mass transport systems like subways and BRT corridors.

 

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