Pollution: A serious concern or just another trend?
It is the prime time of year when everyone will have their concern over pollution, as Diwali is around, people choose to discuss the issue for instance but with a more casual approach.
Pollution, a term we use more often these days and an issue which should have been our most serious concern than being just another casual topic at dinner table conversations. There is merely anything left that doesn’t come with the suffix ‘pollution’. From water to air, all we have left behind is a toxic environment for the present and the future. A decade of talking about sustainability, yet, here we are, short of the most basic of resources.
Talking about water pollution in urban India, 70% of surface water is unfit for consumption, and every day almost 40 million litres of wastewater enters rivers and other water bodies of which only a tiny fraction, being adequately treated.
Water pollution isn’t only restricted to adverse effects on health and agriculture. A 2019 World Bank report suggests that such a release of pollution upstream lowers economic growth in downstream areas, reducing GDP in these regions by up to a third. To make it worse, in middle-income countries like India, where water pollution is a bigger problem, the impact increases to a loss of almost half of GDP growth. Another study estimates that being downstream of polluted stretches in India is associated with a 9% reduction in agricultural revenues and a 16% drop in downstream agricultural yields.
Major rivers of India have gone bankrupt of their purity, according to a report, nearly 1.3 billion litres of waste flows directly into Ganga every day. On the other hand, the Yamuna is suffering from increasing Ammonia contents day by day. While everyone is celebrating the healing of nature during the lockdown, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) suggests that the improvement in water pollution during lockdown is not significant.
As the rivers flow through several states from their origin to destination, pollution-related to them have become more like a formality with every state passing the responsibility onto another, and there is no amount of coordination on a national level to counter these important issues. Even CPCB has become more of an advisory board than being reasonable for controlling pollution.
The serious spike in Air Pollution after lockdown clearly explains that we aren’t going to overcome this toxic issue just by banning firecrackers during Diwali. With Delhi-NCR having an AQI of more than 350 these days and even 500+ around the industrial areas, the air is no more a life-resource but a slow poison for the people, major pollutants are PM2.5 & PM10. According to the State of Global Air 2020 (SoGA) by US-based Health Effect Institute, long term exposure to pollution resulted in approx 1.67 million annual death in 2019 in India from stroke, heart attack, chronic lung disease & neonatal diseases. Outdoor and household particulate matter pollution also contributed to the deaths of more than 1,16,000 Indian infants in their first month of life last year.
However, the lockdown period recorded a minor decline in the stats of pollution, but experts don’t approve it to be noteworthy. As the latest SoGA reports recorded that India had suffered the highest exposure to PM2.5 air pollutant in 2019 globally. At the time when the country is facing a serious outbreak of COVID-19, these conditions are only going to make it worse as a recent study from a German institute says, ‘about 15% of overall deaths worldwide from COVID-19 may be due to long term exposure to air pollution.’
The reports and studies have only concluded to more and more concern about the air quality of India but the authorities here have become only more lenient on the most alarming of issues.
As nature keeps on raising alarms to pay serious concern to the basic life resources which are in lethal threats due to air and water pollution, the authorities, politicians, and leaders only contribute to more noise pollution with their unscientific statements and foul promises. Quoting ‘sustainability’ for future generations, if we humans kept on exploiting nature like this, we will be short of living conditions even for ourselves.