A new international report has drawn attention to the deadly pollutants that pervade the air that people breathe in India, causing terrible illness and premature death.
The state of Global Air study 2017
The State of Global Air 2017 study, conducted jointly by the Health Effects Institute and the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, quantifies further what has been reported for some time now: that the concentration of the most significant inhalable pollutant, fine particulate matter with a diameter of 2.5 micrometres or less (PM2.5), has been growing in India.
The main problems
Weak policy on pollution is leading to the premature death of an estimated 1.1 million Indians annually, and the number is growing, in contrast to China’s record of reducing such mortality.
1. Although the central role played by burning of crop residues in causing pollution is well-known, and the Indian Agricultural Research Institute proposed steps to convert the waste into useful products such as enriched fodder, biogas, biofuel, compost and so on, little progress has been made.
2. Last year, helpless farmers in the northern States who wanted to quickly switch from rice to wheat burnt the waste in the fields, in some cases defying local prohibitory orders. The government has no one to blame but itself, since it has not been able to supply affordable seeder machinery in sufficient numbers to eliminate the need to remove the straw. In a country producing about 500 million tonnes of crop residues annually, the issue needs to be addressed in mission mode.
3. Easy access to cheap solar cookers and biogas plants will also cut open burning, and help the rural economy. Yet, there is no reliable distribution mechanism for these.