Air Pollution and Human Health
In 2018, the WHO reported that 14 out of the world’s most polluted 15 cities are from India and the country falls in the deadliest air polluters. The latest Lancet Study, led by national experts, also reported that air pollution caused 1.24 million deaths in 2015. The global stats say that one in every 10 deaths in a day is caused due to the pollutants in the air and WHO shows that 9 out of 10 people breathe air containing high levels of pollutants. Therefore, making air Pollution the number one killer standing way ahead of malaria and cigarette smoking as the cause. The national capital of India alone has a death toll of around 80 lives every day due to Air Pollution.
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Why Air Pollution in Gurugram is a concern?
Gurugram has been ranked one of the most polluted cities in the world with the average AQI from 197 to 192 depicting air quality is unhealthy all over the year. Though it is hard to point out the air pollution sources, considering the P.M 10 and Carbon monoxide, the highest air pollutants the major sources of Air pollution can be pointed out. The automobile vehicles’ exhaust and generators, dust from the construction activities, smoke from the industries, Stubble burning in the nearby agricultural lands could be the reason for the same. Also, the loss of green cover in and around Gurugram cannot be ignored. Though several initiatives have been taken by the government of India like that of the National Clean air program and GRAP (The Graded Response Action Plan) but still there are missing links due to which we fail. The NCAP aims to reduce harmful particulate matter pollution by 20-30% by 2024 (compared to 2017 levels). The NCAP brings a much-needed focus to city actions that can help the country achieve cleaner air. Under the NCAP, city-specific action plans will be developed for all 102 reported cities that exceed national air quality safeguards. Also, considering the health impacts of Air pollution on the residents of Gurugram, it is shocking to see Gurugram has only one Government hospital. This means along with poor air quality, the health infrastructure is also poor.
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Combating the challenge of Air Pollution in the Millennium City
To curb the air pollution in the Millennium city Gurugram is a big challenge. But taking the following steps/initiatives can help to reduce the air pollution at a wider level, these initiatives could be the part of NCAP also:
- In Gurugram, there is a huge dependency of people on private automobiles this is evident since 40% of the total population uses their own vehicles for mobility needs. This leads to higher congestion on the roads, more traveling time, and air pollution. In this case, several multi-dimensional steps could be undertaken. The Principle Avoid, Shift, and Improve could be applied.
- The initiatives could be taken to avoid the number of trips such as Odd/Even policy. Odd/Even policy has helped Delhi to reduce the pollution levels to an extent. In the policy, odd-numbered vehicles were only supposed to travel on odd-numbered dates which lead to a not only reduction in pollution but also less traffic congestion. Similar could be applied in Gurugram.
- More energy-efficient transport systems could come into the picture so as to shift people from using private vehicles. Diesel/gasoline-based engines could be replaced with electric and CNG. Looking into the walkability, 27% of the people in Gurugram are pedestrians and there is no dedicated lane for pedestrians with the integration of public spaces. Working on the same may change the modal shift from using automobiles to walkability. This can be worked on a smaller scale such as at the neighborhood or a zone level.
- The efficiency of existing transportation systems could be improved by working on public transport such as buses and MRTS. Only 33% of people in Gurugram use Public transport, by improving more public transport dependency could be increased of the people
- The destruction of Aravalli hills by the illegal miners and loss of green cover due to expansive development has increased the risk of air pollution and dust. Aravalli is an important factor as it acts as an anti-desertification barrier for the whole Delhi-NCR region. In terms of Parking 60 lakh vehicles are parked in the city which is equivalent to the 100 sports fields while there is no sports field in the city. Therefore, emphasis should be given on the mobility Plan/Development Plan of the city to as to increase the green cover and limit the development in certain ways. The city can be made more compact so that the trip length may reduce leading to a lesser dependency on automobiles. Parking policies could be made New York provide one parking space for every seven to ten jobs, London has Congestion pricing policy to reduce the parking demand and traffic congestion at peak hours, etc.
- There are areas in Gurugram where the real estate developers have made no provision for the electricity due to which 24X7 diesel generators are used. The use of diesel generator sets increases the level of Particulate Matter 2.5 and PM10 in Gurugram by 30% in Gurugram. It is estimated by Haryana government authorities that, at present, more than 14,000 diesel generator sets are running in Gurugram. Few restrictions could be imposed on this. Also, while issuing the permissions to the real estate developers, guidelines could be made so that the use of diesel generators is restricted. Considering the actions taken by the Government of Delhi, closure of the polluting Badarpur Thermal Power Plant, and the EPCA also banned the use of diesel generator sets, similar could be done in Gurugram.
Additionally, health infrastructure in the city has to be improved to combat the challenge of poor air quality and its impact on health. Considering the dynamism of the Millennium City Gurugram, an action plan has to come into the picture which has to be comprehensive in nature. Not only that, tacking with the issue of air pollution is a continuous process that needs multiple agencies, and their coordination can’t be ignored.