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March 21 @ 7:00 am - 11:30 pm


India faces a severe air quality crisis, as highlighted by the World Air Quality Report 2023 by the Swiss organization IQAir. This report identifies India as the world’s third most polluted country, with significant health implications for its population.

Key Highlights of the World Air Quality Report 2023:

India’s Air Quality Ranking:

  • India ranks as the world’s third most polluted country, with an average annual PM2.5 concentration of 54.4 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Bangladesh and Pakistan have surpassed India in pollution levels, ranking as the most and second most polluted countries, respectively.
  • Nine out of the top 10 most polluted cities globally are located in India.
  • Delhi retains its status as the world’s most polluted capital city for the fourth consecutive year.

Local Pollution Hotspots:

  • Begusarai in Bihar is identified as the world’s most polluted metropolitan area, with an average PM2.5 concentration of 118.9 micrograms per cubic meter.

Health Impacts and WHO Guidelines:

  • Approximately 96% of the Indian population, totalling around 136 million individuals, face PM2.5 concentrations seven times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended levels.
  • Over 66% of Indian cities have reported annual averages higher than the WHO guideline of 35 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • 5 pollution, primarily from burning fossil fuels, is associated with increased rates of heart attacks, strokes, and oxidative stress, posing severe health risks.

Global Air Quality:

  • Only seven countries worldwide, including Australia, Estonia, Finland, Grenada, Iceland, Mauritius, and New Zealand, met the WHO annual PM2.5 guideline.
  • Africa remains significantly underrepresented in air quality data, with a third of its population lacking access to such information.
  • Some countries, such as China and Chile, have reported decreases in PM2.5 pollution levels, indicating progress in combating air pollution.

Global Impact of Air Pollution:

  • Air pollution contributes to approximately seven million premature deaths annually worldwide, equating to approximately one in every nine deaths.
  • 5 exposure leads to various health issues, including asthma, cancer, stroke, and mental health complications.
  • Children exposed to elevated levels of fine particles may experience impaired cognitive development and worsened existing illnesses, such as diabetes.

WHO Air Quality Guidelines:

Pollutants Covered:

  • The World Health Organization regularly updates its air quality guidelines to protect public health from air pollution, covering both particulate matter (PM) and gaseous pollutants.
  • Particulate matter includes PM2.5 and PM10, along with gaseous pollutants like ozone (O3), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), and carbon monoxide (CO).

Understanding Particulate Matter (PM):

  • Particulate matter consists of extremely small particles and liquid droplets suspended in the air, comprising various compounds.
  • PM10 refers to coarse particles with a diameter of 10 micrometers or less, while PM2.5 denotes fine particles with a diameter of 2.5 micrometers or less.

Air Pollution:

  • Air pollution results from the contamination of the environment by various chemicals, physical, or biological agents, originating from sources such as household devices, vehicles, industries, and wildfires.
  • Major pollutants, including particulate matter, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide, contribute to respiratory diseases and high mortality rates.
  • Nearly all of India’s population is exposed to unhealthy levels of ambient PM2.5, highlighting the pervasive nature of air pollution in the country.

Implications and the Way Forward:

Health and Economic Impacts:

  • Air pollution poses significant health risks and economic burdens, with the loss of productivity and healthcare costs due to premature deaths and illnesses.
  • In India, economic losses attributable to air pollution accounted for USD 36.8 billion, representing 1.36% of the GDP.

Strategies for Improvement:

  • Regulatory Strengthening: Implement and enforce stringent air quality standards and emission limits, with penalties for non-compliance.
  • Transition to Clean Energy: Accelerate the adoption of renewable energy sources, phase out fossil fuels, and promote sustainable transportation options like electric vehicles.
  • Industrial Improvement: Mandate clean technologies in industries, promote waste minimization, and incentivize pollution control measures.
  • Public Awareness and Research: Conduct awareness campaigns, involve the public in decision-making processes, invest in research for innovative pollution control technologies, and foster public-private partnerships.
  • Global Cooperation: Collaborate internationally to address transboundary pollution, support developing nations with technical assistance and funding, and prioritize air quality management as a collective responsibility.

Mains Question:

  1. Examine the implications of India’s ranking as the world’s third most polluted country in the World Air Quality Report 2023, and discuss the strategies required to mitigate the severe air quality crisis faced by the nation. (150 WORDS)


March 21
7:00 am - 11:30 pm
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