Air Pollution & its increasing Adverse Impact : A NEED FOR REVISITING STRATEGY ON AQI IMPROVEMENT
Bloomberg’s article on the US President Barack Obama’s India visit in January 2015 quoting “costing him six hours of his life” attracted more attention than the other successful outcomes accomplished during the visit (Natalie Obiko Pearson/Bloomberg article January 26th, 2015). Based on the increasing concentration levels of pollutants in ambient air, Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University hypothesised that all cabinet members and decision makers sitting in Delhi will lose up to 150 days of their lives for every five-year term spent.
While India is on an exponential growth trajectory some of the challenges it will encounter on its way forward may adversely impact its momentum. To list a few: –
• India is ranked the lowest amongst countries in the 2022 Environmental Performance Index (EPI) Report. The EPI compares the environmental performance and tracks any score modification. Since 2010, India’s performance has declined to worse.
• The 2021 World Air Quality Report is also worrisome. The report, issued by Swiss Group IQ Air, measures Air Quality data based on the concentration levels of Particulate Matter – PM2.5.
• Eighteen of World’s twenty-five worst polluted cities are Indian. Bhiwadi ranking No.1 with an average PM2.5 concentration level of 106.2 μg/m³, while Delhi is at No.4 with a concentration level of 96.4 μg/m³. Most Indian cities exceed the WHO safe limits of PM2.5 (5 μg/m3 annual mean). Data analysis based on study outcomes pose some uncomfortable and worrisome questions.
(1). How long have our lives been shortened?
(2). How strong is the impacts for the young and old citizens and the yet unborn babies?
(3). What is the increase in health-related costs to be borne by the State supporting healthcare for Economically weaker sections as well as to a family or an individua due to Air Pollution?
(4). How much does this impact India’s future growth, individual productivity and the GDP?
Some of these study outcomes based on global data analysis are quite alarming:
• A 2019 World Bank Report states that $ 8.1 trillion as the global cost of health damages associated with exposure to air pollution, equal to 6% of global GDP. It also states that people in low- and middle-income countries are the most affected.
• A study by Dalberg Advisors states Air Pollution costs Indian businesses about USD 95 billion every fiscal year due to reduced productivity, work absences and premature deaths. This equals to 3% of India’s total GDP. This cost is equal to 50% of all tax collected annually, or 150% of India’s healthcare budget.
While the impact on the economy could be huge, ever increasing concentration levels of pollutants in air, on a mid-to-long term will have a devastating impact on the health & wellbeing of the community at large and a ripple effect on Government Healthcare spent.
Summarised below are diverse air pollutants comprising particulate matter, gaseous and microbial contaminants which form a potent poisonous concoction having a direct adverse impact on human health and wellbeing :
• Particulate Matter penetrates the respiratory system via inhalation. PM2.5 enters the bloodstream, resulting in cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses, as well as affecting other organs.
• Air Pollutants such as Nitrogen Oxide & Sulphur Dioxide (established as Carcinogens), Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), dioxins, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) are harmful to humans. Carbon Monoxide (CO) causes direct poisoning. Heavy metals absorbed by the human body, lead to direct poisoning or chronic intoxication, depending on exposure.
• The immediate health problems due high Air Pollution include aggravation of the existing cardiovascular and respiratory illnesses. It leads to damaged respiratory cells.
• Long-term exposure to polluted air leads to accelerated ageing of the lungs and reduced lung capacity and is the primary causative factor for chronic/life threating diseases like asthma, bronchitis, emphysema, and cancer.
Government in action
Despite several plans, policies and initiatives by both the Central and State Governments towards air pollution in general and various emission control measures in particular, the situation continues to deteriorate.
At Delhi, attempts to curb Air Pollution following CAQM and GRAP recommendations resulted in installations of SMOG Towers and Mobile Spray guns to clean up the air. The problem however, remains unsolved and increases day-by-day.
Being at inflection point in our actions and initiatives for accomplishing a better Air Quality Index, it is an opportune time for decision makers to revisit the management strategy which is primarily based on measures being adopted by other countries comprising SMOG towers, spray guns etc. and to understand that such measures were based on air pollution levels being much lower in those countries.
A functionally viable and more workable strategy would be to manage air pollution in much smaller localised areas having significant community congregation / footfalls using consumable free and low operational/maintenance cost-based technologies. Special and focused initiatives under the “Startup India” and “Atmanirbhar Bharat” could be taken up on priority to enable fast-track support and evaluation of indigenously developed/ under development technologies for expedited selection and implementation. Such technologies could be effectively used and installed at high pollution choke points:
• Bus and Train/Metro stations/terminuses as well as in Bus, train and metro coaches.
• Education institutes
• Active construction sites to enable elimination of pollution at the point of creation
• Major congregation points like historical, religious, public spaces (malls, markets etc.) and public offices
• Major pedestrian intersections / crossings
• Industrial operations having significant emissions including diesel generators
Amida Cleantech Pvt. Ltd.
AmidaCleantech is a DIPP registered innovative startup founded in New Delhi which is into development, manufacture and deployment of holistic urban clean air solutions through its novel Air Purification Systems, Products and Services. AmidaCleantech’s ACE+ innovative technology, developed in India, addresses the challenges of India’s unique High Air Pollution Concentration levels.
AMIDA’s ACE+ (Attract-Capture-Eliminate) breakthrough is in its high-efficiency large-scale outdoor, filter-less air purification capabilities. ACE+ also caters to semi-outdoor and indoor environments. AMIDA ACE+’s immunity to Humidity, Temperature and PM Concentration levels makes it the Best Available Technology against India’s High Levels of Air Pollution.
AMIDA’s ACE+ captures & eliminates:
• PM2.5 & PM10
• Bacteria and Viruses
• Nano Black Carbon
• Pathogens Further, it transforms Carcinogenic gases like NOx and SOx into harmless gases. ACE+ technology multiple applications include:
• Outdoor: SMOG TOWER, School playgrounds, public parks, Heavy public interest points like places of religious / historical importance, bus shelters, museums.
• Semi-Outdoor: Infrastructure buildings including Airports, Railway and Metro stations, Bus terminals, Parking garages, Shopping high streets and key public places.
• Indoor: Hotels, Schools, Colleges, Residential and Commercial developments, shopping malls and Industrial premises. ACE+ has undergone rigorous testing by various global bodies and today is successfully deployed at several places.
• NITI Aayog: ACE+ was installed at their main reception lobby, a semi-open space. During the continuous operation evaluation process, ACE+ was successfully able to not only significantly reduce concentration levels of Particulate Matter PM2.5, PM10, but also gases SOx, NOx, CO as well as eliminated microbial contaminants like Bacteria, Viruses Yeasts, Molds. The significant outcomes of ACE+ was also corroborated by extensive tests conducted by an independent NABL accredited laboratory. ACE+ was able to accomplish over 96% improvement in Quality of Air on a continuous basis.
• Amida’s ACE+ technology was the only non-European technology selected by the French Railways under their global initiative for tackling hazardous pollution at Metro stations / Railway platforms. During the extensive and long period real-time testing, it was observed to be the best amongst the tested technologies in terms of both performance consistency and ease of handling maintenance.
• In India the technology has been deployed at Hotels, Schools (both open and enclosed spaces), Commercial and Residential developments and the IT industry.
Keeping in mind India’s environment specific pollution abatement requirements, Amida’s ACE+ can play a key role in the Air Quality Index improvement initiative as the as the technology is very appropriate for diverse applications with installations that can be spread across outdoor, semi-outdoor and/ or Indoor spaces. Being filter-less technology, with no consumable requirements, it has low operational and maintenance overheads.
By Manish Dewan