YET another air pollution assessment has underscored a challenge that has been acutely felt for long due to laxity in the strict adoption of mitigating measures. The National Green Tribunal-appointed committee has identified the area of Haryana comprising the NCR and around it as having hazardous air quality. Sticking out as black spots with high PM2.5 concentration are 11 districts of the state on the NGT’s list of 37 districts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain that are pollution hotspots.
The finding serves as a reminder of the need for doubling up efforts, both at the individual and institutional levels, towards ensuring clean air. The main culprits are the usual — extensive use of solid and fossil fuels in industries and homes (chulhas), road and construction dust and transport. It is a poor reflection on the response to the schemes launched by the authorities to make people shift to green fuels. Industries emitting polluting particles should be identified and incentivised to gradually adopt green and advanced technologies. Being capital-intensive, these industrial changes require a graded response. But those needing individual action — mainly regarding cooking fuels and vehicles — should be aggressively promoted. Smoke from chulhas or traditional cooking fuels is the biggest killer in rural India. Though the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas claims that household LPG coverage was 99.8 per cent in 2021-22, ground reports indicate that a majority of the residents in rural areas and urban slums are still trapped in polluting kitchens. Similarly, lack of crucial facilities is a roadblock for people wanting to switch to the cleaner e-vehicles. Along with concessions in the prices and taxes for e-vehicles, a large network of charging stations must be established. The buyers’ confidence can be won by ensuring that not only fuel stations but also all dhabas and other eateries on highways double up as charging points. Every single step taken towards cleaner air counts.
Air contaminated with dangerous amounts of particulate matter damages the respiratory system and the skin, leading to serious health issues and, consequently, impacts the economy of the area. The pollution hotspots need urgent attention.