Air is essential for all humans, flora and fauna and other organisms. Its importance can be estimated by the fact that humans can survive without food and water for a few days, but without the air it is impossible to survive. The air is 80 percent of what man takes in the day. It is known that every day man breathes 22,000 times a day. Thus, every day he receives 16 kilograms of air. Air is a mixture of various gases in which nitrogen content is 78 percent, while 21 percent is oxygen and 0.03 percent carbon dioxide is found and the remaining 0.97 percent contains hydrogen, helium, argon, neon, krypton, xenon, ozone and water vapour.
The above quantities of different gases in the air keep it balanced. It becomes unbalanced when there is an uneven difference in their ratio, posing a grave threat to human health. Whenever carbon dioxide and nitrogen increase in the air beyond permissible levels, it is called air pollution. According to a research by America’s Health Effects Institute (HEI), more than 42 lakh people died in 2015 due to air pollution in the world. Out of these, 11 lakhs belonged to India and almost the same deaths occurred in China.
According to HEI, about 92 percent of the world’s population is breathing in polluted air and air pollution has become the fifth largest cause of death in the world. Mostly industrial units are responsible for increasing the pollution, which often flout environmental standards with impunity. First, we should limit the amount of chemicals discharged into the air by the factories. Increasing numbers of vehicles running on petrol and diesel on the roads are not less responsible for the increased risk of air pollution. The authorities should restrict the number of vehicles allowed to run in the city, especially in the rush hours when there is heavy traffic.
How to Prevent, Control & Reduce Air Pollution
Even though a variety of laws have been laid for the regulation of air pollution, there are a number of things that all individuals may do to curb air pollution and the worsening condition of air from going out of hand. Following are a few suggestions to control air pollution:
Raise awareness about air pollution
We need to raise public awareness about this problem. Everyone should be conscious of how serious the problem has become because the air is being polluted mostly by irresponsible human activities. Proper arrangement of population education should be made so that air pollution as a result of population growth is prevented from growing. Consciousness should be raised in children by making air pollution measures as part of the curriculum. The public should be propagated through mass media to disseminate information about the dangers of air pollution.
Run tree plantation drives
Trees should be planted on a large scale. We can help to make earth cleaner by planting trees, which will add oxygen to the atmosphere and provide shade in the summer. Furthermore, trees are the largest source of oxygen but we cut them instead of growing them. If every person plants a tree, then life will improve significantly. Wind will clear, the number of trees will turn back to normal, pollution, and global warming and greenhouse effect will reduce to a great extent.
We should buy efficient appliances to use energy saving bulbs that consume less electricity. The less energy we all use, the lower our demand is on our use of power, which means less pollution. We should give up reckless and extravagant habits while using electricity and embrace good habits like switching off all the electrical appliances, fans, ACs, bulbs and tube lights, when leaving our room or office. Using solar energy, and fluorescent lighting instead of incandescent lights, and purchasing only energy-saving appliances, is also a good option to reduce air pollution. Adopt smokeless stove and solar energy.
To reduce air pollution, we should make efforts to save energy, because whenever we burn fossil fuel, it contaminates the air. Apart from less petrol, diesel, natural gas, etc, even the use of electricity should also be brought down, as large amount of coal is used in production of electricity.
Curb Unbridled Industrialization
Chimney in the factories should have high altitude. Factories should be installed away from urban areas, and technology should to be used so that most part of the smoke is absorbed and the residual material and the gas cannot be found in excessive amounts. To check unbridled urbanization, employment and cottage industries and other facilities should be provided in villages and towns too. Uncontrolled harvesting of forests should be stopped. In this regard, along with the government, NGOs and every human being should participate in the plantation programmers. The sewerage should be in place for disposal of residual substances in cities and cities.
Reduce use of personal vehicles
Heavy vehicles are major contributory factors for increasing air pollution at the global level. If we want to achieve a reduction in vehicle-related air pollution, we need to drive less and follow healthy driving cultures. For example, we can cut down air pollution by taking fewer trips in a car and frequently using public modes of transport.
We may use a variety of alternative modes of transport. Resisting the temptation to take out our own vehicle every time may help a lot in reducing air pollution. The viable options that we may go for include carpool, walk-to-work, cycling, shopping through e-commerce, availing public transport, tele-shopping and tele-communicating.
Let your vehicles stick to pollution control norms
The maintenance of your vehicle should be done on a consistent basis; engines of motor vehicles should be maintained at regular intervals. Emissions of carbon monoxide should be checked by cleaning the carburetor. You should gradually and smoothly speed up by getting into high gear. You should top off the air in the tyres frequently as per the recommended pressure to improve fuel efficiency to prevent tyre wear. The smoke coming out of the fuel in the vehicles should be minimized.
Always make it a point to see that your vehicle adheres to pollution checking norms. A car that emanates much smoke should have its problem fixed immediately to prevent contamination of the air. One of the options is to use leadless petrol fuel. While taking the car out for a ride, you should take minimum trips and complete most of your tasks in one ride to save most of your time. Also, obeying the speed limit, as you drive from one place to another, may also help in reducing pollution as you use less petrol.
The consumers should choose a non-polluting vehicle only, preferably the one that produces zero emissions. Ban the operation of old vehicles, as they produce heavy amount of smoke. The latest vehicles tend to cause less pollution than outdated models.
Choose cleaner options
Products such as cleaning agents, paints, and glues contain dangerous smog-forming chemicals. To prevent this type of air pollution we should select water based products or items that contain low content of volatile organic compounds called VOCs. When painting doors, or windows of our homes, we should choose water-based paints that do not adversely affect indoor air quality. As paining with sprayer results in the higher spread of harmful chemicals, painting with a brush is recommended. While storing the solvents, airtight containers should be used, as these containers prevent leaks and spills.
Ensure low waste production
High amount of energy goes into making electrical products for everyday use. We should stress more on recycle and reuse of products to lower the use of energy. Select items with recyclable packaging, and reuse paper bags. Use print and photocopy paper from both sides and follow all the prescribed rules and regulations pertaining to recycling of paper, metals, or plastics.
Use fewer machines for cleaning
Gasoline-powered leaf blowers emit a great quantity of dust and air pollutants –
498 times as much hydrocarbon, 49 times as much particulate matter and 26 times as much carbon monoxide compared to an average large car. To avoid this, we should fall back upon the use of brooms for cleaning. We should drive slowly to evade stirring up dust, when we are traveling on unpaved roads. On high traffic air days, we will do well to minimize or avoid driving.
Avert Indoor Pollution
Most people spend at least 80% of their time staying indoors, which contributes to worsening of air pollution. Smokers also create air pollution with their unhealthy habits. Stop using gas stoves and space heaters, and limiting the use of domestic items such as cleaning supplies (heavy chemicals include cleaning agents, paints, and glues) that emit harmful chemicals is recommended.
Living areas should be properly ventilated to reduce the level of indoor air pollution. Make your gas appliances and heaters undergo regular inspections and maintenance. The homes should be kept cleaned on a regular basis to eradicate ant bacteria or mold accumulation.
You can also use a good vacuum cleaner to keep at bay chemicals and allergens that can poison your home. Use of a large mat out of your rooms can help you reduce the amount of dirt, and other pollutants that may plague your homes.
A quick look at ways to reduce air pollution at a glance:
- Keep the smoke emanating from house, factory, vehicle within the permissible range.
- Do not burn firecrackers.
- Do not burn garbage; keep it in a fixed place.
- If necessary, use flowing drains for spitting.
- Follow all the laws related to air pollution.
Efforts of China in Curbing Pollution
Since coal is the main factor of carbon emissions in China, it has targeted to cut the use of coal by 70 percent by 2017 and has reduced the dependence significantly in the past year. Now in China, efforts are being made to meet the energy needs with electricity and non-fossil fuels. In China, all the iron, steel, cement and heavy industries are being closed which are based on coal. China has made the goal of getting the country coal free by 2020.
It is worth noting that the Chinese government kept the data of air pollution in place till the year 2008. But when they saw that Beijing and its other big cities started suffocating, they started arranging online air reporting. In China, now 1500 sites are issued real-time figures of pollution every hour. The Chinese government also regularly issues the ranking of air quality of cities. Also, people are also advised to check these data from time to time.
Given the declining level of pollution since January 1, 2015, environmental protection laws are strictly in force in China. There, the law is so stringent that there is no limit on penalties for imposing polluting. Fines have also been imposed on many big companies. Non-profit organizations can file public interest litigation against polluters. Local governments have the obligation to strictly enforce these laws. In 2015, China appointed an environmentalist as the Minister of Environment.
To control pollution, China has made strict arrangements to drive on the roads. China has targeted to exclude all such trains from the road till 2017, which have been registered till 2005. The Chinese government has planned to cut down the number of trains in the next five years in Beijing.
Initiatives to prevent air pollution in India
In order to prevent air pollution, the Government of India has implemented the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The purpose of this Act is to redress, control and alleviate the air pollution, to fulfil international obligations to control the increasing air pollution of industrial cities, to protect human and animal life against the polluted air, and maintain the quality of air. The government has also set up the Central Board for the Prevention and Control of Water Pollution constituted under section 3 of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974.
Air pollution has adverse effect on humans, animals, and plants. To prevent air pollution, the concerned departments have been made legally empowered by the government. But laws are not being implemented in right earnest on the field level.
Our air has become too deadly to breathe. It is a matter of deep regret that such a situation does not constitute a political issue in their country nor it is prominent in media discussions. Occasionally, even the non-governmental organizations also raise serious concerns about air pollution, but nothing concrete happens on the ground.
There is a consensus among medical experts that air pollution increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and respiratory diseases. According to HEI, while China is taking concrete steps to deal with this problem, there is still a lack of adequate awareness about air pollution in India.
Though many laws have been enacted in India to prevent pollution and environmental protection, but their implementation is pathetic. The Supreme Court created the National Green Tribunal for this purpose. But its orders have to be executed by the government machinery only. Due to corruption and negligence, judicial orders are not implemented in letter and spirit. The rules of environmental protection are openly violated in industry sectors and tourist places.
However, the Government of India is now fully committed to the control of pollution in the country and for this purpose the initiative of Euro-6 type fuel will be initiated by 2020. He Ministry of Environment is supporting all efforts to encourage clean fuel including gas. With the experimental phase of CNG kit in the two-wheeler, there will be a far-reaching impact in reducing pollution. Others efforts to combat pollution include a cess of Rs. 400 per tonne of coal, introduction of e-rickshaw and subsidy on electric/hybrid cars.
Electric locomotives should be used in place of coal or diesel locomotives in railway traffic. The Government offers generous support on kerosene and LPG under its main policy and thus provides incentives to choose the cleaner option of fuel. In today’s time, the domestic consumers get kerosene at one-third of the actual cost and LPG by giving nearly half of the total cost.
In today critical times, it has become necessary that all the countries of the world get together to curb the problem of air pollution. Nature cannot be destroyed for industrialisation and urbanisation. When life is endangered, then of what use will be the modern means of luxuries and comfort?