By Murari Chaturvedi
Soaring air pollution levels in metro cities, specifically in Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmadabad in the cause of grave concern. If preventive steps are not taken on war footings, the day is not far when people will be forced to carry portable oxygen inhalers as they carry bottled water now. This winter Delhi and Mumbai were enveloped by deadly smog. Respiratory illness is rising alarmingly in these cities. In 1998 the Supreme Court gave a series of rulings to improve the quality of air.
The result in Delhi can be seen and felt today as the air is much cleaner now than it was in 1998. The air pollution in cities is not only because of vehicular emission but also from the polluting industries and yet there are no long action taken by the government and concerned authorities is due to Supreme court direction of scrapping 15-year-old commercial vehicles, recommended Euro II emissions standard for new vehicles, lowered sulphur content in diesel and petrol to 500 ppm and mentioned clean fuels like compressed natural gas (CNG) for public transport vehicles.
The situation is far more dismal in case of industries, power plants and other sources, are belching pitch black smoke day in and day out. The other big air polluter is the smoke generated by burning the waste in big cities, which is enormous. The ageing fleet of two-wheelers and passenger cars is enormously larger in number and may not be possible to replace them fast enough; hence administrative methods and strict checking of the vehicles should be our top priority. Will such time, stringent norms and cleaner fuels be used increasingly to make a change, and specific technological strategies must be adopted for immediate measures, old cars must be retrofitted with catalytic converters and good vehicles with particulate traps. Presently more focus is on the vehicular pollution, but at the same time, we had to find wants and means to check industrial air pollution. We must recognize the looming danger of polluted air, the biggest health hazard in big cities. If we do not want city dwellers to die coughing we must act now and do not hesitate to take slerm action in the interest of national health.