Air problem is an epidemic that has been knocking at our lungs for decades now. Ignorance might be bliss, but the fact is that our lungs cannot take it any more. It is a menace engulfing most of the big cities in the world. The unavoidable threat of air pollution was visible to the world starting from the infamous London and Los Angeles smog episodes – and that sprang the government mechanism in most of the countries to tackle the urban and industrial air pollution. Unregulated industrialization coupled with expanding transportation needs and demand for energy in all forms, is multiplying the air pollution related health impacts and environmental damages, not only in the big cities, but also in the growing number of secondary cities. India and China are at the brink of urban air pollution created disaster – because of the uncontrolled urbanization and industrialization, eradication of green cover for development and shrinking boundary lines for agricultural development.
Most of the Tier-I and Tier-II cities in the world are exposed to extreme levels of air pollution and this is reflected in the medical costs incurred by the residents of these cities. The World Bank has estimated that Indians are spending Rs 4550 crores every year on treatment of diseases caused by ambient air pollution. A similar gargantuan figure is estimated for the Chinese urban population. Is this the development we need for our future generations? Is our advancement in science and technology a misconception? Are we spending more on destruction and repair rather than on positive construction?
Air quality is going down by every passing day with the increase in the levels of primary pollutants – suspended particulate matter (SPM), nitrogen oxide and sulphur dioxide. The dangerously higher levels of total SPM is a threat to the global population which cannot be ignored any more. A US study estimated that 6 per cent of the congestive heart failures and hospitalizations in the cities were related to an increase in carbon monoxide in ambient air1. Carbon monoxide aggravates heart diseases by binding to the haemoglobin, thereby decreasing oxygen transport to the tissues.