Indianomics
A blog on Indian Economics and personal interests of its authors

Pollution: What the hell are you breathing?

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If you have taken a recent trip outside of India, I am sure one thing that you would resonate is how difficult is to breathe once outside of the airport anywhere in India, due to higher pollution levels. I faced a similar situation way back in 2011 after my US trip for business. It felt like I wanted to get back into the Airport instead. Last time I was worried about the climate, I ended up buying an air cooler.

Of course, I am sure you have also read a lot about the new ban on crackers by Supreme Court of India. The court had to enforce it because of the deteriorating breathable air for the common man. Let us look at what causes the pollution, shall we?

Air Pollution in India

Air pollution is a severe issue in India, however, has not seen enough action across the board. Last year, it was the odd-even number plate scheme in New Delhi that clogged the news, while it was Diwali and Crackers this year.

If it does not ring a bell, you can read about it on Wikipedia. Yes, there is a dedicated page for Air Pollution in India on the Wiki. It has been a controversial topic to be discussed, given that the United States of America also has been showing withdrawal sings from the global accord at the Climate Change Summit. Donald Trump and his policies deserve a separate blog post in itself.

Fossil Fuel and Biomass

I am sure you know what fossil fuels are. Exactly, the liquid stuff that powers our cars and bikes, trucks and heavy equipment. While these are a necessary expenditure that you have to make to go from a place to another before electric vehicles are popular, Fossil fuels are also used to produce electricity.

With ever increasing vehicles on the road, and increase in numbers of cars on the way these days only accentuates the problem we have at our hand. These vehicles emit the harmful gases and particles in the air that we breathe and makes us sick, slowly but surely.

Pollution - what are we breathing
Pollution – what are we breathing

Fuel Adulteration

An extension of the above topic, in India it is hard to find a fuel station that sells the pure form of fuel. Adulterated fuel causes vehicles to emit excess pollutants in the air…

Fuel adulteration is so rampant in India that every other car emits far more toxic fumes than it should. India recently decided to skip BSV standard and jump directly from BS4 to BS VI (BS 6) so that it can catch up to the US and European standards.

The Pothole and Traffic story

If you are living in Metros, then you know the traffic. And you also know, the conditions of roads in India. I am not talking about the highways though. My recent trip to Kerala makes it abundantly clear that highways are laid using much better quality of tar and rocks than their city counterparts. One word on the cause is corruption.

The more the potholes, more the traffic. With ever increasing vehicles on the road, traffic situation just amplifies the amount of bad stuff in the air that you and I breathe.

Factory and other pollutants

Fumes coming out of factory has even contributed to Taj Mahal losing its sheen. Burning ‘gobar’ (cow dung) and setting fields on fire after harvest is another cause.

With so many of the contributing factors, it is difficult or near impossible to contain the pollution. Here is a possible view into the future, where Oxygen kits will be treated the same way as drugs, and you will pay through your nose (pun intended) to breathe fresh oxygen.

Acted ably by Jackky Bhagnani and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Carbon is a short film by Royal Stag Large Short Films should be an eye-opener!

Pollution - what are we breathing
Pollution – what are we breathing

So what can we do?

Nothing and everything! If you are lazy, you cannot do anything. If not, you can stop it. By reducing our carbon footprint, one by one. Everyone can do their bit. Here is a list of things that you can do to help save the planet.

1. Go electric, but via Solar

Elon Musk is making all the right noises, and for the right reasons. However, it is a sham to think humans are difficult to convince. Put the space available to some good use, shall we? Countries generate a significant chunk of their electricity from burning fossil fuels. The need is vital, given the consumption levels and lack of alternatives. But the need to burn fossil fuel was not!

Solar Panels in rain
Solar Panels in rain

There is so much to speak about, hence a dedicated post for Go Electric, but via Solar

2. If you can’t, then conserve use of electricity

Going solar or clean electricity may not be everyone’s cup of tea. That does not mean you cannot do anything at all to help save the amount of burning carbon. The world is full of ideas; however, we often ignore the small things you can do sub-consciously.

Efficient light bulbs

To start with, use energy efficient light bulbs and appliances. The government has been promoting the purchase of CFL and LED (more of the later) instead of ordinary incandescent bulbs that most of the rural India still uses.

LED bulbs and lamps help in reduction of consumption while improving the brightness at the same time. Though a tad expensive, the cost benefit over the period is excellent!

Buy 5-star BEE rated products

In India, the government has enforced regulations that help understand how much a product consumes, thanks to Bureau of Energy Efficiency or BEE.

Among the mandatory product types to carry the BEE Energy Star ratings are Television, Air Conditioners, Tube Lamps, Refrigerators, and Geysers. Other’s are optional. So what should you do? Yes, buy the product that offers a 5-star rating. No less!

I firmly believe that all electronic products should mandatory carry the BEE Energy Star ratings. And 5-star rated products should cost less, which they do not. Lack of demand for costly product leads to companies not putting much effort into making them or making as much of them. We Indian’s prefer to go for the cheapest at the time of purchase, not considering the recurring cost (both financial and environmental) that we will be paying at the end of product’s life-cycle.

Switch off plugs when not in use

One of the things that we are often doing today is charging our mobile phones overnight. You can try and charge it before you go to sleep, or after you have got up. While doing so, do not forget to put the switch off.

A lot of offices work 24/5, and most of the times employees do not shut down the computer since they do not want to go through the pain of system booting up. It takes a few minutes to shut down your PC and start up the next day. But the energy it consumes in the meanwhile is a complete waste. Any equipment not in-use should be put off, including your WiFi connection.

3. Limit crackers/fireworks, avoid if possible

After the recently proposed ban on crackers during Diwali, we heard a massive uproar among aam aadmi, who immediately linked the ban to directly hitting their religious belief. Connecting the prohibition to religion was ridiculous; moreover, people went overboard with buying and bursting crackers just to oppose the move. Massive stupidity.

City night explosion firework
City night explosion firework

Crackers cause pollution at production, transportation and execution level. Not only it releases harmful toxins into the breathable air, but it also creates massive noise pollution, causing more breath-related diseases.

The solution is perhaps not banning crackers, but to limit it. Moreover, a government limit will only be symbolic at best. People will need to start realizing that everyone needs to control polluting the shared breathable air.

4. Carpooling, public transportation, biking and walking.

Carpool

One of the new trends across cities is car-pooling. It is supposed to be cool, and trendy, which it is. However, the reason we all carpool is to save on the fuel and not to reduce pollution or traffic congestions. While in a way, this makes sense, it would make you feel better if you remind yourself about saving the environment while you do so.

Transportation is as good as this at the best!
Transportation is as good as this at the best!

Public Transportation

I am sure we both agree, in India, public transportation is not up to the mark. It does not become a prominent choice because of the state of transportation and infrastructure. That part, our government needs to do. But once it has improved significantly, would you switch? Let me know in the comment section below if you would happily pledge to change!

Cycling and Walking

Most of us do not live nearby our workplaces. Hence, cycling or biking and walking are not viable options. But for those who do, switching to either helps in reducing congestion, pollution and improves the health of the individual.

India is far away from having its dedicated cycling lane. I hope it is sooner than later.

5. Regular maintenance of all machinery

Keep your automobile, be it a car or motorbike, well tuned and maintained. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions on routine maintenance, such as changing the oil and filters, and checking tire pressure and wheel alignment. A well-maintained vehicle emits fewer toxins in the air.

In fact, you should maintain just about any machinery you use that consumes electricity or pollutant fuel. For your own and other’s sake, at least. Avoid excessive idling of your automobile. Shut the engine at signals and do not accelerate profoundly.

Maintenance of Vehicles is of paramount importance
Maintenance of Vehicles is of paramount importance

6. Advocate for emission reductions

We are quick enough to protest the ban on crackers, but not as much when it matters to breathing polluted air. Thankfully, the government decided to skip the BSV or Bharat Stage Five level norms. It means by the year 2020, our standards at emission levels for new automobiles sold will be level with some of the European nations.

However, what people are not much aware of is the emission/pollution norms for factories and other establishments. Here is a link to the complete set of pollution control norms provided by the Central Pollution Control Board.

The problem? Who is following it right?

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