Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies: Dream for Cleaner Future Receives Fresh Global Impetus

Publish on September 07, 2020     Source: The Weather Channel

As the urban population rise and polluting activities proliferate, clean air and blue skies are becoming increasingly scarce for many parts of India over the last few decades. As winter dawns upon India, air quality plummets across India, especially across the Indo-Gangetic Plains. Delhi, the poster city of air pollution, witnesses multiple days of severe-plus levels of pollution, forcing authorities to declare a public health emergency.

In India, ailments triggered by air pollution prematurely kills more than 12 lakh people a year—the joint-highest on Earth, alongside China. Therefore, experts agree that clean air and blue skies are goals that India can not afford to ignore.

September 7 marks the first International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies—a global celebration aimed at working together to build a pollution-free future. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the resolution to hold this day on December 19, 2019. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) facilitates the observance, in collaboration with other relevant organizations like The World Health Organisation (WHO).

“Around the world, nine out of every ten people breathe unclean air. Air pollution contributes to heart disease, strokes, lung cancer and other respiratory diseases. It causes an estimated 7 million premature deaths every year, predominantly in low- and middle-income countries. Air pollution also threatens the economy, food security and the environment. As we recover from the coronavirus pandemic, the world needs to pay far greater attention to air pollution,” says António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Aligned with the theme of International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies, clean air for all, India’s National Clean Air Programme also aims to reduce air pollution at the city and regional levels. To fight the pollution threat, India has launched several programs, including the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana Household LPG program and Bharat Stage VI standards. Even Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted the need for “Holistic Improvement in Air quality” in 100 cities in his address from the Red Fort on this Independence Day.

Air pollution is a two-fold threat! In addition to penetrating deep into our lungs, bloodstream and bodies, these invisible particles of pollution aggravate climate change as well. The short-lived climate pollutants (SLCPs) are among those pollutants most linked with both health effects and near-term warming of the planet.

Air pollution is the fifth leading risk factor for mortality worldwide more than malnutrition, alcohol use, and road accidents, among other factors. Indians also have the second-highest exposure to PM 2.5—the fine particulate which is the primary cause of pollution-induced mortality. The entire Indian population lives in areas with PM2.5 concentrations above the WHO Air Quality Guideline of 10 µg/m3.

A cleaner possibility was temporarily on display during the COVID-19 lockdown when significant improvements in air quality were recorded across India and the world. Pollution levels drastically dropped in Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, and Bangalore—as per the 74-day analysis of CPCB AQI data from March 25 to June 8. All four cities managed to better their 2024 NCAP targets by around 30 per cent—all the while sporting beautiful blue skies and unprecedented visibility.

“This year’s lockdowns have caused emissions to fall dramatically, providing a glimpse of cleaner air in many cities. But emissions are already rising again, in some places surpassing pre-COVID levels,” rues Guterres.

The human cost of such virus-induced lockdown was unfathomable, but failing to reduce pollution could lead to even worse long-term economic and social costs. For long-lasting clean air and blue skies, major systemic and behavioural changes are required and therefore, the UN urges countries to remain committed to promoting sustainable development policies.

The celebration of International Day of Clean Air for Blue Skies is likely to give a fresh impetus the global push for a cleaner future.

Disclaimer: These are compilation of links to articles in media/journals/magazines in their original form. The opinion expressed in there articles do not necessarily represent the views of ENVIS/IITM.

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