Changes show air pol­lu­tion is not just a win­ter prob­lem

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Nation - CHETAN CHAUHAN AS­SO­CIATE EDITOR

The unusu­ally high con­cen­tra­tion of par­tic­u­late mat­ter in the last few days in North In­dia clearly shows that air pol­lu­tion is not a sea­sonal prob­lem any­more. As the cli­mate gets warmer and fre­quency of rains re­duces, such spurts in coarse par­ti­cles mak­ing breath­ing dif­fi­cult will be­come a new nor­mal, un­less govern­ments wake up to the alarm.

The In­ter­gov­ern­men­tal Panel on Cli­mate Change’s lat­est ass- es­s­ment says that planet can bear only up to a 1.5 to 2 de­grees Celsi- us in­crease in tem­per­a­ture from the pre-in­dus­trial era lev­els. The world had al­ready wa- rmed by 0.9 de­grees Cel­sius till 2015 and at the present pace of emis­sions, cli­mate sci­en­tists say, the IPCC ma- rk will get breached lat­est by 2050.

The In­dian In­sti­tute of Trop­i­cal Me­te­o­rol­ogy has said that both the pe­ri­od­ic­ity and du­ra­tion of dry spells in the coun­try were ris­ing as the to­tal rain­fall events in a year had fallen even though the average rain­fall in a year has not changed much, a di­rect con­se­quence of cli­mate change. The an­nual average rain­fall has re­mained the same be­cause the fre­quency of heavy down­pours (for ex­am­ple, the June 2013 flash floods in Ut­taraex­er­cise, khand) has in­creased in the past two decades. Dur­ing dry spells, the earth gets heated up and mois­ture in the at­mos­phere dips, cre­at­ing de­pres­sions that pull winds from the oceans. As there is less rain and the green bar­ri­ers in and around cities have been de­stroyed, the winds lift dust and lo­cal emis­sions, caus­ing a spurt in air pol­lu­tion. Such events have been higher in 2018 -- a year of freaky weather that wit­nessed three killer thun­der­storms in May be­fore this dust-laden west­erly -- be­cause the average rain­fall since Novem­ber 2017 has been about 60% below nor­mal.

The im­pact could have been sub­stan­tially re­duced had govern­ments — the states and the Cen­tre — made air pol­lu­tion mit­i­ga­tion a round-the-clock and not re­stricted it to win­ter months, when the pol­lu­tion is high. As a re­sult, most of North In­dia is cov­ered un­der a veil of du- st haze with air pol­lu­tion worse than that in the win­ter months. Blam­ing only weather con­di­tions would be a colos­sal mis­take. It is a man­made catas­tro­phe that im­pacts health of one and all, as half of the air pol­lu­tion spurt is caused by lo­cal dust in the ab­sence of proper road­side land­scap­ing and emis­sions from in­dus­try and ve­hi­cles. In the com­ing years, we can pre­vent such events by en­sur­ing that ev­ery city im­ple­ments the Cen­tre’s dust-man­age­ment plan, there are re­stric­tions on reg­is­tra­tion of new fuel-guz­zling ve­hi­cles, and green dust bar­ri­ers are de­vel­oped around cities.

HT PHOTO

The hills are ob­scured by a pall of haze in Shimla, Hi­machal Pradesh.

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