The air quality in Delhi and nearby areas remained beyond ‘severe’ level for the third consecutive day and authorities have warned that dusty conditions are likely to prevail for another 3-4 days. They have also advised people to avoid staying outdoors for long hours. The air quality deteriorated because of dust storms in western India and particularly in the state of Rajasthan. The advice is well-timed and the Central Pollution Control Board has directed construction companies, municipal corporations and the Delhi Pollution Control Committee to ensure water sprinkling to help reduce local dust. Delhi government has also ordered to stop constructions till Sunday.
However, there is a need to understand another side of pollution — indoor pollution — the category which is seldom talked about in public discourse as focus shifts towards outdoor pollution, which is beyond doubt a challenge for the countries.
According to the data released by World Health Organisation (WHO) in May 2018, more than 7 million people die every year due to air pollution alone. In 2016, ambient (outdoor) air pollution alone caused 4.2 million deaths, on the other hand, household pollution took 3.8 million lives across the globe.
The figures quoted by WHO underline the magnitude of pollution and the health conditions in various countries. It stated that highest number of deaths occurred in Asia and Africa.
Household pollution is not a new kind of pollution, but due to lack of availability of comprehensive data, it becomes difficult to find patterns. However, the WHO report highlighted that around 3 billion people still cannot access clean cooking fuels and technologies in their houses and attributed this to the main source of household air pollution.
The report mentioned Modi government’s Ujjwala Yojana and its impact on providing cooking gas connections to poor. It stated that in just two years, India’s Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana has provided some thirty-seven million below poverty line women free LPG connections to support them to switch to clean and safer energy use.
However, the situation is still grim in most parts of the world, including India. In a recent article published by World Economic Forum (WEF), this issue was discussed and it mentioned that household air pollution is the noxious combination of smoke, particulate matter and other emissions from the solid fuel combination (wood, charcoal, dung, crop waste, smoky fires etc.).
It also said that while the data for ambient air pollution is comprehensively available, the same is not the case with indoor.
Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) is a better option as it emits 50 times fewer pollutants than biomass burning, said the WEF. It added that increasing LPG usage removes the burden of harvesting wood and that would eventually prevent deforestation.
However, it also highlighted affordability as a barrier in achieving universal adoption of LPG. It also said that people living in energy poverty face risks to feed themselves and their families that people in high-income countries do not and their access to clean fuel is important to improve health.
Moreover, the severity of the issue can be understood that WHO will convene first ever Global Conference on Air Pollution and Health, which is scheduled from October 30 to November 1, 2018.