Not enough is being done to combat the disastrous consequences of continued worsening of the air we breathe
Poisonous air is having a devastating impact on billions of children around the world, damaging their intelligence and leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, according to a report from the World Health Organization (WHO). The study found that more than 90% of the world’s young people—1.8 billion children—are breathing toxic air. The study found that 600,000 children die from acute lower respiratory infections caused by dirty air and 93% are exposed to one of the most damaging pollutants—PM2.5. In poorer countries, 98% of all children under five are exposed to PM2.5 above WHO guidelines. Pregnant women are particularly vulnerable, with dirty air linked to premature and underweight children. Air pollution also increases the risk of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease later in life.
According to the study, over 1 lakh children under the age of five died because of air pollution in India in 2016. The report recommends the use of clean fuels like natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) in cities, and LPG and advanced biomass cooking and heating stoves in rural areas. However, the National Clean Air Programme put out earlier this year had no information on how violations of permissible pollution limits would be handled and did not talk about coordination amongst ministries. The government’s electric vehicle incentivisation programme (FLAME) is tottering and its deadlines are being pushed farther back, and the Pradhan Mantri Ujjwala Yojana, despite having reached its target of 5 crore households in August itself, continues to be plagued by takers who do not regularly use LPG on account of the higher relative cost of a cylinder. With public transport also taking a backseat, governments of the country need to shift their priority towards cleansing the air we breathe otherwise we can expect the physical and mental health of children and adults to continue to deteriorate.