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Smog Towers, Cloud Seeding Not Solution To India’s Air Pollution Problem: US Scientist

Air pollution is “really quite bad” across India but precision is lacking due to the limited distribution of air pollution monitors, said Richard Peltier, WHO’s Global Air Pollution and Health Technical Advisory Group member

Smog Towers, Cloud Seeding Not Solution To India's Air Pollution Problem: US Scientist
Over 99 per cent of the country's population breathes air that exceeds the WHO standards on PM2.5, as per Greenpeace India

New Delhi: Improving air quality in India requires long-term effort, a senior US scientist has said and noted cost-intensive technologies such as smog towers and cloud seeding are not sustainable solutions to the pollution problem plaguing the country.

In an interview with PTI, Richard Peltier, a member of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Global Air Pollution and Health Technical Advisory Group, said there is a good understanding that air pollution is “really quite bad” across India but precision is lacking due to the limited distribution of air pollution monitors.

When asked how much time is needed to control air pollution in cities such as Delhi, he cited the example of the US.

Also Read: Smog Towers Cannot Be A Practical Solution To Air Pollution: Delhi Pollution Control Body

The US implemented the Clean Air Act in the 1960s, Dr Peltier said and added only recently has the country developed air quality that is generally considered good. He said,

So, it took 50 or 60 years to get here. This is not an instantaneous problem. This is not something that’s going to be resolved with the stroke of a single pen or a law. This takes time … It is more of a marathon than a sprint.

Asked about the role of smog towers in resolving the issue, Dr Peltier — also an executive editor of the Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology — said these giant air purifiers work on a small scale but are impractical for entire cities due to cost and maintenance challenges. He said,

Do they remove air pollution from the air? Yes, they do. Do they remove an adequate amount of air pollution from the air? Absolutely not. It is like trying to dry up a big mighty river with a bath towel. You just cannot do it.

Also Read: Delhi Smog: Experts Urge Regional Cooperation To Combat Air Pollution

On fighting air pollution with cloud seeding technology, the scientist said it is not something that is sustainable and certainly not a long-term solution. The scientist said,

Do you really want to have airplanes flying around 24 hours a day, every few 100 metres in the sky, seeding clouds to make it rain? And then do you really want it to rain every day? I don’t think so. I think the answer is no.

Asked if the severity of the air pollution problem in India is underestimated due to a lack of sensors and air quality monitoring institutions, Dr Peltier said,

I don’t think we know with enough precision where the pollution is worse. There probably are not enough air pollution monitors spread out across India, especially those around major city areas that give us the confidence that we are 100 per cent sure that our model is right.

Also Read: Delhi Trying Out Bio Enzymes As Solution To Air Pollution Crisis

He added,

But I think we have a pretty good understanding that air pollution is really quite bad across India. It’d be nice to have more monitors though.

According to independent think-tank Greenpeace India, more than 99 per cent of the country’s population breathes air that exceeds the WHO standards on PM2.5.

It said 62 per cent of pregnant women and 56 per cent of the country’s population live in the most polluted areas.

A report by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago last August said fine particulate air pollution (PM2.5) shortens average life expectancy by 5.3 years in India on an average and by up to 11 years in Delhi.

Asked if air pollution is a meteorological problem, particularly for Delhi, or a governance issue, Peltier said meteorology is not the problem but it can aggravate air pollution in specific areas. He said,

We cannot control meteorology but we can control emission sources. Identifying and regulating these sources are crucial for improving air quality in India, even under challenging meteorological conditions.

The US scientist also said though it is challenging to convey, there is a clear relationship between high air pollution levels and higher mortality.

Dr Peltier said,

Epidemiologically, we know the link between air pollution exposure and mortality, particularly from cardiovascular disease, lung cancer, stroke, and COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease). While it’s challenging to convey this connection to individuals, the scientific community agrees on the clear relationship between increased air pollution and higher mortality rates.

Also Read: An Invisible Killer Hangs In The Air Of Asia’s Cities

(This story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ populationindigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (WaterSanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollutionwaste managementplastic banmanual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.

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