Once upon a time, water purifiers in India were considered an item bought only by the rich and affluent in their quest for all things perfect. And yet, over the years, these technological marvels have penetrated deep into Indian households. Now, air purifiers are taking the same route to find a place in households as alarming pollution in northern India snatches yet another offering from nature – pure air.
India’s rapid economic expansion has propelled it as a country with one of the fastest growing GDPs. Almost parallel to it has been rampant urbanisation that has now become, quite literally, life-threatening. Statistics speak of economic barriers that the country is breaking but another set of statistics also scream out loud about the exponential rise in heart-related diseases, asthma-related ailments, premature deaths and a generally drastic dip in quality of life.
Several Indian cities figure prominently in the list of most-polluted cities in the world. Pollution-related deaths in India are one of the greatest globally. In fact, a report by The Lancet Commission on Pollution and Health said that one in every four deaths in the country is caused by pollution. Across the border, in Pakistan, pollution kills more than terrorism and yet the numbers are fewer than in India. While the country’s bludgeoning population and its needs can be blamed to a large extent, there is no denying that the need for urgent, effective and both short and long-term measures has reached an absolutely critical level.
But why is that?
In recent weeks, the air over Delhi has made headlines at a time when several other northern Indian cities too have registered extremely unhealthy air. A Greenpeace India report from January of this year revealed that data from state pollution control boards showed “there are virtually no places in India complying with WHO and National Ambient Air Quality (NAAQ standards, and most cities are critically polluted.” More recently, a study by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) showed that Tier 2 cities too had pitiable standards of air quality.
Meanwhile, ground reports from northern India suggest that pollution levels would fluctuate between ‘unhealthy’and ‘severe’ in most parts, and not just in winter months but through the year.