The tragedy of Air pollution

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World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 90% of our population is affected by hazardous air pollution. Air pollution impacts everyone's health, but children bear the maximum brunt of it.

By: Mool Raj

As a father, I always had this effusive wish to frolic in an open meadow in India, accompanied by my 8-year-old daughter; in the same gleeful manner that my father did, a few decades ago. I still can vividly remember that after a long run with my father, the exertion would always be soothed, when we used to sit on the grass, under a tree perhaps, and would be invigorated in a matter of minutes. Alas! It is an impossibility nowadays to find such a green meadow in New Delhi, which is befitting to accommodate a father and his 8-year-old daughter- Especially when our daughters are beginning to grow multifarious respiratory diseases due to inhaling the dreadfully hazardous air of this crowded city.

According to “Air Visual”, an international atmosphere observatory organisation, New Delhi, the capital of India is the worst air polluted city in the world. A report from “the state of global air-2019” – related to global hazardous air pollution has ranked India as the top five countries in terms of hazardous air polluted nations. Collectively, we are exhibiting a self-deprecating oblivion towards the destruction of our posterity, as well as being apocalyptical to our future generations. This might well be the most preposterously concerted infanticide, which we so blithely are inflicting upon our future generation due to environmental degradation.

World Health Organisation (WHO) has reported that 90% of our population is affected by hazardous air pollution. Air pollution impacts everyone’s health, but children bear the maximum brunt of it. The University of California, the UC DAVIS, Environmental Health Science Center have conducted a study on the bio specimen and fire effects, which revealed that air pollution alters the size of a child’s developing brain which may ultimately increase the risk for cognitive and emotional problems. Unfortunately, children are particularly vulnerable to air pollution, especially during their age of development. Higher air pollution increases respiratory infections and develops asthma. Children exposed to hazardous air pollution are more likely to develop bronchitis, lung damage and irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat. Urban children are also facing the issue of neuron behavioural disorders. Needless to say, that the air pollution is gradually incapacitating the generation to come, both mentally and physically.

The effects of air pollution are not only confined to the children, the adults are also encountering the ghastly after-effect of breathing in this perilous air of New Delhi. It presents a threat to respiratory health and cardiovascular disease, obesity, reproductive, neurological and immune system disorders comes as an inevitable corollary. Air pollution also affects memory and Alzheimer’s-like brain declines. A person, exposed to longtime air pollution, invariably is posed with the threat of cancer, pneumonia, allergy, skin disease, headache, dizziness etc. Various researches suggest that our average lifetime can be reduced up to almost 3 years for indoor and outdoor air pollution. It has also been suggested that air pollution reduces our lifespan much more gravely than the active and passive smoking combined. According to the standard of WHO, India is the top-ranking environmental health-hazardous country along with Bangladesh, Pakistan, China. Besides, India has been listed as the second-worst air polluted city, with Kolkata and Lahore securing the first and third position.

Our environmental degradation has increased manifold over the last several decades. Vehicular emissions, unplanned rapid industrialization and urbanization are the main catalysts of air pollution. It creates the excessive presence of carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and sulphur dioxide in the air, which adversely affects the ozone layer, livestock, and agricultural products. Acid rain, climate changes are directly attributable to air pollution. In Bangladesh, there are four main reasons behind the air pollution—emissions from old-fashioned brick kilns and unfit vehicles, corruption in the department of environment and dust from construction sites.

Researchers have recently unveiled that 15% of the death of COVID-19 patients is caused by air pollution globally. A report from ‘State of Global Air-2019’ stated that air pollution is the 4th leading cause behind human death globally. More than 6 million lives were lost globally due to air pollution in 2019. Among those, India has lost 173 thousand, the number is as dreadful as it sounds. According to research by UNICEF, a total of 300 million children are living in hazardous air polluted-prone areas. Unfortunately, this research also found that 220 million affected children are from South Asia. Every year, 6 hundred thousand infants, below 5, are losing their lives due to air pollution around the world.My heart was bleeding while writing this article, and I was almost on the verge of a breakdown, when I was delving into the reports of all those air pollution related researches.

WHO’s chief, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called air pollution a “silent public health emergency”. As a father, I desperately urge all policymakers, as well as the fathers of this city, to process the design of a powerful tool of environmental and health protection. Our ruling party has made us optimistic by uplifting the image of Bangladesh in various global agendas like self-sufficiency, refugee crisis, living standards, health and economy index, etc. So, in terms of air pollution, our government would take an effective air quality control strategy of governance, policy, monitoring, and enforcement to save our future generation.

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