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COPD out: Inspite of increasing evidence linking air pollution to premature deaths, the central government has been hawkish towards the growing public health crisis | Image: Network18

COPD second most common cause of death in India; is govt in denial?

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is the second most common cause of death in India after heart disease, but the country is yet to evolve a strategy to deal with its spread, says a new IndiaSpend study. COPD is caused by prolonged exposure to smoke from tobacco or coal, wood or cow-dung and other irritants. It usually surfaces in the people above the age of 40. There were 28.1 million cases of COPD in India in 1990, which increased to 55.3 million in 2016.

Delhi, which recorded a PM 2.5 concentration at 113.5 micrograms per cubic meter last year, recently reported a case of a 28-year-old non-smoking woman diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, a rare occurrence for someone that young.  

The government, however, is still unwilling to connect the dots completely. Union minister of environment and forest Prakash Javdekar recently repeated his claim that air pollution did not cause premature deaths. “Premature deaths are a serious issue. It is not happening only in Delhi, but in non-polluted areas also. Therefore there is no direct correlation [with pollution],” Javdekar said.

Massive growth in construction over the last 40 years made Mumbai’s air worse: Study

Mumbai’s air pollution shot up dramatically in the past 40 years, according to a new study by  Urban Emissions. The primary cause for this was that the built-up area for large-scale construction grew from 384 sqkm in 1975 to 885 sqkm in 2014. The PM2.5 concentration in the air also rose to 51.8μg/m3 in 2018 from 36.9μg/m3 in 1998, the research concluded, adding that PM2.5 emissions in the city will rise 23% — to 60,950 tonnes in 2030 from 49,600 tonnes in 2018. 

In neighbouring Pune, PM2.5 on an average remains at 56.3 micrograms per cubic metre, another Urban Emissions report found. The report says Pune’s air pollution is five times the WHO safe limit of PM2.5 at 10 micro-gm/cubic metre. The national standard is 40 micro-gm/cubic metre. Scientists said transport, industry and dust particles were the main causes of air pollution, and that 25% of PM 2.5 particles originated in the outskirts of Pune – from coal plants, rock quarries, brick kilns and industry.

Farmers’ attempts to save groundwater causing winter smog in northwest India?

Scientists from India, Mexico and the US have found a link between air pollution in northwest India and farmers’ attempt to save ground water. The study, carried in journal Nature Sustainability, reveals how water-conservation policies require farmers to push the sowing of rice crops later in the year, which in turn delays harvests and the subsequent burning of the crop residue in November, a month when the air is heavy and still leading to increased air pollution and winter smog.

Speaking of winter smog, a new computer model developed by scientists from the US and China can predict air pollution in north India a season in advance. The new statistical method uses climatic patterns related to the ocean, which impact wintertime air pollution in northern India, reports the journal Science Advances. Scientists said the new method allows to forecast aerosol pollution conditions in winter and accordingly improve plans for pollution control.

Kolkata: Municipality targets coal-fired ovens in battle against winter pollution

Kolkata Municipal Corporation has trained its sights on coal-fired ovens used by the city’s food vendors as it draws plans to tackle air pollution this winter. The civic body as sought Rs23.71 crore to replace open ovens with electric induction ovens, installation of fogging/mist machines at select traffic intersections and road stretches, and procurement of mechanical sweepers and road washers to reduce road dust. The city plans to cover 50% of the cost of ovens and expects vendors to cover the other half. According to a source-apportionment study by the National Environment and Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), coal-burning (30%) is the biggest contributor to PM2.5 pollution in Kolkata followed by vehicular exhaust (26%).

Reducing air pollution won’t increase global warming : Study

No, air pollution does not help reduce global warming, that’s the conclusion of the latest study dispelling the belief that it did. Scientists so far thought that reducing air pollution accelerated global warming because of the fact that polluted air captured more water droplets in clouds, making them thicker and more reflective of warming sunlight, throwing it back into space. Now the study says only some clouds become thicker, while others remain thin, leaving little impact on warming. Scientist said  they studied satellite data from clouds near sources of pollution and found not much difference in average content of water across all the polluted clouds, showing that pollution makes little difference overall to many types of clouds, researchers said.