India is the most polluted place on Earth. The country holds the record of having 22 of the 30 most polluted cities in the world. Unregulated manufacturing industries and unregulated mining industries are the main sources of pollution here.
In some cities, the air quality is so bad that the life expectancy of the residents is considerably diminished as many struggle to breathe properly.
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New Delhi is the most polluted city in the world
New Delhi is India’s most polluted city and the most polluted city in the world. It is estimated that living here is as bad for your health as smoking due to poor air quality. So why is this city so polluted and can anything be done to clear its bad reputation and better its resident’s lives?
Over 70% of the electricity in New Delhi comes from coal. We know from history that coal is very cheap to extract and a cheap source of energy. At the same time, we know coal is highly toxic. Coal air pollution might be one of the most impactful for the overall pollution level in New Delhi.
Millions of people live in this city. All of them need energy. But shifting this coal electricity to more sustainable energy isn’t going to happen in New Delhi over the next decade. It’s expected that coal and pollution levels rise over the next few years.
Fossil fuel cars aren’t as bad for the environment as they used to be. But this is only true for the newer cars that are made with more efficient engines, particularly on gasoline. In New Delhi, all cars and tuk-tuks are very old. These aren’t particularly helping air quality. It’s estimated that there are more than 10 million cars in the city plus millions of motorbikes, most of which are far from new.
Transportation seems to be more chaotic here than anywhere else in the world. Millions of old cars stuck in traffic and burning fuel aren’t helping air quality. However, locals here as anywhere else in the world are not openly embracing electric cars as long as they aren’t cheaper than fossil fuel vehicles.
Open fire cooking
You wouldn’t believe cooking outside on an open fire is bad. But when millions of people do it, it quickly diminishes oxygen levels while increasing CO2 levels. This is one of the most disguised pollution issues in New Delhi. Homeless people as well as those living outdoors are found here in millions. Most of them cook outdoors. This is why it can take years to even see some type of improvements and in most cases, it’s a social problem to be fixed before fixing air quality.
High amounts of waste
Over 11.000 tons of waste are produced by New Delhi per day. This creates the biggest trash problem in the world. This trash is transported to some of the largest landfills in the world. But the problem with them is that there is no recycling.
All of the trash goes to the same landfill. Locals don’t recycle and the municipality doesn’t either. This creates one of the biggest problems when it comes to the ever-rising number of people in the city.
With this trash under fire every day, this methane released in the air only increases the pollution problem of the city. A big city offers plenty of opportunities, but it also creates unimaginable trash issues like in New Delhi.
Heat is another considerable issue that leads to high levels of pollution in India. This is due to the millions of air conditioners in the city. They don’t create cool air but rather move hot air from the inside of the house outside, adding to the rising temperatures of the city.
Furthermore, air conditioners also consume a lot of electricity. This means you get a domino effect where the need for cool air also increases the need for electricity which comes from coal in New Delhi. As a result, the simple pleasure of having cool air inside of the house becomes almost impossible to mitigate without adding to the air pollution of the city.
Public transport is largely inefficient in a city as large as New Delhi. Everybody is driving or riding a motorcycle. There’s no reliable underground system or a better rail system to move thousands of people at a time. This means the pollution from transport is also exacerbated by the poor public transport infrastructure.
At the moment, things are only going to get worse. The wage of the average New Delhi resident isn’t rising considerably. This means outdated diesel vehicles are still going to be seen on its streets frequently. There’s no easy way to deal with the problem.
One of the areas where the residents are better than others is the recycling of old vehicle parts, which is an industry of its own in New Delhi. But all of the repaired vehicles back on the streets are still going to be mostly old diesel vehicles. It would take a considerable public policy effort to change how locals travel from one part of the city to another.
All of these combined elements paint the picture of why New Delhi is the most polluted place on Earth. The result of these combined elements is seen in respiratory problems. Most locals suffer from some type of respiratory condition. In severe cases, this leads to disease and early death.
But as this article shows, none of these problems have quick fixes and all of them need to be addressed just to lower the air pollution level. It’s not likely to see any positive changes in the following years. But it’s India that is leading the way in alternative energy and in most cases, it’s not even electric but based on old existing eco knowledge. It could be years before any positive changes are seen in this city but until then, the health of its residents is only going to get worse.