Air Pollution in India – A Brief Highlight

Last Updated on 13 February, 2024 by Sourav Roy

According to a report, almost 76% of people in the country live in a place that does not meet the air quality standards. However, contrary to popular belief, this issue does not only occur during a specific time or season. Instead, it usually stays preeminent throughout the year.

Aside from affecting our daily lifestyle, air pollution contributes to a huge amount of death as well. For instance, in 2017, around 1.24 million people died due to this reason. And, almost half of them were the elderly people of India.

Air Pollution in India

Here, in this article, we are going to talk about some of the known and unknown facts about air pollution in India. We will include the actual causes of the calamity and offer some insights on how to control it correctly. So, let’s get started with it.

Air Pollution – Causes

Air Pollution – Causes

Typically, there is a wide array of factors that causes air pollution. The following are the most prominent ones among them.


1. Over-usage of Automobiles

Over-usage of Automobiles

The usage of environment-friendly buses (CNG) has become quite paramount in the last few years. Nonetheless, still, many people tend to use their car and bike to fulfil their commuting purposes. Therefore, the excessive omission of smoke and smoulder is not decreasing at all.

Instead, it is amplifying the overall amount of harmful particles to a massive extent, which, in turn, is causing air pollution in India. Let’s take the following table of AQI (Air Quality Index) to know more about the condition of the prominent cities of India.

CitiesAverage Daily AQI
Ahmedabad 484
Patna 252
Lucknow 224

The data has been collected between 2015 to 2019. Hence, as you can see, Ahmedabad ranks at the top among them all. The AQI of Delhi was even higher during 2016 and 2017. However, the usage of CNG-run automobiles has reduced the severity of the same a little bit.


2. Burning Fossil Fuels

Burning Fossil Fuels

The burning of fossil fuels is considered to be the most common cause of air pollution in India. In the rural areas of the country, many people tend to set fire to oil, coal, or gasoline to generate more energy for transportation and electricity purposes.

Usually, when you are igniting fossil fuels, they emit a huge amount of carbon monoxide in the air. That’s not all. The burning of the same also induces various toxic elements in the air and pollutes it massively.

Now, if you do inhale the air on a daily basis, then it will intoxicate your blood and affect your lungs. Moreover, it might also reduce the ability to pump oxygen into your heart as well. So, all-in-all, even if you lead a healthy lifestyle, you may still suffer from respiratory ailments.


3. Indoor Pollution

Indoor Pollution for Smoking

Alongside the outdoor, the air in your house or indoors, too, can get polluted. But how does it happen? Well, for starters, if you do not have an adequate amount of ventilation in your house, then it will be difficult for you to eliminate the VOCs from your rooms.

Moreover, if you do smoke tobacco-based products while keeping your windows shut, then it can cause indoor air pollution as well. Last yet not least, if you do not treat your mould-infected wall as soon as possible, then it can pollute your house as well.

In truth, the issue of indoor air pollution in India is a new concept. Previously, it was more prevalent in western countries, such as the USA. Nevertheless, due to the ignorance of the Indian residents, the issue is becoming prominent in the country as well.


4. Industrial Emission

Industrial Emission

In essence, India is an industrial country. Thus, industry-based pollution would, indeed, be quite common in the nation. Industrial activities, such as burning or smoldering, generate a huge amount of pollutants, which affect the overall quality of the air negatively.

The substances, which are sized from 2.5 microns to 10 microns, are the most common reason behind such pollution. However, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide are considered to be the key pollutants in this aspect.

Unlike fossil fuel-based pollution, the adversities caused by industrial pollutants do not only stay limited to your lungs. In addition, they can also cause eye irritation, skin problems, throat pain, and breathing difficulties.

Industrial emission is also known as the prime factor of air pollution in India.


5. Burning of Plastic and Garbage

Burning of Plastic and Garbage

While clearing out our house, we find a decent amount of plastic and garbage from here and there. However, instead of throwing them away, we tend to burn them out. It is the easiest and less complicated way of getting rid of them.

However, rather than saving you from your misery, the activity of burning compost and waste can cause air pollution. According to a report, around 9500 tons of wastage is burnt in Delhi on a daily basis. Due to this reason, the prominence of air pollution is much more visible there.

So, how can burning plastic material affect your health? Well, it can cause various liver issues, impair your reproductive functions, damage your immunity system, and subdue the development of your nervous coordination.


6. Agricultural Activities

Use Chemical Fertilizers and pesticides in India

Like industrial, agricultural activities, too, can impact the overall air quality severely. Fertilizers and pesticides are usually considered to be the primary source of contamination. Moreover, these days, many people are using a wide array of invasive material on it too.

But how do they get mixed up with air? Well, when you are spraying them on your agricultural field, then the smallest pollutants and their smell tend to get left in the air. Sometimes, they can also seep through the ground and affect the quality of the crops.


7. The Decaying Process of Microbes

The Decaying Process of Microbes

During working, the textile and chemical industries tend to release a substantial amount of bacteria and fungi. When they are available in nature in a balanced manner, they tend to play a crucial role in biogeochemical conditions.

However, if their number increases massively, they can also cause air pollution. Moreover, they can also prompt the decaying of organisms and microorganisms, which, in turn, leads to the abnormal production of methane gas.

It is highly toxic and, thus, can cause death in extreme cases as well.


8. Usage of Firecrackers

Air Pollution for Diwali Firecrackers in India

During the festival of Diwali, most Indian residents tend to indulge in burning firecrackers. And, why wouldn’t they? It is the ceremony of lights, so, in a way, it does make sense. However, it does cause severe air pollution as well.

Due to this reason, during the period of Diwali, the air usually gets filled up with smog. You will not be able to feel it during the daytime, but the scenario becomes much more prominent during the nighttime. The PM rate, too, goes over 10 during this time, which is very unhealthy.

Recommended Reading: 9 Best Air Purifiers in India 2024


The magnitude of Air Pollution in India

The severity of air pollution in India has impacted both human lifestyle as well as our environment. Here are a few of the effects that it has had on us over the course of years.


1. Global Warming

Global Warming

Global warming usually occurs due to the presence of Co2 in the air and can change the influence of climates entirely. Due to this reason, the summertime temperature of India has been increasing on a daily basis.

The scarcity of water has been occurring throughout the country because of the same problem as well. In addition to this, the effect of the rainy season in some regions of the nation has been diminished too. It, in turn, is increasing the insufficiency of water even more.


2. Smog Effect

Smog Effect

The smog effect usually occurs when a dark concentration of fog appears over the cities or rural areas. In essence, it seemingly does not cause any harm while you are inside your house. However, if you do breathe in the same air, then it might affect your health.

In India, the smog effect usually occurs during the season of winter due to several causes of air pollution. It can cause visibility issues while driving and lead to unfortunate accidents too.

There are two different types of fog effects that can be seen in the country. These are – photochemical and sulfurous smog. The first one usually originates in the photochemical organizations while the latter can be found in the coal industries.


3. Respiratory Problems

Respiratory Problems

Polluted air, whether it is indoor or outdoor, usually consists of a decent amount of pollutants. So, when you are breathing in the same air, you tend to suck them in as well. The contaminants, in turn, start building up in your lungs and cause respiratory issues.

In some cases, they can also damage the walls of your lungs and cause prompt the growth of cancerous cells as well. That’s not all. The inhalation of intoxicating agents can also affect your heart as well and diminish its strength of pumping blood.

Furthermore, air pollution can also cause liver disease, kidney impairment, and many more. If you do not treat the issues as promptly as possible, then organ failure might occur as well.


4. Skin Damage

Skin Damage for Air Pollution in india

The pollutants can, sometimes, come in direct contact with your skin and damage the cells massively. It, sequentially, can cause skin irritation and pain as well. If the contaminants start building up on your scalp, then it might also prompt hair loss.

Moreover, due to the extensive air pollution in India, the ozone layer above the country is gradually becoming thinner too. Thus, the ultraviolet rays of the sun are getting passed through it pretty easily and affecting our skin, even more.

If you do not protect the same with a skincare product or use an umbrella, then it might lead to skin cancer as well.


Statistics regarding Air Pollution in India

Statistics regarding Air Pollution in India

Regarding air pollution, Indian ranks in the 5th position among 98 different countries. Among the toppers, the neighbouring nations of India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, come at first and second place respectively. The average AQI of India (as of 2019) revolves around 152, which is only 13 less than Bangladesh’s (165).

In the year 2019, the capital of India, Delhi, became the most polluted city in the country. Nonetheless, as per reports, the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number significantly since the beginning of 2020. The air pollution in India caused by the burning of plastic waste has been more prominent in Maharashtra.

More than 50% of pollutants, which are responsible for causing air pollution, come from an industrial background. On the other hand, the remaining 27% is prompted by the over-usage of vehicles. Conversely, the issue of crop burning causes around 17% of pollution. And, lastly, 7% of the same finds its source in domestic cooking procedures.

In addition, around two million Indian residents lose their lives due to air pollution and integrated diseases. The cause of mortality usually varies from heart disease, lung damage to skin cancer, and myocardial infarctions.


How to Control Air Pollution in India?

In essence, the extremity of air pollution in India can, indeed, be controlled. Nevertheless, in this aspect, only the government of the country will not be able to do everything. The residents of India will need to make their mark on the same as well. Here are a few ways that can help us in this aspect.


1. Using Bicycles

Using Bicycles to Prevent Air Pollution in India

As mentioned before, the over-usage of vehicles is considered to be one of the most prominent causes of air pollution in India. Thus, if you want to reduce the severity of the same even a little bit, then be sure to stop using your four-wheeler today. Instead, you can use your bicycle for commuting purposes. It will help you to both reduce pollution and keep yourself active throughout the day.


2. Opting CNG-based Public Transport

Opting CNG-based Public Transport

The CNG-based transporting options are better for maintaining the air quality as they use a cleaner source of fuel. Moreover, they also do not emit too much smoke while running. Therefore, the exertion of pollutants also tends to be pretty minimal in this aspect. The capital city of India, Delhi, has already started using the same. Hopefully, the other major cities of the country will follow it too.


3. Road Maintenance

Road Maintenance

When driving through a bad-conditioned road, a four-wheeler or two-wheeler tends to exert itself too much. Therefore, the smoke omission of the same increases in this aspect as well. Hence, if we do wish to reduce the severity of air pollution in India, then we will also need to maintain our roads, especially the national highway, as well.


4. Managing the Smoke Maintenance Quality of the Industries

Managing the Smoke Maintenance Quality of the Industries

In all honesty, it is almost impossible to manage industry-based smoke in any way. However, we can still put a stop to it by using a better smoke-filtering system on them. We can also implement a pollutant-managing object to separate the contaminants from the smoke and eliminate them when the work is done.


5. Using an Air Purifier

Using an Air Purifier

Do you want to reduce the number of pollutants from your house and breathe in the fresh air? Then, you can also implement the best air purifier in your house. They usually come with a cheaper price tag, are easy to install and maintain, and can keep the air of your home invigorating and unsullied.


6. Stop Smoking

Stop Smoking

Smoking, in essence, is both harmful for both our health as well as our environment. If you do smoke cigarettes on a daily basis, then it can affect your lungs massively and cause cancer. Moreover, it can, sometimes, also damage your digestive system. On the other hand, the smoke of cigarettes can incorporate pollutants into the air as well. Thus, if someone breathes the same air in, then they might experience respiratory difficulties as well.


7. Preventing Waste Burning

Preventing Waste Burning

The issue of burning waste is quite prominent in India. And, it is something, which cannot be prevented by the Indian residents. In addition to them, the government of the country needs to step in it as well. For example, they implement a law that considers burning waste to be an offensive crime. Moreover, they should also take a fine of a substantial amount from those who are involved in it.


8. Usage of Solar Power

Usage of Solar Power in India

Using solar power for electricity can also be an ideal way to reduce air pollution. With it, you will simply need to implement a solar panel on your house and, it, in return, will power up all of your appliances and take care of electricity issues.

Recommended Reading: 9 Best Air Purifiers in India 2024


Final Thoughts

The increasing rate of air pollution in India is, indeed, a concerning matter for the country. Thus, it needs to be taken care of as soon as possible. Otherwise, the issue of health deformities and conditions will keep increasing in the near future. Hopefully, the government, as well as the Indian residents, will look over the matter and try to prevent the calamity in unison.

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