India, one of the world’s top developing countries, also finds itself in the list of the top polluted nations in the world. In fact, the 15 most polluted cities in the world include 6 cities located in the northern belt of India.
Additionally, India is also facing a severe issue of groundwater depletion owing to an increasing unavailability of surface water and poor rainfall. With air that is harmful to breathe in most cities and an absolute scarcity of water, especially during the summers, India might be set for another humanitarian “crisis” as it heads into the summer of 2018.
Missing a breath of fresh air!
India has been facing the problem of air pollution for a while now; this is most prominent in its capital area. However, toward the end of last year, air pollution was extremely bad in New Delhi, to the extent that schools were shut for a week. Even an international cricket match was called off, as one of the players from the Sri Lankan team ended up vomiting on the field! This was all due to the absurd levels of pollution in New Delhi’s winter air that has now become a serious health threat.
Reports suggest that the quality of air in the National Capital Region has worsened to the point that the air has a hazardous particle content of the size and consistency to enter other organs of the body and settle.
Breathing in New Dheli air, over a certain period of time, could have the same consequences as one would have after smoking 44 cigarettes in a day.
According to Lancet Commission, a two-year project on the study of the effects of pollution on health with contributions from numerous international scholars, around 2.5 million deaths in India alone are a result of the severe consequences of pollution on health.
Is water the bigger issue?
On the other hand, groundwater is already a national crisis in India.
India is largely dependent on groundwater for its extensive crop irrigation systems. With increasing inconsistency in monsoon rainfall and lack of natural water replenishment, farmers are forced to increase groundwater extraction to aid agriculture.
It’s not just in agriculture, the lack of portable drinking water also affects many major cities, such as Delhi and Mumbai suburbs experiencing water shortages during the summer. Furthermore, groundwater that is available is also not of the best quality and is often contaminated due to industrial discharges and lack of proper sewage treatment. Almost all major Indian cities are surrounded by bodies of water that are contaminated, and not a single city in India can offer clean and drinkable tap water a feature that is a given in most developed nations.
Scarcity of water and its mismanagement has become such an important social issue in India that many states are witnessing the highest number of protests and farmers’ suicides.
But all hope is not lost
The government of India is increasing its investment and research into sustaining projects, such as “Neeranchal,” to increase water retention and replenish groundwater reserves. Considerable budget is also allotted to improve water quality and ensure safe drinking water across rural and urban areas.
Similarly, steps are also being taken by the government to mitigate air pollution. Delhi’s air quality has certainly improved and the government has sincerely implemented such actions as setting up new vehicle emission standards starting in 2017, creating more vehicle-free zones, increasing fuel taxes, as well as increasing the use of clean fuels in cooking, transportation, and industries.
However, the pace of implementation remains slow and it’s still too soon to remove the word “crisis” from any discussion on the problems of water and air in India.