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Why Are Indian Cities Among World’s Most Polluted?

By Author: Nikhil Mehra
Total Articles: 33

According to data released by the WHO earlier this year, of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India compared to just three in China. The Ganga and Yamuna are ranked among the world’s 10 most polluted rivers. An earlier analysis rated Vapi (Gujarat) and Sukinda in Odisha among the 10 most environmentally-degraded zones in the world.

Air pollution slashes life expectancy by 3.2 years for the 660 million Indians who live in cities, including Delhi. In China, the corresponding dip is lower at three years. China leads the world in carbon emissions and India is in third position. The one key difference between the two nations lies in China’s ability to control the ecological impact of its growth much better than India.

While both countries faced similar ecological challenges a decade ago, China has since cleaned many of its polluted rivers, reduced growing urban air pollution levels by imposing strict restrictions on polluting vehicles and building heating systems and stressing on the importance of using renewable resources for development.

In stark contrast, Delhi’s air pollution has steadily climbed by 20% in the same period. The story is the same in a majority of Indian cities, with the only exception being Coimbatore in the South where the air was found to be fit for breathing.

The impact of increasing air pollution is noticeable on the life of the average Indian, as proved by a Lancet study in 2012 that rated toxic air to be a serious health hazard accounting for approx 66 million lives annually.

A 2015 report by the Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment, states that the reason for the decline in the country's overall environmental standards is because of river pollution, which is worse now than it was three decades ago, piling garbage in cities and increasingly toxic urban air.

A three-year analysis of the water quality in 290 rivers by the Central Pollution Control Board revealed that approx 66% of the stretches monitored had high organic pollution. Simply put, 8,400 km of these rivers are badly polluted due to untreated waste flowing into them from urban cities.

But all is not lost, with the government now giving a renewed thrust to renewable energy development with a string of new initiatives that have opened the doors for the setting up of renewable energy projects pan-India. Power generation from renewable sources has increased significantly as a result of these efforts, and is expected to lower pollution levels in the coming years.

Further the union environment ministry also plans to introduce a new environmental policy that will focus on "self-regulation" and strengthen existing laws mandating higher penalties for a breach of environmental laws.

Welspun Renewables is a leading player in India’s RE sector with a huge network of solar and wind-based energy projects across the country.

Given the alarming pollution levels across Indian cities, the need to promote

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