I have been living in Coimbatore for over a year now and in the past few months I have developed many breathing problems. Initially, I did not think much about it, but later discovered that Coimbatore is the second most polluted city in Tamil Nadu. Clean air is no longer a given in major cities in India. For a peaceful and healthy life, we need unpolluted air for breathing and it is up to us to fulfill this need.
India ranks 8th in a list of 131 polluted countries in the world as per the data by IQAir, a Swiss air quality technology company. India also has 39 of the 50 most polluted cities in the world according to IQAir. Day-by-day, our cities are becoming unfit for living. Only 10 per cent of the global population is breathing air that does not pose a risk to their health as indicated by the WHO.
Sources of air pollution in India
- Burning of wood, dried leaves, and animal dung, which is used as fuel.
- Adulterated fuel used in autorickshaws and taxis.
- Traffic congestion.
- Dust produced from demolition of old buildings and subsequent construction of new buildings.
- Burning waste and garbage manually or through incinerators.
- Vehicles powered by fossil fuels.
- Industrial emissions.
- Poorly maintained public transport vehicles, school buses, vans, and cabs.
- Chemical cleaners used for cleaning in institutions and other organizations.
- Household, commercial, and industrial chlorofluoro carbon emissions from refrigerators and air conditioners.
- Smoking in public places.
- Burning fire crackers during Diwali celebrations and on other occasions.
Should we mind this air pollution?
The level of the pollutant PM 2.5 (Particulate Matter 2.5) is five times higher than the World Health Organization’s recommended level. Poor air quality has a drastic effect on the human respiratory system because the small PM 2.5 particulates travel deep into the lung as far as the alveoli (tiny air sacs of lungs). From here they can pass through the body and even enter the heart. Reduced lung capacity, sore throat, cough, fatigue, lung cancer and headache are typical symptoms of exposure to polluted air.
Should we smoke tobacco to get cancer?
Not necessarily. As per the information given by IQAir, a doctor from a reputed hospital in Delhi remarked that when he first started practicing some 30 years ago, most of his patients suffering from lung cancer were male smokers in their 60s. But recently the doctor has reported that his patients now are usually non-smokers and some 40 per cent are female. He also noticed that the patients are now a lot younger with around 10 percent being in their 30s and 40s.
What is the role of teachers in improving air quality in our living places?
1. We should not burn waste in open places.
2. We should avoid using fossil fuel vehicles to the most extent possible by shifting to electric or traditional manual commuting methods.
3. We should spread awareness among students, parents, and fellow teachers about increasing air pollution in cities, its impact and measures to improve the air quality we breathe.
4. We should plant as many trees as possible and encourage everyone to go green and plant trees. Afforestation will purify the air in the atmosphere.
What other ways can you think of? We have only this planet to call home and it is up to us to keep it clean for ourselves and our future generations.
The auhor is a teacher at Chandrakanthi Public School, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.