Efforts to Curb Delhi's Rising Air Pollution

Published on:
by Aaroshi Rathor
Image of morning view of road leading to India Gate in New Delhi with orange polluted skies

Whether forest fires in America, catastrophic droughts in Asia, or soaring high temperatures in Europe, climate change is inflicting havoc on the planet. Global warming is no longer a likelihood, but a frightening reality of our times. In response, countries have organised numerous high-level emergency meetings to attempt curbing the rapid expansion of the climate problem. 

From a policy standpoint, some things are steadily getting better, from the 'Loss and Damage' financing funding announcement at the COP27 of last year to taking action on carbon markets and their importance in attaining climate objectives. But the question still remains: is it enough? Sadly, while some benefits may be down the line, the general answer is no. 

According to a report by New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), India witnessed extreme climate events every day starting from 1 January to 30 September 2022. The story doesn't end there, though. New Delhi ranked fourth out of 50 cities around the world in terms of PM2.5 (particulate matter) levels in 2022, according to the World Quality Air report by IQAir

It is not surprising that New Delhi has topped IQ Air's list of the world's most polluted capital cities for the past four years. So, how does air pollution impact citizens' quality of life, and what actions are businesses taking to ensure the well-being of their employees?

 

Effects of Air Pollution in New Delhi 

Lung Cancer & Lifestyle Diseases 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), New Delhi’s PM 2.5 is more than 100 times the safe limit set by WHO, long-term exposure to which can cause acute respiratory problems and, as a carcinogenic pollutant, can lead to lung cancer. Air pollution also causes other problems: breathing difficulty, pneumonia, bronchitis, emphysema, sore throat, cough, eye irritation, heart stroke, diabetes, asthma and other lifestyle diseases.  

Risk of Premature Death

According to WHO, air pollution is one of the most widespread environmental concerns and is also the leading cause of premature deaths, of which there are, globally, 7 million each year due to the combined effects of indoor and outdoor air pollution. The main cause behind this is being exposed to polluted air and most of these deaths occur in developing countries. 

According to Yale Global Health Review, 2.2 million school-going children in Delhi have irreversible lung damage due to the poor air quality in the city. The study also showed that polluted air can cause eye irritation, headaches, nausea, increased blood pressure and heart palpitations. 

Damage to Internal Organs

The brain, kidney, liver, and even the nerves can sustain long-term damage from breathing harmful chemicals in the air. Of greatest concern is the research that shows how air pollution and hazardous pollutants are contributing factors for birth defects in newborn babies, of which preterm birth and low birth weights prove that a polluted environment can disadvantage lives as they begin, with greater susceptibility to respiratory infections, diarrhoea, and brain or blood disorders. 

Example Companies Fighting Air Contamination

While residents of the capital region continue to inhale toxic air for a number of reasons, including festivals, stubble burning in the nearby states of Haryana and Punjab, industrial and construction activity, as well as vehicle exhaust fumes in Delhi, there are some start-ups and businesses that have taken the responsibility to combat air pollution and assist the public in breathing clean and safe air. 

Carbon Craft Design 

Tejas Signal, an Indian architect, created Carbon Craft Design in 2019 with the goal of improving the sustainability of the construction sector and reducing air pollution in India. The start-up turns black carbon, which is removed from the contaminated air, into fashionable, handcrafted construction tiles. In order to produce the carbon tiles, Carbon Craft Design collaborated with Graviky Labs, another Indian business that had previously developed "Air-Ink," a technology that uses carbon soot from industries and automobiles to generate ink and paint. 

Graviky Labs collects carbon soot from diesel exhaust and fossil fuel generators using a filter device, purifies the soot by filtering out impurities like dust and heavy metals, and then sends the powdered carbon to Carbon Craft Design. From there, Carbon Craft Design creates monochromatic tiles by combining the captured carbon with cement and marble refuse from quarries. 70% of each tile is waste material, which is subsequently sold to merchants and architects. The company is doing well in India and hopes to make sustainability a priority for all by reducing its price range.   

Nanoclean

Prateek Sharma, Tushar Vyas, and Jatin Kewlani, all graduates of IIT Delhi, launched the Delhi-based firm Nanoclean. They developed the concept known as the "Nasofilter," which is effective in reducing pollution and accessible to the general public. In order to treat people with respiratory disorders including asthma and other breathing ailments brought on by air pollution, a product was introduced to the market in 2017 with a price tag of just Rs 10. 

Using nanotechnology, Nasofilter has been created to ensure a low-pressure drop when breathing and to facilitate effortless breathing with the respiratory mask. The company also launched AC filters in 2019 that can turn an AC into an air purifier.  

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Blue Sky Analytics 

The climate-tech startup Blue Sky Analytics, located in Delhi, uses satellite-derived climate intelligence to drive financial decisions. It analyses air pollution data from on-ground sensors with the use of satellite data to provide researchers and decision-makers with quick and simple information on air pollution. 

The satellite imaging function in Blue Sky is highly useful since it makes it possible to gather a lot of information from locations without monitors and use it to quantitatively examine the levels of air pollution. Using satellite data aids in monitoring the quality of the air in areas lacking ground-based monitors. The start-up thinks that in order to address the nation's pollution crisis, extensive data sharing and cooperative, open-sourced ideas will be crucial.  

Chakr Innovation 

The IIT Delhi alumni Arpit Dhupar, Kushagra Srivastava, and Prateek Sachan formed the start-up Chakr Innovation in Delhi in 2016. Chakr Shield, the company's flagship product, collects diesel soot from generators and transforms it into inks and paints, using a cutting-edge solvent-based technique. 

Around 90% of particulate matter emissions, which are essentially black carbon, are collected by it. The material is then put through a number of unique processes to remove carcinogens and heavy metals. After that, it is transformed into a refined carbon-based pigment. In the final step, the carbon is used in a different chemical process to create various types of inks and paints, effectively upcycling  in an environmentally friendly manner. 

Outlook on Combating Air Pollution  

In the wake of the rising air pollution in Delhi in November 2022, many companies chose a hybrid working model to safeguard the well-being of their staff members. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of Delhi, announced a ‘15-point winter action plan’ in November 2022 to combat air pollution, which calls for the use of anti-smog guns, monitoring of dust mitigation measures at construction sites, and enforcement of existing regulations, such as the ban on firecrackers. Along with this, the Delhi government has also introduced compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles, the use of catalytic converters, electric bikes and the installation of charging stations along with air monitors to keep a check on city pollution levels.

Yet, suprisingly, according to an economic survey of 2022-23, Delhi's air quality has actually improved since 2016, with an increase in the total number of days in the good, satisfactory, and moderate categories of the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) index between 2016 and 2021.  

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Takeaway

The ongoing fight against air pollution in the nation's capital requires the government and residents to work together as a team. Cooperation is key. Perhaps because the medical risk is so evident in the everyday visible contamination, health must come to sit at the centre of the solutions development process. The detrimental link between anthropogenic climate change, the rise in temperature and the burning of coal all need to be underpinned by equivalent solutions. How to protect oneself? 

People need education about the negative impacts and risks of air pollution, that they are literally exposed to harmful chemical pollution, and that there are solutions to adopt now. For example, being encouraged to use electric ride-sharing services, like BluSmart, rather than diesel or petrol combustion vehicles. Understanding that effective, affordably cheap filters can make you or your baby immediately less vulnerable.

Today.

Policy Shifts

The city also needs to strengthen the shift towards environmentally friendly structures and buildings that produce fewer emissions than conventional real estate infrastructure, while to reduce pollution from transport, carpooling should be encouraged for commuters, and businesses should actively support hybrid work arrangements or the option of remote work, which will not only assist to lower expenses but also increase employee productivity by reducing travel time and, of course, vehicles on the road, a major contributing target factor. 

Yes, there are many obstacles to overcome when trying to reduce air pollution in a city like Delhi, but by working together with the newest green technologies and apps, we can start to tackle the immediate risks with solutions. The city can be a cleaner, greener example for other cities, not only its residents, and also for all potential future investors, business sectors, and employees who want to work and live in a less polluted environment.  

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