Almost a week after Diwali, the schools in the capital of our country had to shut down because of the lethal air pollution. Contamination of air is not only hazardous for asthmatic patients, but such high levels of pollution can affect healthy individuals as well. At this point, where the future generations’ health and education are at stake, what must we do to fight this?
This is the question that every citizen must ask and it should not be rhetorical. While most of us would contemplate, 35 year old Jay Kannaiyan founder of Delhi-based SmartAir, has come up with solutions.
SmartAir which builds low-cost air purifiers, thus making it reasonable for everyone.
These air purifiers are priced starting from Rs.3000, work on High-efficiency Particulate Arrestance (Hepa) technology. These are easy to use as we just have to attach them to a table fan and through that, it filers the air. It accumulates the particulate matter (PM) – which includes fine particulate matter about 25 times thinner than a human hair and the most precarious pollutant, thereby reducing the pollutants by 90%.
Jay also advises people to go for their morning walks and exercises late in the mid-afternoons between 3-5pm and not during the most commonly prescribed early morning hours.
He reasons that early mornings are the worst affected hour in the capital when the pollution is at its greatest, after the movement of heavy vehicles at night.
Another startup, Airveda believes in spreading awareness and facilitating individuals in controlling their exposure to the pollution levels. Airveda has installed an air quality monitor next to the Delhi Secretariat and similar monitors at various locations across the city, which shows the air-quality of the given area in real-time. The cumulative data from these monitors is collected and the data is shown in Airveda’s app which then helps the users in limiting their exposure to the pollution.
Furthermore, Airveda also builds such monitors for personal use which can be installed indoors and help users in deciding whether they should go out or not, according to the intensity of pollution.
“While the situation in Delhi and Gurgaon are severe, tier II and tier III cities have also witnessed a significant drop in air quality,” says Ankit Vyas, the founder of Ahemadabad based start-up Oizom.
Patna recorded a 24-hour average PM 2.5 level of 437.3 µg/m³– nearly 95% higher than and 17 times above guideline levels provided by World Health Organisation. In Varanasi, on the day of Diwali, PM 2.5 was recorded at 247.1 µg/m³ while the next day the levels reached up to an average of 578.6 µg/m³, 23 times higher than WHO guideline levels.
On the other hand, Agra registered twice the pollution levels from the previous year while Lucknow recorded a 37% increase in PM 2.5 levels in 2016 as compared to the previous year.
Ankit also asserts that it usually takes 12-15 days for the abrupt acute rise to drop and stabilise but however the pollutants will have an everlasting consequence. His analytics startup Oizom with the help of its solar-driven ‘Polludrone’ gathers data like amount of toxic gases and odours in the air which are then resourcefully organised and put to use.
For past few years, air pollution has been a critical global concern particularly in India where estimable measures have been taken to curtail the rise. Of the world’s top 20 polluted cities, 13 are in India compared to just three in China. Since 2000, though Beijing’s air pollution has declined by 40%, while in India, Delhi’s air pollution has increased by 20% in the same period at a steady pace.
Despite plentiful start-ups trying to solve this crisis, only a negligible difference can be made until a collective and collaborative effort is made at this juncture. A Lancet survey in 2012, ranked air pollution as the sixth biggest cause of death with an annual estimated toll of 66 million and over these last four years the numbers have indubitably amplified. No policy-making or inputs by NGOs will help till every individual recognizes the magnitude of the repercussions and denouement, and also takes initiatives to ensure to keep the environment clean. We must understand that the air we breathe does not discriminate and neither will the diseases caused by pollution will, and thus, we have to take the responsibility to keep it clean.
Let us wish and work towards the growth of the economy and not the air pollution!