Air pollution has become an unwitting part of our daily lives along with its health and economic consequences. This, despite the tremendous efforts being made to bring down the scale of pollution through path-breaking measures aided by researched scientific studies. Today, the entire world’s attention will be focused on air pollution as it happens to be the theme of this year’s World Environment Day, which is being hosted by China. World Environment Day, celebrated since 1974, is the United Nations day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action to protect the environment.
Since its inception, the World Environment Day has grown to become a global platform for public outreach that is celebrated in over 100 countries. Above all, this day has become “people’s day” for doing something to take care of the Earth. That “something” can be local, national or global. This year’s theme of ‘air pollution’ is apt as this issue has been causing immense concern to the well-being of humanity across the world. Globally, it is estimated that air pollution is responsible for 3.1 million premature deaths worldwide every year and 3.2 per cent of the global burden of disease.
Epidemiological studies revealed that there is a link between air pollution and diseases with public health importance such as cardiovascular diseases for instance, stroke and ischemic heart disease, cancers and respiratory diseases. Respiratory diseases related to air pollution include acute respiratory infections, chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases and asthma. India is one of the main sufferers of deteriorating air quality levels. Though the Government is making efforts all-year round to mitigate its affects, no noticeable dip in air pollution levels have been registered. This year, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change has released a song titled, ‘Hawa Aane De’ to spread awareness among the general public regarding air pollution and its adverse effects on the eve of the World Environment Day. Even the traffic police has been roped in to create the required consciousness regarding air pollution and associated problems.
The World Environment Day is also referred to as the ‘Action Day’ when people around the world are expected to take meaningful action in their own way possible and do their bit for planet Earth. The day symbolises the efforts to save the environment and is the biggest annual event for positive environmental action. However, the current state of dismal air quality levels and withering environment is indicative of the fact that intense and productive action is needed almost on a daily basis to save our ambient air quality. In this regard, perhaps, it is not coincidental that China is hosting this year’s ‘World Environment Day’. The country is increasingly being recognised by the world for its hard and aggressive domestic stand on matters pertaining to environmental conservation.
China was at the receiving end of severe air pollution levels till recently but concentrated and non-negotiable policies are slowly turning the tide in its favour. Besides, China is also planning to adopt more efficient and targetted measures during its continuing campaign against pollution by not relaxing the targets or easing crackdown on violators. One of the first measures adopted by the Chinese Government was to give autonomy to regional pollution control authorities to curb the production of heavy industries in their region, depending upon the local air quality level. This helped it bring an end to the earlier practice of imposing nation-wide production curbs on heavy industries in response to spike in air pollution levels in some regional areas. This impacted the economy negatively than actually curbing the pollution levels.
The bevy of policy initiatives taken up by China has made the world sit up and take notice. The efforts of China to control the pollution levels are nearly 20-year-old and according to a research conducted by UN Environment and the Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau (BEE), it is evident how Beijing’s air quality management programme has evolved and makes for a sustainable strategy for the future. The report by BEE specifically mentions, “This improvement in air quality didn’t happen by accident. It was the result of an enormous investment of time, resources and political will.”
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