1. Technology alone isn’t the solution: on the air pollution crisis
Urban air pollution:
Urban air pollution refers largely to the mixture of gases and small particles in the lowest hundred or so metres, a result of human activity associated with vehicles, road dust, domestic cooking and heating, power plants and other industries nearby, diesel generator sets, and the open burning of waste.
• In Delhi, concentrations of particulates below 2.5 thousandths of a millimetre in size, which settle deep in the lungs, were 22 times the World
Health Organisation (WHO) standard.
• In November 2016, they were 16 times the standard. Other cities are slightly better, but still worse than the standard.
• Polluting gases are mostly colourless and odourless and include carbon monoxide, oxides of sulphur and nitrogen, ozone, and volatile organic
• Monitoring air pollution requires well-calibrated and spatially wellrepresented networks of measurement equipment, which do not exist in most
parts of India.
• Air pollution depends on meteorological factors, but primarily on how much is emitted.
• In principle, the amount of pollution from each brick kiln, truck or twowheeler, car, power plant or field can be estimated.
✓ technological and
✓ Non-technological elements.
Using the best available technologies for various sources is absolutely essential. Other ways of reducing emissions intensity are also needed.
• Policymakers now rely almost entirely on technology, technologists and technocratic views by economists for policymaking, thus offering a limited
view of the problem and its solutions.
• They also need to overcome the corruptive and overwhelming influence of motor vehicle manufacturers, power producers, developers, and other large
stakeholders on decisions taken.
• Unlike water pollution, where the better off can buy or use filtered water, the rich cannot pay their way out of air pollution.
• While they may not be as exposed to the worst levels suffered by the very poor living in informal settlements on roadsides, filters and hermetically sealed living spaces offer only temporary reductions and the fantasy of clean air.
• In fact, ozone, a dangerous air pollutant, can eat into filters, just as badly as it can destroy the lungs of even healthy youth.