As winter descends, the region becomes a global epicenter for air pollution, leading to school closures, event cancellations, and urgent government advisories for residents to stay indoors to safeguard their health.
The challenges contributing to South Asia's alarming air pollution levels are unique. Rapid industrialization, economic growth, and population surges have led to an increased demand for energy and fossil fuels. While industrial and vehicular emissions are global concerns, South Asia faces specific challenges such as solid fuel combustion for cooking and heating, human cremation, and the burning of agricultural waste.
A noteworthy contributor to this year's pollution in New Delhi is stubble burning in neighboring states, accounting for about 38% of the city's air pollution. This practice involves burning post-harvest rice stubble to clear fields. The escalating number of vehicles on the roads, with India and Pakistan experiencing a four-fold increase since the early 2000s, further exacerbates the problem.
Despite efforts like air quality management plans, increased monitoring, and a shift to cleaner fuels, progress has been hindered by a lack of coordinated efforts among South Asian nations. The transboundary nature of dust particles, which can travel vast distances carried by the wind, renders country-wide or city-wide measures less effective.
To address this complex issue, South Asian countries must unite in coordinated efforts, enhancing monitoring capabilities, and formulating collaborative policies. While region-wide solutions are crucial, a nuanced approach tailored to local conditions is equally vital.
Beyond the conventional focus on industrial and vehicular emissions, attention must be directed towards often overlooked sectors like agriculture and waste management. Subsidies for advanced harvesting machines, aimed at curbing stubble burning, face challenges such as high purchase costs and extended waiting times for those seeking to rent such machinery.
In conclusion, the solution to South Asia's air pollution crisis requires a regional alliance. Countries must work together to monitor and enact effective policies while addressing local conditions and exploring innovative solutions in sectors like agriculture. The journey toward cleaner air demands a collective commitment, transcending borders, and embracing comprehensive strategies to safeguard the health and well-being of millions across South Asia.
Source: Vnexpress - Why is South Asia the global hotspot of pollution?