Recently, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad reported air quality worse than Delhi, as a thick blanket of filthy smog engulfed the majority of Indian cities beyond the Indian capital, nine of which fell on the ‘list of the world’s top 15 most polluted cities’. Agra, Lucknow, Varanasi, Patna, Jaipur, Jodhpur, Srinagar, Faridabad and, of course, Kanpur which topped the list. Even Tier-2 cities like Karnataka’s Davangere, Kalaburagi, and Hubbali-Dharwad are staring at a nearly 40 per cent increase in air pollution by 2030, according to a study by the Centre for Study of Science, Technology and Policy (CSTEP).
Nowhere is safe. According to the World Health Organisation, more than 90 per cent of the global population is breathing in high levels of pollutants. It is estimated that 4.5 million people died prematurely as a result of outdoor air pollution in 2019, 300,000 more than in 2015, and 1.6 million more than in 2000. One recent study published by the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago warned that the lives of residents in India’s capital are being cut short by up to 11.9 years compared to if air pollution were reduced to levels recommended by the WHO. The ridiculous smog tower at Connaught Place, New Delhi, has finally been dumped. Built at the cost of Rs 22.9 crore, the 24-meter-tall structure was supposed to purify 1,000 cubic meters of air per second within a radius of around one kilometre. It did nothing of that kind; the smog tower was a giant exhaust fan that dispersed air in a 50-meter radius — a colossal waste of public funds and an insult to one’s common sense.