Since the beginning of the industrial era in the 18th century, air pollution has emerged as one of the serious environmental concerns all over the world. The problem is far more serious in urban areas, where the majority of the population has to bear the brunt of poor air quality. India is no exception, and the rapid urbanization and economic development have resulted in a tremendous increase in the number of motor vehicles and hence greater vehicle pollution in India. As the number of vehicles and consequent congestion continues to increase, vehicles have now become the main source of air pollution in urban India. Over the years, many measures have been implemented by the Indian government like stricter emission rules and improvement in fuel quality, but still, the problem seems to be slipping out of hand.
What are vehicular pollutants?
Automotive vehicles release several pollutants as a byproduct from the chemical reaction through burning fuel. The release of pollutants from vehicles depends on the kind of fuel that the engine is running on and also includes fugitive emissions. The major pollutants released are carbon monoxide (CO), nitrogen oxides (NOx), and photochemical oxidants. There are also air toxins, namely benzene (C6H6), aldehydes, butadiene (C4H6), lead (Pb), particulate matter (PM), hydrocarbon (HC), oxides of sulfur (SO2), and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). While the predominant pollutants in petrol/gasoline-driven vehicles are hydrocarbons and carbon monoxide, diesel-based vehicles also release soot and oxides of nitrogen and particulates. (Source)
Effects of vehicular pollutants on human health
Vehicular emissions cause some serious damaging effects on both human health and the surrounding ecology. The effects may be direct as well as in-direct, and they even include reduced visibility, cancers, and death in some cases as a result of acute exposure to pollutants, especially carbon monoxide. These pollutants directly affect the respiratory and cardiovascular systems. High levels of Sulfur Dioxide and Suspended Particulate Matters can cause increased mortality, morbidity, and impaired pulmonary function. A study for CO2 emission carried out by a Delhi-based organization regarding vehicle pollution in India, the Center for Science and Environment, has depicted the emission of CO2. The study projects that CO2 release will reach a value of 1212 million tonnes during 2035 from a value of 208 million tonnes during 2005.
Pollution control measures
For many years now, the Indian government has been actively emphasizing the reduction of vehicular emissions. The successive Bharat emission norm stages have been in implementation since 2000. Both technical and non-technical measures have been taken, which include stringent emission norms for both new & in-use vehicles, improvement in vehicular technology, improvement in the quality of fuels, switching over to cleaner vehicles and fuels, etc. The non-technical measures include better traffic management, improving public transportation, and generating mass awareness. The government is also actively promoting electric/hybrid vehicles through the National Electric Mobility Mission Plan 2020 and the Faster Adoption and Manufacturing of (Hybrid &) Electric Vehicles.
No doubt the invention of the automobile has been a game-changing thing for humanity, but it also comes with a responsibility, a responsibility that we all fail to adopt and care for. No doubt the government is doing its best to curb the emissions, but we, as citizens, also have our role to play. We should at least make sure that our vehicles are in proper order, the pollution under control certificate is up-to-date and uses good quality fuel. We should also use other measures like using carpool or public transportation. If the journey is too small, then we should prevent using vehicles to reduce vehicle pollution in India. Environmental damages are real, and it is upon us to see that we live sustainably.